The Virtual Shakespeare Consortium

I'm wondering what people think of the prospects of a bear baiting simulation on SL or another virtual world...

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Ina, I'll admit that I am of two minds.

1) it is a historical practice (which still occurs in some countries, I've heard) that would certainly add to the authentic flavor of the installation.

2) it is an activity that I would NOT want to see enacted in any real life historical renactment setting no matter how authentic they strove to be.

Can you have a broadsheet that mentions it rather than creating an simulation?

Christien Suntzu (SL)
Barbara Z Johnson (RL)
Well, keep in mind that it's a simulation in virtual worlds, which is a multiuser computer simulated reality. There wouldn't be actual bloodshed, not directly from this at least.

One thing I am trying to discover is why it might have been such a popular sport, and to have presence in so much literature from the era.
Me? I would think it would be great. Yet, I'm a vegetarian in RL, and I'll bet there would be a bunch of people who didn't know the history of bear baiting or why it's happening there, and they'd be up in arms. That might be something to consider. I, however, would totally appreciate it (as long as it's only virtual)!

Perhaps just a statue that depicts it (and honors the animals of past) would be nice, along with a notecard that explains exactly what is being depicted.
Animal shows of all kinds were popular in the past from cock fighting to ratting.

I can't help think that this will be controversial. Even if it is only virtual. Many people can't stand animal cruelty even in simulated form.

But in Roma they can simulate the Gladiator arenas without a peep of protest.
Reality would be gruesome and disquieting, but appealing - much as a violent accident. To include a real interpretation of this would be a courageous undertaking; but might galvanize public sentiment against the simulation. I have noted active interest in bestiality sims - which are equally as gruesome and disquieting, but perhaps slightly less violent. Would the difference between the two activites be enough to damn one above the other?

That said - a cartoon simulation with Yogi and picnic baskets as bait??
Or a combat sim, where contestants don pre-built avatars (bear, lion, man, mastiff, etc) in a test of combat skills. To make it voluntary would reduce the cruelty stigma, and bring in the combat crowd.

To accurately simulate a period of time that none living can understand from any practical experience is problematic. The day to day of that period is so far from the ken of modern man, that we can only estimate and speculate on what it might have been, really. I rather suspect what we do display as artifice of the time, is thinned, cleaned and de-scented from the gritty source - try as we might to soil it.
... Bestiality sims? O.O

*runs away*
OK, well... before we get to comparing bear baiting with bestiality and inane violence...

Would you think that football (and people do die in the game!) is its modern analogue? And, for football, is it the violence that draws people -- or the collective feeling of being one of thousands of audience members in a stadium (that whole wave thing)...

The other thing is... the Globe Theatre was originally confused with the Bear Baiting Ring -- they both look about the same other than the stage superstructure. I'm wondering if there's a relation, there.

One theory says that it was originally a sport to distinguish men from beasts. Emphasis on widening the isolation between man and beast!!!
I'm assuming that by "football," we mean the thing I call "soccer"? Is that right? :)

Actually, I don't consider them to be the same thing as bear baiting, mostly because bear baiting essentially excites audiences with the spectacle of two species mauling each other, possibly and often to death. Soccer (as well as American football) excites audiences with the spectacle of stats. How fast can he run? How far can he throw? How long can he kick? It's more like the Olympics than animal cruelty, in my view.

Certainly people die at sporting events, but when that happens it's considered tragic, front page news, whereas "ANIMALS PERISH IN BEAR BAITING" would never have made the headlines in Shakespeare's day (or any day/location where bear baiting is normal) because... of course animals perished in a bear baiting -- it's not news at all.

I think at their core their purposes are different.

"And, for football, is it the violence that draws people -- or the collective feeling of being one of thousands of audience members in a stadium (that whole wave thing)..."

Neither, I'd say, although I assume it's different for everyone. Many people attend sporting events to enjoy a camaraderie with others who support the same team -- that's why most stadiums split the fans up. It's all about team work, and even the audience works together as a team to bring about victory.

Bear baiting (and cock fighting and dog fighting and all the other events that I believe are similar to it) have little to do with team work and more to do with a childish lack of compassion for a living thing that doesn't speak the human language. I see the animals as an extension of their trainers, who likely have violent tendencies that they are experiencing vicariously through animals that can't speak up for themselves.

Why has it ever been popular? There has to be a level of ignorance that prevents the audience from even considering whether the event is wrong. But I believe there is also, in that ignorance, an animalistic desire to dominate something -- or to hunt something. As human beings, we've obviously progressed to the point where none of that is necessary for our survival, but perhaps some grossly unintelligent members of the human race have not yet reached the point where that evolution makes sense, and they have not shed their ancient instinct to kill.

Essentially... cave-minded humans in modern-minded times = bear baiting? Possibly.

:) My thoughts!
I am very uncertain about this. Intrigued, but rather worried.

I am not clear yet how realistic it would be. If very realistic, the sight of dogs attacking a bear with blood spraying around would be shockingly distasteful, and I'm not sure how educational it would be. I suppose bear-baiting is part of showbiz in Shakespeare's time and so relevant to what we are trying to do. My reading of the attitudes of the time is that genuine suffering was held to be uniquely human; animals were machines made of meat, existing to serve mankind - there was little or no empathy for the pain of a dog or a bear. Very different from today's majority attitudes, at least in Europe and the U.S.

If the idea is to make it into a kind of combat game with residents activating animal avatars and scoring points to 'win' - it could be a fun spectacle but I don't think would capture the carefree bloodthirstiness of the original.

Whatever we did, I'd be worried we would attract attention from animal rights activists who might accuse us of glamorising animal cruelty. A careful justification would have to be prepared.

"They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly,
But, bear-like, I must fight the course." [the Scottish Play, Act 5 Scene 7]

As bloody as the practice was, it's interesting to note that many famous peacemongers enjoyed it.

Queen Elizabeth famously denied performances on Sundays, reserving it exclusively for bear-baiting. (I wonder if bear-baiting might also have references to religion, other than that the Puritans had tried several times to get it banned.)

Bear-baiting is divided into two-sides like many sports -- the Dogs or the Bears. People placed bets, as with many bipartisan sports. People cheered and went partisan (especially where their shillings or pounds are)!

I think it's probably the arrogance of men, who wanted these reminders of how they're above animals. Then again, historically, it was not that long ago that entire cities were burnt down in raids for conquering and domination, where men basically behaved as beasts.

Jousting sports seem popular on SL, and that's basically just about two men on horses running into each other and breaking things (tendons if not bones!). While bear-baiting is a fight to the death, the thing is, if done virtually, no one actually dies (well, people might crash -- but we do that all the time, anyway)! Except in places like Pakistan, I guess the modern mentality is far removed to find sports like bear-baiting, per se, enjoyable, but I still think it might be interesting to create a simulation of bear baiting virtually, since that's one thing I'm pretty sure any other kind of Elizabethan period simulation (especially the Ren Fair's in RL) can't do!


I meant football as football, the sport of hulky men in helmets who bash their heads against each other and all collapse in these amazing pyramid piles of human meat atop a (relatively) pea-sized brown almond-shaped ball! Yup, I meant to mention the fan-camaraderie in my vague reference to the "wave". Compared to other modern sports, it's insanely violent, relies more on brawns than any sort of skill, and though deaths of players make headlines, it's such a high-risk sport that they don't stay in headlines as long as a public figure should... I think fallen bears actually made headlines though, back in Eliz days, though due to the expense of paper and printing (and low literacy), I don't think they had daily newspapers, but rather, many must have spoken of them.

There are (were) celebrity bears in bear baiting -- a bear named Sackerson, for example, who actually made it far enough to be referenced in Merry Wives of Windsor! So, I'm not sure if it's merely just watching machine-meat vs machine-meat. Then again, I guess we do love our computers enough nowadays, that some of us name them! -- and write about them!
I think a lot will depend on how this is presented. If you manage to stress that it's a scholarly experiment of sorts, designed to discover what people found so attractive about this *extraordinarily cruel practice* (underlined three times ;-)), done in a virtual world because you could *never, ever* (underlined 4 times ;-)) do it in real life, it might work - or it might not, I don't know. It's certainly a risk.

I'm not sure the comparison with jousting or football holds, though. What enrages people most about bear-baiting is probably the unfairness of it - the fact that we're using our superior intelligence to tease and torture someone whose reasoning capabilities are simply no match for ours. Which might be the very thing Elizabethans found so amusing, of course. :-/ In jousting, you have two people of about equal wits knocking each other out of the latter. ;-) That's at least fair and balanced, if cruel.
Well, bear-baiting is about the dogs vs the bear (typically, the body mass of all the dogs is maybe close to that of the bear). So, it's similar to what you mentioned of jousting being about equal wits knocking each other out... Bear-baiting is an animal thing (although the bear is chained), and the animals are put in an environment where they have to fight or die.

Then again, what do you think of Gladiators?

FYI: the project is now from a slightly different angle -- actually, a very different angle!



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