Blood sports

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On Bankside there are other buildings in which, although ostensibly used for bull and bear baitings, stage-plays are acted-the Globe, quite close to the river, where Shakespeare and his fellows acted, and the Swan.

Many of these were crude structures; the one in Whitefriars was probably a barn or hail belonging to the suppressed convent of the Carmelites.

The Globe was a hexagonal building of brick and timber, open to the weather except the part over the stage, which was thatched; the galleries round were probably under cover, but the "pit" was open to the sky.

No wonder that in 1613, in Shakespeare's lifetime, a piece of lit paper blown from a cannon set fire to the thatch and it was burnt down. It was afterwards rebuilt with a tile roof, and not finally pulled down until 1644.

The Bear Garden had a longer life, as it existed up to Charles the Second's reign, and Pepys visited it. It was a strange trait in the manners and customs of those days that people of education should crowd to see a poor beast tethered and worried by dogs.

Royal personages were often present at the "sport" and took foreign ambassadors to see it. "The Bear" was also used for another brutal exhibition - prize-fights, and not with gloves.

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