In all of my Shakespeare courses, I make a big point of the popularity of the Renaissance theatre—but I always mention that going to hear a play (in Hamlet’s phrase) wasn’t the only popular entertainment of the time.
Bear baiting, for example, was quite as popular. Images of baiting even make their way into Renaissance drama. The quote above is from King Lear, but Macbeth (in Macbeth) also alludes to bear baiting:
Shakespeare has generally continued to be popular, I have argued, while bear baiting has slipped in popularity.They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly,
But, bear-like, I must fight the course. (V.vii.1-2)
Fortunately, that’s mostly true. However, a diligent student happened upon this news story about attempts to curb the bear baiting traffic in Pakistan. According to the source, Pakistan is the only nation in which this practice continues.
I think we need to get some productions of Macbeth up in that country as quickly as possible! Anything to stop the baiting! STOP THE BAITING!