Puppet Play: The Emperor's New Clothes
By Jeanette Larson
Notes and Tips
This puppet play can be performed with traditional puppets or with stick puppets. If two puppeteers perform it, create a crowd scene that can be attached to the stage when the emperor parades around town. Use an emperor puppet that can be disrobed down to his underwear.
- Palace dressing room
- City street
- Clothes on hangers or rack
- Empty hanger
- Bolts of colorful cloth
- Young child
- Crowd (create the illusion of a crowd or if you have enough puppeteers, use an assortment of human puppets for the crowd)
The Emperor’s New Clothes
While the curtain is closed, play medieval music such as “Greensleeves.” Have a recording of royal fanfare play as the curtain opens and the emperor appears on stage.
Emperor: Where is my royal tailor? (Yells) Tailor! Where are you?
Valet: I’m here sire. How can I be of service?
Emperor: I need four suits for today.
Valet: Four suits, your highness? Four suits, you say?
Emperor: Of course, you foolish man. One for now, one for lunch, one for my afternoon tea, and one for dinner.
Valet: (Bows) Yes, sire. I will get them right away.
Tailor exits the stage.
Emperor: I never seem to have enough clothes. My tailors are so lazy.
Valet enters carrying several suits.
Valet: Here you are sire. Surely, you will find these to your liking.
Emperor: (Ponders the suits.) You may need to advise me. After awhile, all of the suits look the same to me.
Valet: (ad lib holding suits up, showing colors and textures) Let’s see sire. Maybe this one with the stripes? Or, how about this beautiful polka dot suit?
Emperor: Go see who that is. Why am I always being interrupted? I just want to try on my new clothes. (Walks over to his mirror to admire himself.)
Emperor: I want more clothes. I must have more suits. An emperor can never have too many outfits!
Tailor: Sire, I have heard that you need a new suit. I can make you the perfect suit. No one else in all of the kingdom will have a suit as wonderful as the one I will create just for you.
Emperor: How do I know that you are not just a braggart? What makes your suit so special?
Tailor: Ah, sire, I’m glad you asked. The suit I will make for you will be made of magical cloth. The fabric is so beautiful that it can only be seen by those who are worthy to be your subjects.
Emperor: Incredible! I’ve never heard of such a thing.
Tailor: It is my own creation and will help you know who of your subjects are honest and good people.
Emperor: Get to work! I will wear my new suit for tomorrow’s parade.
Play music and have scraps of cloth, thread, and other sewing items being thrown from behind the curtain for 30-60 seconds. Open and close scissors out of sight to make cutting sounds.
Curtain opens with Emperor, in his underwear, standing in his dressing room. Tailor enters holding an empty hanger.
Emperor: Well, tailor. Is my new suit ready?
Tailor: Of course sire, I have it right here (holds hanger up). Isn’t the fabric just fabulous? And the colors bring out your eyes, sire.
Emperor: How silly of me. Of course, I see that you have my suit. The colors are so brilliant that my eyes were playing tricks on me.
Emperor acts like he’s getting dressed.
Emperor: Valet! Come look at my magnificent suit.
Valet enters and looks incredulous.
Valet: Huh, what is going on here?
Emperor: How do you like my new suit? Isn’t the fabric the best you’ve ever seen?
Tailor: Valet, you have served the emperor well. So, of course, you are one of those who are worthy and honest. You are one of the few who can see the beauty of this magical outfit, aren’t you?
Valet: (Looks aside and speaks in a whisper) If I don’t say that I see the emperor’s outfit, he will think that I’m a fool and not worthy to serve him.
Valet looks back at the emperor.
Valet: Oh, sire, the beauty of the suit stuns me. The rich colors shine like the sun and sparkle like diamonds.
Valet acts like he is fiddling with the suit, straightening the fabric and whisking stray threads aside.
Emperor: It is time for the parade. My subjects will marvel out my new suit.
Curtain closes. Play trumpet fanfare.
Off-stage Voice: “Hear Ye! Hear Ye! One and all! Gather for the parade.
Curtain opens with crowd in place on the city street.
Off-stage Voice: Gather round! The emperor has a new suit of clothes made especially for the parade. Hear ye! Hear ye! The cloth is magical and only those who are worthy and honest can see its beauty.
Crowd: He’s coming! He’s coming!
Emperor enters in his underwear.
Crowd (various voices): How magnificent. I’ve never seen such beautiful cloth. How bright the colors are. Surely, this is a suit fit for the emperor. (Ad-lib additional dialogue.)
Child enters stage and looks at the emperor.
Child: (loudly) He’s not wearing anything!
Crowd: Hush, child. Be quiet!
Child: The emperor is wearing only his underwear.
Crowd: Hush, child. Be quiet!
Child: But it’s true! He isn’t wearing a stitch of clothes!
Crowd: (laughs and starts singing) “I see London, I see France, I see the emperor’s underpants.”
Valet: (enters running) Sire, these people are all fools! I’ll call the guards to take them away.
Emperor: (Turns to look at the crowd and covers his face, fanny, etc. as he acts embarrassed.) Fools? No, I think not. I have been the fool.
Valet: (Yells) Bring the emperor his clothes. And stop that tailor. He is a swindler and must be locked up.
Crowd: Three cheers for the emperor!
Emperor: But I have been the fool and am not worthy of my job. You deserve a wiser ruler.
Crowd: No, we want you. We love our emperor!
Emperor: Then let’s continue with the parade. And where is the child who was wise and brave? He shall lead the parade.
Child moves next to the emperor.
Start parade music and march the puppets around the stage in a procession with pomp and circumstance.