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History of the Circus. Lesson : Obj. 3 Grade : 6.12 (A) identify the purposes of different types of texts such as to inform, influence, express, or entertain Grade : 6. Introduction.

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History of the circus

History of the Circus

Lesson : Obj. 3 Grade: 6.12 (A) identify the purposes of different

types of texts such as to inform, influence, express, or


Grade : 6


  • Today’s lesson teaches you through the fun business about the circus and clowns. But there is more than just their fun side as you will learn.

  • You will learn about the history of circuses and why clowns dress as they do. They have to follow a certain code.

  • The lesson will help you to identify the author’s purpose of using different types of texts so as to inform, influence, express, or entertain, etc.


History of the Circus

  • The word Circus was coined by the Ancient Romans to describe their open air arenas, usually called the Circus Maximus, (Meaning the biggest Circus), where they held different kinds of events such as Chariot Racing, wrestling, feats of skill, animal training and unfortunately, where they also fed Christians to the lions. This type of circus became extinct when Rome fell. However, the ideas of entertainment and showmanship survived; wandering troupes of performers, including clowns, began presenting their acts at various kinds of fairs throughout the world.

  • In the past, the typical circus was held within an oval or circular showground with tiered seating often flanking the edges. Other circuses performed under a large tent, but in Rome, an open-air stadium served as the arena where an array of public exhibitions took place. Trained exotic animals wowed the crowds, while jugglers and acrobats amused guests till the next battle or race commenced. The Egyptians also displayed exotic animals as a popular form of entertainment.


History of the Circus

  • Tiered seating ran parallel with the sides of the course, which created a crescent at the ends. People of rank were seated at the lower arrangements, while separate state boxes were offered to the host of the games and their friends. The circus in Ancient Rome also served as a significant event in history because it was the only public scene that allowed men and women to enjoy an event with one another.

  • The Emperor Pompey held spectacular shows full of lions, elephants and chariot racing. These ancient circuses included slaves fighting dangerous duels with live animals, for their lives and freedom, most often ending with death. Modern day circuses are a bit tamer, but throughout their history they have continued to awe their audiences.

  • The modern day circus did not originate until 1768 when Englishman Philip Astley began performing daring tricks on horseback. The start of this enterprising business of circus did not begin with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey as popularly believed.


History of the Circus

  • The ex-Major Sergeant staged his show inside a roped-off circle in the middle of open fields. The circle, later to be modified into circus, provided the centrifugal force Astley needed to stay atop his cantering horse. The size of his circle was 42 feet, which is the modern-day standard for circus rings around the world.

  • 7. As Astley’s show increased in popularity, he wisely introduced feature acts such as acrobats and jugglers to add variety. By 1772 Astley and his crew were touring Europe, performing in enclosed arenas, and charging admission. In 1793 Astley’s circus performed at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.

  • 8. The attraction of the circus soon found its way to America. John Bill Ricketts, an English equestrian, arranged the first US circus in 1792. True to his roots, Ricketts focused primarily on feats of horsemanship to wow his audience. His popularity even drew President George Washington, a distant cousin of Ricketts. Over the next few decades, the American circus began to evolve.


History of the Circus

  • At first rope dancers and jugglers became commonplace. Next came clowns and wild animal acts. Circus organizer Hackaliah Bailey purchased an African elephant named Old Bet from a seafarer for an estimated $1000.00. She was so popular that Bailey eventually introduced an animal menagerie to his shows. By 1859, the flying trapeze became a staple at circuses around the world.

  • But circuses first saw their heyday under the direction of the American businessman William Cameron Coup, who introduced the concept of size into the performance. Starting in 1869, Coup organized circuses so large that he boasted two rings performing simultaneous shows. His popularity led him to businessman P.T. Barnum and the pair organized their first circus in Brooklyn, New York dubbed “The Greatest Show on Earth”. Coup and Barnum’s show traveled around the United States for ten years before Barnum left the partnership to join up with James Anthony Bailey. The two formed the famous American circus of Barnum and Bailey.


History of the Circus

11. By 1884 Charles and John Ringling were also promoting a spectacular show in cities across America. Barnum and Bailey agreed to partnership with the Ringling Brothers to create what is known today as the Barnum and Bailey and Ringling Brothers Circus. The two teams combined their talents, pushing circuses to the height of excess. The largest circuses required nearly three hundred tents to present their show, and even produced their own diesel-generated electricity. Not until after World War II, when such equipment was cost prohibitive, did circuses begin to use available buildings in their host cities.

12. Today circuses still attract both young and old to see the daring acrobatics, the clever animals and the amusing clowns. Besides the nationally acclaimed Barnum and Bailey and Ringling Brothers, the Carson and Barnes Circus follows in the grand circus tradition with sixteen separate 5-ring shows. Performers come from all over the world, as do the trained exotic animals.


History of the Circus

11. One of Carson and Barnes’ famous attractions is the Hula-Hoop Sensation. Circus Flora promotes a more intimate circus setting. The small show is known for its animals, seven person pyramid and fire jugglers.

12. Some circuses originate out of local universities. Florida State University’s Flying High Circus is run completely by FSU students. They use no animals, but focus primarily on acrobatics such as hand balancing and aerial acts.

13. Cirque du Soleil is perhaps the best rival to the traditional large-scale circuses. Based in Quebec, Cirque du Soleil has neither animals nor clowns. The troupe, which started in 1984, focuses solely on the gymnastic abilities of their agile performers. Dramatic costumes and lighting effects make for a highly theatrical performance. Cirque du Soleil’s popularity has taken circus commercialism to new heights. The troupe has retail outlets located in Walt Disney World in Florida. The troupe organizers continue to give 1% of their proceeds to philanthropic organizations.


History of the Circus

9. But circuses, which strive to give enjoyment, are facing criticism nowadays. Traditional circuses have come under some criticism for their use of animals as performers. Animal rights activists argue that many circus animals are mistreated by trainers and are forced to live in unnatural conditions. But elephants and lions have been part of the circus since Pompey’s time and activist criticism has not dampened circus enthusiasm. For young and old alike, the circus continues to provide a most enchanting form of entertainment.


Check Your Understanding

  • The author probably wrote this article to:

  • a. give details of the types of entertainment held in ancient days

  • b. encourage people to become avid circus goers

  • c. inform the readers of how the circus has evolved through the

  • ages

  • d. to remove misconceptions that the circus began with Ringling

  • Brothers and Barnum and Bailey as popularly believed


Check Your Understanding

  • Which of these show items contribute to the popularity of the circus?

  • a. items where Christians are thrown to the lions

  • b. items with only jugglers, and Hula Hoop artistes

  • c. items with only acrobats or clowns

  • d. items having animals and acrobats


Check Your Understanding

  • According to the author, what was the significance of the Roman circuses that had tiered seating parallel to the sides of the circus?

  • a. anybody could be seated anywhere

  • b. class distinction applied with the people of rank seated at the

  • lower arrangements and separate state boxes for host of the

  • games and their friends

  • c. entry was free for everybody

  • d. men and women had to sit in separate sections


Check Your Understanding

4. What was the standard set by Englishman Philip Astley which is

followed even today?

a. people had to perform daring tricks on horseback

b. there had to be at least six white horses galloping at a high


c. people had to wear glittering robes / costumes

d. the size of the circle was 42 feet


Check Your Understanding

5. The author includes certain matter in the concluding paragraph to:

a. tell us that circuses are the most successful form of

entertainment that there is

b. inform us that objection is being taken by animal activists on the

grounds that animals are being illtreated and forced to live in

poor conditions

c. describe how the Emperor Pompey used animals earlier

d. to educate us that circuses are unhealthy because one can

contract diseases from the animals


Check Your Understanding

  • Mark “T” for true and “F” for false.

  • a. the popular ancient Roman item of Chariot racing is not a circus

  • act anymore

  • b. circus was always held in an open air environment, but in Rome

  • it was held in a tent

  • c. animals are a recent addition to a circus

  • d. circus has its roots in the old fashioned wandering troupes of

  • performers and entertainers


Clowns in the Making

  • Have you ever dreamed of leaving home and joining the circus? Think you have what it takes to be an acrobat or trapeze artist? To find out some of the “ins and outs” of becoming a circus performer, a reporter of Kidzworld spoke with Philippa Hayball, an acrobat and dancer with Cirque du Soleil's circus show, Quidam.

  • Not just anyone can go and join the circus and become an acrobat or trapeze artist. You need to have a specific talent, the right body type and be very determined. Philippa's road to circus stardom started when she was five years old.

  • Philippa did musical theater and ballet and everything to hone her craft; she also trained in rhythmic gymnastics for years. "When I was 11, I knew I wanted to be a performer, so I went for it. I gave up everything else and concentrated on my dancing andperforming.” she said. “You have to go for it. You have to put your heart into it and be certain that that's what you want to do."


Clowns in the Making

  • According to her, one of the upsides of being in the circus is that you get the chance to travel the world. Philippa has worked all over including Australia, Japan and all over North America. The circus, she says, has given her the opportunity to go to so many different places and meet so many different people. She travels with 100 people who are like a family to her the whole time. “When you're young, it's the time to do it. It's the time to travel, the time to grow and experience your life."

  • Philippa also gets a thrill from performing in front of a liveaudience. Making eye contact during a performance is important, she says. The flip side is working long days and weekends as well and spend a lot of time away from home.

  • How much money can one make depends on what your act is, and how much experience you have. For example, the lead acrobat or trapeze artist with Cirque du Soleil or Ringling Brothers is going to make more money than the guy who sells programs or chips.


Clowns in the Making

  • Entry-level jobs in the circus might pay around $300 a week, while featured performers like acrobats, contortionists or trapeze artists can make between $40,000 to $70,000 a year. You also get free room and board while you're traveling with the show, which is an added perk.


Check Your Understanding

  • 7. What is the purpose of this article?

  • a. the author tries to influence readers to become a clown

  • b. the author informs us what it takes to be a clown

  • c. the author tries to show how well a clown can earn

  • d. the author tries to dissuade readers from becoming a clown


Check Your Understanding

  • 8. Why does the author include an interview with Philippa?

  • a. to tell us about the joys of performing in front of a live audience

  • b. to show us that making eye contact with the audience is

  • important

  • c. to tell us that all clowns have to be very humorous and naturally

  • funny

  • d. to tell us that clowns have to be skilled, focussed and start young


Check Your Understanding

9. What is the main message that Philippa tries to give us?

a. being a clown is very simple

b. there is no hard work involved in being a clown

c. any funny person can become a clown

d. being a clown is hard work


Check Your Understanding

10. What facts about clowning do the interview reveal?

a. a clown gets to travel

b. a clown gets free food and accommodation

c. a clown works long hours and does not get to see his / her family

d. a clown has a luxurious lifestyle, all fun and games


Types of Clowns

  • A clown is an artist or performer who pretends to be a fool or foolish and acts out or acts up, in order to amuse his audience. In short, he's a comedian,someone who tries to make you laugh by being funny. Clowning is a creative art form that constantly evolves. 

  • Clowns have many things in their bag of tricks. Some do slapstick, pie throwing, keep falling down, stumbling, physical humor. Some do pantomime; they don't speak, they act out their skit or story, instead. Some use magic or juggling. Others ride cycles, small cars, animals, and perform trapeze acts.

  • The clown has many decisions to make about his identity. There are many kinds or types of clowns and they each create their own look. Each clown must create his very own, special face. He must   create his character or personality, and identity of his own. The clown's character, his face, is created by the use of makeup, as well as his costume and developing his clown's personality.


Types of Clowns

  • In other words, he has a certain look and he acts out, in his own, special way. Once the clown establishes this face, it becomes his trademark, his personal property, and no other clown may dress or make up exactly like him.

  • However, there are four basic types or kinds of clowns.

  • Whiteface, neat or grotesque

  • Auguste, which became more popular than its predecessor, the whiteface, during the second half of the nineteenth centuryCharacter, and New Vaudeville

  • 6. The Whiteface clowns, as the word implies, use white makeup or white greasepaint to cover their face and neck. They are the oldest type of clown in existence. They keep trying to get a task done correctly or being a clever rogue pulling tricks on their partners. They did a lot of physical stunts, like leaping and tumbling comically.


Types of Clowns

  • The Auguste clowns wear white around their eyes and mouth, and cover the rest of their exposed skin with a flesh colored greasepaint base.  They generally use a large imitation bulbous nose.  They may paint their lower lip red or black, and frequently have exaggerated eyebrows.  They may wear a colorful wig, or a bald top wig with a fringe of hair around the sides.  Their shoes maybe oversized and exaggerated. Their costume is usually has very bright colors, and is frequently too large. The August is a clumsy clown, playing the fool, and is usually the butt of the joke.

  • The Character clowns are the most realistic looking of the clown types. Character clowns may impersonate a cowboy, fireman, tramp, baseball player, doctor or a policeman.

  • New Vaudeville clowns usually doesn't wear makeup. They entertain audience with a combination of skills like mime, juggling, acrobats, magic tricks and traditional clowning techniques may be part of their bag of tricks.


Check Your Understanding

11. The purpose of the author in including this section on types of

clown is:

a. to entertain us with clowns and their ways

b. to describe the way they dress themselves and use make up

c. to describe their various acts

d. to educate us about the various types of clowns


Check Your Understanding

12. Why has the author written the first paragraph of this feature the

way it is?

a. he is trying to define and explain what / who a clown is to us

b. he is making fun of clowns

c. by using insulting words like “foolish” and “fool’’ he is demeaning

a clown

d. he is trying to convince us that a clown just puts on an act


Check Your Understanding

13. List at least 4 or more acts a clown does as a part of his job.

a. …………………………………………………………………….

b. …………………………………………………………………….

c. …………………………………………………………………….

d. …………………………………………………………………….

e. …………………………………………………………………….

14. List at least 4 or more accessories / items of dress or make up that clowns use.

a. ………………………………………………………………………

b. ………………………………………………………………………

c. ……………………………………………………………………….

d. ……………………………………………………………………….

e. …………………………………………………………………….



  • You just learned all about clowns and circuses, and the history and the code behind their clowning.

  • The lesson teaches you to identify the purpose of the author in using different types of texts such as to inform, influence, express, or entertain.