Exit Pursued By A Bear

  • Antigonus. Come, poor babe:
    I have heard, but not believed,
    the spirits o’ the dead
    May walk again: if such thing be, thy mother
    Appear’d to me last night, for ne’er was dream 1510
    So like a waking. To me comes a creature,
    Sometimes her head on one side, some another;
    I never saw a vessel of like sorrow,
    So fill’d and so becoming: in pure white robes,
    Like very sanctity, she did approach 1515
    My cabin where I lay; thrice bow’d before me,
    And gasping to begin some speech, her eyes
    Became two spouts: the fury spent, anon
    Did this break-from her: ‘Good Antigonus,
    Since fate, against thy better disposition, 1520
    Hath made thy person for the thrower-out
    Of my poor babe, according to thine oath,
    Places remote enough are in Bohemia,
    There weep and leave it crying; and, for the babe
    Is counted lost for ever, Perdita, 1525
    I prithee, call’t. For this ungentle business
    Put on thee by my lord, thou ne’er shalt see
    Thy wife Paulina more.’ And so, with shrieks
    She melted into air. Affrighted much,
    I did in time collect myself and thought 1530
    This was so and no slumber. Dreams are toys:
    Yet for this once, yea, superstitiously,
    I will be squared by this. I do believe
    Hermione hath suffer’d death, and that
    Apollo would, this being indeed the issue 1535
    Of King Polixenes, it should here be laid,
    Either for life or death, upon the earth
    Of its right father. Blossom, speed thee well!
    There lie, and there thy character: there these;
    Which may, if fortune please, both breed thee, pretty, 1540
    And still rest thine. The storm begins; poor wretch,
    That for thy mother’s fault art thus exposed
    To loss and what may follow! Weep I cannot,
    But my heart bleeds; and most accursed am I
    To be by oath enjoin’d to this. Farewell! 1545
    The day frowns more and more: thou’rt like to have
    A lullaby too rough: I never saw
    The heavens so dim by day. A savage clamour!
    Well may I get aboard! This is the chase:
    I am gone for ever.1550

[Exit, pursued by a bear]

This must be the most famous stage instruction in the history of the theatre.  Did the company have access to a performing bear they could use?

It is appropriate to be reading this play in Asturias, which is one of the few places in Europe where there are still wild bears.  You are unlikely to see them even though they live fairly close to where we have our house.  You are unlikely to see the wolves that roam across the mountains either, though on one of the walks we might see the evidence of their passing: the drying bones of foals they have eaten.

In any case there is no danger from the wildlife.  And, if you have a special interest, there is a Museum of the Wolf in Belmonte, with three wolves in an enclosure, and at the Senda del Oso there are three bears that have become a tourist attraction.

This short video tells you about the animals:

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