Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: April ::
Re: Bear-Baiting
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0300.  Saturday, 15 April 1995.
 
(1)     From:   S. P. Cerasano <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 14 Apr 1995 09:22:15 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Bearbaiting
 
(2)     From:   Frank Whigham <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 14 Apr 1995 09:55:55 -0500
        Subj:   bear-baiting
 
(3)     From:   W.L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 14 Apr 1995 11:52:09 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0294  Re: Bear-Baiting
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           S. P. Cerasano <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 14 Apr 1995 09:22:15 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Bearbaiting
 
It is highly unlikely that live bears were used on stage during performances of
'A Winter's Tale.'  Bears are notoriously unpredictable in their behaviour, and
they are even difficult to train.  Those used at the Bear Garden were imported
from Germany (what the Elizabethans called 'brown bears') and Russia (what they
termed 'white bears,' i. e., polar bears).  By Shakespeare's day bears were
scarce in England and Scotland; but also, the German and Russian bears were
larger than others and therefore made for a better show.  E. K. Chambers
mentions one notorious incident from the 1580s when the scaffolding collapsed
in the Bear Garden and several people were killed. (Thus, God had made a
statement on the evils of bearbaiting.)  I wrote an article entitled 'The
Master of the Bears in Art and Enterprise,' in MARDIE, 5(1991), 195-209, which
discusses various aspects of bearbaiting, as financial enterprise and
entertainment.  It might be useful for those interested in pursuing this topic.
 
S. P. Cerasanp
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 14 Apr 1995 09:55:55 -0500
Subject:        bear-baiting
 
A student of mine, Joe Beaird, just wrote a seminar paper for me on early
modern baiting (bear, bull, even pony!). If anyone is interested in consulting
him on this topic (he's not a list member), his address is

 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 . He produced lots of interesting history and
bibliography.
 
Frank Whigham
University of Texas at Austin
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W.L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 14 Apr 1995 11:52:09 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0294  Re: Bear-Baiting
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0294  Re: Bear-Baiting
 
Bearward seems to have been a legitimate career option in the 16th and 17th
century. The passages cited in the OED indicate that the bearward also kept
apes, and had these animals do "tricks." So when Brian Altom asks about the
possibility of a real bear in The Winter's Tale, he may be right on target.
Bears were, apparently, valuable commodities in the 16th-17th centuries, and,
even if some were used for bearbaiting (where the dogs were the real losers),
bears were generally well cared for (or so I'm led to believe).
 
Disclaimer: I find blood-sports, animal teasing, bull and bear-baiting, and so
on obnoxious.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
P.S. Some enterprising scholar should write the definitive study of bears in
the 16th-17th centuries.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.