The origin of the traditional Neapolitan mask is far and uncertain as well as the meaning of its name.
There are those who want to descend from ' Pulcinello ' i.e. little chick because of his hooked nose, who instead leans for ' Puccio d ' a villain of ' 600 maple that after having mocked a company of comedians wandering joined them as a buffoon.
The open mask has its French variant in ' Polichinelle ', a Gradasso fanfare with double hump and a showy dress and an Englishman with a melancholic and brutal ' Punch ' mood.
There is a central and enlightening moment in the history of the relations between Polichinelle and Naples, between Polichinelle and the theatre and, in particular, between Polichinelle and the actor: it coincides with the end of ' 600 and the beginning of ' 700, when the history of the show in Naples is made Suggestive measure of the history of the city itself and of its cultural life. There flourishes a theatre of dialect prose, expression of an extraordinary attention to the language and the costume. There is a rich and fertile generation of actors: theorists, playwrights and playwrights, librettists, musicians, actors and singers, entrepreneurs. In addition, the city structures of entertainment are renewed: The San Carlo opens and, at the extreme opposite of the social consumption of the theatre, the No less noble San Pug and it affirms the comedy in music, called Comic Opera, capable of expanding and affirming itself for the whole Europe with characters that have made even think about a ' Neapolitan music school '.
The theatre reborn, after exhilarating experiences of the commedia dell'arte practiced triumphantly in Europe throughout the ' 600 and in this first half of ' 700. The mask represented and still represents there Neapolitan plebeian ' always oppressed by the various powerful who have succeeded, hungry and vulgar, smargiassa, cowardly and desecrating. Many actors have played on the scene the character of Polichinelle but the most famous of all was Antonio Petito triumphant on the stage of San Pug that, despite being almost illiterate, wrote some very successful comedies that they had as Starring the same Polichinelle.