miércoles, 12 de febrero de 2014


Nowadays, every English speaker knows the line "Exit, pursued by a bear". William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale, Act 3 Scene 3.
In The Winter's Tale, one of Shakespeare's last romantic comedies, a courtier is chased on stage (and presumably devoured offstage) by a brown bear on the coast of Bohemia.
Since the Kingdom of Bohemia is analogous, sociohistorically, with our days' landlocked Czech Republic... that scene may betray that Shakespeare, who appeared so clever (peppering his works with French and Latin), was somewhat ignorant when it came to geography.
Most people in our days are unaware of the Bohemia/Czech Republic analogy, which they clearly overlook.
However, it's the bear that catches their attention (by the way, brown bears are not that out of place in Bohemia/the Czech Republic).
Now, on stage, should it be two actors in a suit (like the cow in Jack and the Beanstalk pantomimes) or a live brown bear to appear?
Something tells me that a live brown bear would be used in Stuart times.
When Shakespeare was young, actually, the performing arts weren't considered high culture. Which explains why he debuted in front of an audience of peasants and artisans, in an arena-like theatre in suburban London. That theatre, the Globe, also resembled a cinema, aside from a sports arena.
To entertain themselves, courtiers hunted for big game in the woods. During the reign of Elizabeth I, a modality known as bear-baiting was especially popular at court: the bear was drugged and captured alive, then brought to the palace, then pitted against bulldogs in a fight to the death. That was Tudor high culture.
With the change of reign and dynasty, Shakespeare's reputation reached the royal halls... and thus, tragedies like Macbeth and Othello were written for King James and his nobles. The performing arts had started to attract the elite.
Though there were still old-fashioned courtiers who would rather see a brown bear against a half-dozen bulldogs rather than a great general strangling his beloved spouse.
With these preferences in mind, and the royal favour on his side, it was not hard for William to get a live brown bear for the first premiere of The Winter's Tale.

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