Although they started in Italy, the shows migrated to England in 1663 and made their appearance in America in the 19th century. It lost popularity around the 1940s, but a revival of the puppet show came in the 1960s — modified to play down the violence.
The main character Pulcinello was a vain, pompous man married to a shrewdish wife. When the show came to England, the name Pulcinella was changed to Punchinello and shortened to “Punch.” So the saying, “Proud as Punch.” This referred to getting the best of his wife through sometimes beating her over the head with a club.
As likeable, otherwise, as Punch was, you have to wonder why his violence and uncouth behavior warranted the applause and acclaim. It was considered black comedy or dark humor, but was somewhat toned down when it was promoted as a children’s show with emphasis on community arts, national pride and tourism.
There are many things to have legitimate pride in, such as family, country, even achievements and so forth, but we need to be careful we do not take pride in the wrong things.
Have you ever heard anyone say, “Well, I guess I told him!” or “He’ll know not to mess with me” indicating “I got the best of him.” That was the thought behind Punch’s violence — showing that he was best. Punch’s violence against his wife and others elicited screams and laughter from the audience. It was accepted that violence was funny and Punch could boast of “getting the best” of anyone.
So why would anyone want to be as “Proud as Punch?”
Of course, there are other things that people boast of with prideful declarations or actions. Some people are called “name droppers” and this habit is born of low esteem. Whether relationship or acquaintance, it’s the same premise.
“If I know someone important, that makes me important,” so a person takes every opportunity to use that connection — true or false.
Somehow, shouting “I am the best,” decries the high level of quality and brings it to the point of “prove it.” And the bubble is soon broken. Most can see through the flimsy facade of importance. A person can even be proud of being humble. The best thing is to “be real.”
Pride manifests itself in various ways and different degrees: knowledge, road rage, cheating, domination, ambition, lying, possessions and so forth.
Remember the disciples who wanted to be “great” in the Kingdom of God. Jesus said, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.”
And there was King Saul who felt he was above God’s laws. Because of his disobedience, his kingship was taken from him. Even David had to repent for going beyond the boundaries of his authority.
How about Ananias and Sapphira, who wanted to be praised and honored for their gift to the church? They were called to account for their prideful lying which resulted in death.
The writer of Proverbs in Chapter 18, verse 18 gives a wise warning: “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Humility should be the clothing of a child of God. A Christian should not come across as a “know-it-all.”
James said, “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works and meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13).