The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1321 Tuesday, 27 July 1999.
Date: Monday, 26 Jul 1999 13:47:24 +1200
Subject: The Bear in The Winter's Tale
The Bear in Mucedorus and The Winter's Tale
It was George F. Reynolds who suggested that one reason for the
extraordinary popularity of Mucedorus (the most frequently reprinted of
all pre-Restoration plays) may have been that in the role of the bear
that terrifies the clown Mouse and chases Segasto and Amadine in the
first Act, the King's Men, for their revival (some time before the
publication of the augmented quarto of 1610) cast a real tame bear, and
that the same animal may have been brought on in The Winter's Tale.
["Mucedorus, Most Popular Elizabethan Play?", Studies in the English
Renaissance Drama, ed. Josephine W. Bennett, Oscar Cargill, and Vernon
Hall (New York: New York University Press, 1959), pp. 248-68.]
His point was that the frequent reprinting seems to have been sparked
off by the revival: there was not the same demand for the original
play. And it's hard to see what else about Mucedorus could have caused
such a sensation, though it has great mixture of popular ingredients.
His suggestion remains an intriguing speculation. So far as I know,
there is absolutely no hard evidence. And on the whole I think the
theory unlikely, but one can see how a real bear might have upstaged the
human actors even more thoroughly than Launce's dog Crab does in The Two
Gentlemen of Verona.
University of Auckland