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Bull Ring Amphitheatre

Picture of the Bear Ring and Bull Ring Amphitheatres

Bear-Ring and Bull-Ring Amphitheatres

Bull Ring TheatreThe Bull Ring Amphitheatre - Elizabethan Amphitheatre
The Bull Ring Elizabethan Amphitheatre served as both a theatre and an arena for bear-baiting and bull-baiting. It was located on the Bankside in Southwark on the south side of the Thames, opposite the City Of London, where the Swan , Hope, Bear Garden and Globe Theatre had also been situated.

The Bull Ring was originally built as a blood sport arena. Bear and Bull baiting were major spectator sports, there were several purpose-built arenas in this area specifically designed to house these events. The Bull Ring was originally built as a blood sport arena. Bear and Bull baiting were major spectator sports and there were several purpose-built arenas in this area specifically designed to house these events. Bull baiting had been introduced to England during the Medieval period of the 1200's - nearly every town in Elizabethan England boasted a Bull and Bear baiting ring. Seen as a great sporting and gambling event it was patronised by all classes of Elizabethans including the Queen, courtiers and foreign ambassadors. Vast amounts of money were waged on the outcome of the contests.

Interesting Facts and Information about the Bull Ring Amphitheatre - a Blood Sport Arena

  • Blood sporting arenas, such as the Bull Ring, provided ready built venues for the first Elizabethan commercial theatre
  • Theatrical Performances proved to be so popular that in 1591 the growing popularity of theatres led to a law closing all theaters on Thursdays so that the bull and bear baiting industries would not be neglected.
  • The Audience capacity was up to 1000 people
  • Gambling was a major feature
  • These arenas had protective walls around them made made of stone (flint), not required for the purely theatrical buildings
  • The seating arrangements for the spectators were tiered benches
  • The temporary stages were erected by the actors
  • The floors consisted of earth or sand
  • The arena was transformed into a theatre by erecting a stage in the pit, similar to the booth stage used in market places, but larger in size and built on posts
  • Bull and Bear baiting was eventually banned in 1835

Bull Baiting at the Bull Ring Theatre
Bull baiting were immensely popular during the Elizabethan era and this bloodthirsty entertainment consisted of trained bulldogs or mastiffs attacking tethered bulls.  Bull baiting at the Bull Ring would be conducted according to the following information. The objective of bull baiting was for the dog to seize the nose of the hapless bull as this was its 'Achilles heel' and had the effect of rendering the animal completely helpless. The bull, with a rope tied round the root of his horns, would be fastened to a stake with an iron ring in it, situated in the centre of the ring.  The rope was about 15 feet long, so that the animal was confined to a space of 30 feet diameter. The owners of the dogs stood round this circle, each holding their dog by its ears, and when the sport began, one of the dogs would be let loose. The bull was baited for about an hour.

Picture of "Bull Baiting" in an Elizabethan Amphitheatre

Bull-Baiting and Bear-Baiting was extremely similar, except that Bull-Baiting was more common in England due to the scarcity and cost of bears. Bulls, bears and dogs were trained specifically for such blood sports. It was customary for bulls to be paraded, adorned with ribbons and flowers, to advertise the event. In 1648 the theatres in London were closed by the Puritans. Ironically Bull-Baiting and Bear-Baiting was allowed to continue and this form of entertainment was popular throughout the Puritan era. The last bull baiting in England took place in England in 1832 - it was banned in this year by an Act of Parliament.
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