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The three are brought to life by the Charlatan during the 1830 Shrovetide Fair (Maslenitsa) in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Petrushka loves the Ballerina, but she rejects him. Petrushka is angry and hurt, and challenges the Moor. Petrushka's ghost rises above the puppet theatre as night falls.

The latter would applaud novelty simply to show their contempt for the people in the boxes…

Innumerable shades of snobbery, super-snobbery and inverted snobbery were represented.” What drew them on the night of May 29 1913 was the whiff of something potentially outrageous: a brand-new ballet from the Ballets Russes, which had entranced and shocked Paris ever since their first appearance there in 1909.

After a good deal of music in Scene I dedicated to showing the various patrons of the fair (Benois insisted that these be treated as real people, both in the score and in the choreography), Petrushka makes his entrance, eventually loosing the strings that had tied him to his master, the Showman.