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Lee Jamieson

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

By April 7, 2009

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Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction, “Exit, pursued by a bear,” came to life in a Suffolk forest last month when Red Rose Chain Theatre Company staged a stunt to promote their outdoor production of The Winter’s Tale.

Stories that a wild bear (extinct in Britain since the eleventh century) had been sighted roaming Rendlesham Forest soon made national headlines after video footage was posted on YouTube.

The theater company finally admitted that the hoax-footage was actually of a costumed actor from their forthcoming production of The Winter’s Tale in August.

What a great stunt! Although the company have received some complaints, I think it’s a great way to create a “magical vibe” around their performance. Hopefully, their publicity stunt will capture the imagination of people new to Shakespeare.

Photo © Red Rose Chain Theatre Company


April 8, 2009 at 9:56 am
(1) Robert C. says:

I certainly agree. A publicity stunt that highlights immoral wildlife loss, promotes and piques Shakespearean interest and gives people a good laugh is a rare feat. Also, I suggest this stage direction serves a fourth purpose. Like the “seacoast of Bohemia” supposed error, it serves the genuine sage by reminding people that the region in question in fact had a real history at the time of the play’s setting–Bohemia controlled a seacoast at the historical time noted– that one needs to consider or perhaps reconsider. And that the Shakespearean Poet either knew the unusual fact in question from study or first-hand knowledge–a fact hardly available to very man in the Elizabethan period.

April 8, 2009 at 11:41 pm
(2) Douglas Spaulding says:

We recently gathered our winter play group to read The Winter’s Tale in prep for the forthcoming Chautauqua production to be presented this summer and the question came up
” Why the Bear?” And Why the “exit”and why “the pursuit?” ? Someone
ventured that there was really only one tyrant in the play—Leontes–and bear baiting was a supreme act of irrational cruelty no less irrational than the king himself. Anyone have any other ideas? Exit Leontes?

April 11, 2009 at 3:57 pm
(3) james says:

For a thorough understanding of the stage direction (exit pursued by a bear) see: http://www.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/shakespeare/sample9.html

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