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Seeing What Shakespeare Means

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Queen : What sport shall ... drive away the heavy thought of care?
Lady: Madam, we'll play at bowls.
Queen: 'Twill make me think the world is full of rubs/ And that my fortune runs against the bias
Richard II (3.4.1-5)

Richard's Queen desires some diversion to make her forget her cares. She rejects the suggestion of a game of bowls, punning on rub (an obstruction that deflects the course of the bowl) and bias (the curve that brings the ball to the desired point).


. . . we are at the stake
And bayed about with many enemies. . . .
Julius Caesar (4.1.52-53)

Bearbaiting was a bloodsport in which dogs attacked a bear chained to a stake. Extremely popular in Shakespeare's time, the sport took place in market squares, village greens, and in urban arenas such as the famous Paris and Bear Gardens on London's Bankside, where Shakespeare's Globe was also located. At least one theater, the Hope, which opened on the Bankside in 1614, was used both for playing and bearbaiting.

Le centre de l'amour. Paris, ca.1650 (Detail)

Giacomo Franco. Habiti d'huomeni et donne venetiane. Venice, ca. 1609 (Detail). 

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