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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: August ::
Re: Bears
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1378  Thursday 5 August 1999.

[1]     From:   Melissa D. Aaron <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Aug 1999 13:43:47 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1373 Re: Bears

[2]     From:   David Kathman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Aug 1999 19:26:25 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1373 Re: Bears


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa D. Aaron <
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Aug 1999 13:43:47 -0400
Subject: 10.1373 Re: Bears
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1373 Re: Bears

>Bear with me on this.
>
>Wasn't Heminges in charge of the dogs at the Bear garden? Did he not
>arrange a private display of dogs against lion in the Tower for James
>and his daughters? Would the Bear gardens only have had mean bears? A
>retired and tamed bear could easily have ambled across the stage at the
>Globe, could it not?

>Snake charmers still exist all over the world. Dancing bears, and all
>that it entails to tame them too, are still exploited in Eastern Europe
>and the Balkans.

OK, that's all very true--*but* I don't think it's especially likely
that a bear that was used as a bear-baiting bear would have been
"tamed"-ursine nature being what it is and having been encouraged for so
many years to be ferocious.  It's my understanding that even tame bears
have to be carefully watched.  They are not at all reliable as to
temper.  As for polar bears-and that's probably what the local London
white bears were, since they came back from a northern
expedition-they're particularly violent (zoological footnote; I
understand that polar bears are actually most closely related to the
grizzly and some say are simply a subspecies.)

This particular argument has been going on nicely since the early 20th
century without a whole lot more hard evidence being added (see Paul
Monkemeyer, W.S. Lawrence, etc.)  For economic reasons, I think the
artificial bear is more likely.  The white bear in Mucedorus has to
remain absolutely still during the tumbling trick, as several of us have
pointed out; it has to have a separate head (actor runs across stage,
removes head, hands it off).  The bears in Oberon could be Henslowe and
Alleyn's two white bears heavily guarded by the Sylvans in the same
masque, but they are probably also faked, since they have to pull a
chariot in time to the music and be next to the Prince of Wales.

If Shakespeare's company had access to a really spiffy white bear
suit-all the productions are from that year-why on earth would they want
to use a real one for WT?  Jean MacIntyre suggested in her work on
costumes that a lot of clever reuse and recycling went on; this seems to
be a prime example.

I've got a whole unpublished article on this with copious footnotes if
anyone is dying to read it.

Melissa D. Aaron
University of Michigan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Kathman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Aug 1999 19:26:25 -0600
Subject: 10.1373 Re: Bears
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1373 Re: Bears

William Sutton wrote:

>Hello,
>
>Bear with me on this.
>
>Wasn't Heminges in charge of the dogs at the Bear garden? Did he not
>arrange a private display of dogs against lion in the Tower for James
>and his daughters?

Mmmm, no, not that I know of.  You might be thinking of Edward Alleyn,
who, along with his step-father-in-law Philip Henslowe, was appointed
Master of the Royal Game of Bears, Bulls, and Mastiff Dogs in 1605, and
who had held an interest in the Bear Garden since 1594.  Heminges, as a
freeman of the Grocers' company, appears to have been in charge of the
concessions at the Globe, and during the reign of James he also served
as a Seacoal Meter for the City of London, a post which was
traditionally filled by Grocers.

>Would the Bear gardens only have had mean bears? A
>retired and tamed bear could easily have ambled across the stage at the
>Globe, could it not?

I don't think the bears could have been too mean, since the whole point
of bear-baiting was to have the dogs maul the bears.  On the other hand,
they couldn't have been too tame, or there would be no "sport" involved.

Dave Kathman

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