Puppet Theater

The repertory of Sicilian puppet theater consists of medieval and Renaissance chivalric narratives that were adapted into prose in the nineteenth century. Giusto Lo Dico’s Storia dei paladini di Francia (1858–60), a prose compilation of over 3000 pages, provided an uninterrupted narrative stretching from before the birth of Orlando to after the battle of Roncevaux. In 1895–1896, Giuseppe Leggio extended Lo Dico’s popular work by adding even more episodes. This expanded Storia dei paladini, reprinted several times in the early 1900s, follows Christian and Saracen knights across three centuries of romance epic, including Andrea da Barberino’s Reali di Francia and Aspramonte, Tasso’s Rinaldo, Cieco da Ferrara’s Mambriano, Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato, Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and Cinque canti, Francesco Brusantino’s Angelica innamorata, and Pulci’s Morgante maggiore.
Although puppeteers still primarily use La storia dei paladini as the basis of their chivalric plays, some have also returned to the original poems. The three most popular episodes performed today are the battle between Rinaldo and Orlando for Angelica (from Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato), the madness of Orlando (from Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso), and the battle of Roncisvalle (from Pulci’s Morgante Maggiore and other versions of the story). Many Sicilian puppet theater companies and museums have their own websites and/or Facebook pages:


Cavallo, Jo Ann. “Encountering Saracens in Italian Romance Epic and its Folk Performance Traditions.” Teaching Medieval and Early-Modern Cross Cultural Encounters Across Disciplines and Periods. Eds. Lynn Shutters and Karina Attar. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2014. 159-78.

—. “L’Opera dei Pupi e il Maggio epico: due tradizioni a confronto.” Archivio antropologico mediterraneo, anno V/VII (2002-2004), n. 5/7. 157-70.

—. “Where Have All the Brave Knights Gone? Sicilian Puppet Theater and the Tuscan-Emilian Epic Maggio.” Italian Culture 19.2 (2001): 31-55.



See individual pages for Sicilian puppet plays, scripts, interviews, documentaries, and puppets.