Monday Minstrel: The Hippodrama!

The Giant Horse of Sinon! Stud of Wild Zebras! Dying Gladiators! Procession and entrée of Giant Horse! Great German Rider…the last week of his appearance! The Scenes in the Circle…the light art of Horsemanship by Mr. Avery! All this and more could be found at Astley’s Circus and Equine Spectacle as seen in the advertisement for the spectacle in 1833.


Kathleen Walter-Meikle describes such equine spectacles in her book “The Horse Book”.

“The late eighteenth and nineteenth century was the age of the hippodrama, a wildly popular theatrical entertainment that involved a mix of high drama with circus horsemanship, with titles such as Marlborough’s Heroic Deeds and Mazeppa or the Wild Horse of Tartary ( in which the role of the hero, tied to a horse, was performed by a young lady in skimpy costume). Ramps were built on stages so the horses could get onstage with ease. But by the mid-nineteenth century their appeal was fading. ”

And Dutton Cook’s, “A book of the Play” (1876) speaks of the decline of the hippodrama.

Of late years a change has come over the equestrian drama. The circus flourishes, and the quadrupeds figure now and then upon the stage, but the “horse spectacle” has almost vanished. The noble animal is to be seen occasionally on the boards, but he is cast for small parts only, is little better than a four-footed supernumerary….Plays are not now written for him. He is no longer required to evince the fidelity and devotion of his nature by knocking at street-doors, rescuing a prisoned master, defending oppressed innocence, or dying in the center of the stage to slow music. “ 

Today the hippodrama would have animal rights activists up in arms.  But it is nice to see that Dutton Cook clearly saw the horse as a “noble” animal  possessed of fidelity and devotion.  Today shows such as Odysseo and Cavalia are based on horses performing but they are, for the most part,  working at liberty.

The hippodrama is a thing of  the past, and as L.P.Hartley once wrote:  “the past is  a foreign country and they do things differently there.”



6 responses to “Monday Minstrel: The Hippodrama!”

  1. acciolivre Avatar

    Wish we could just go back in time! But, I guess there WERE a lot of problems then too

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tina Schell Avatar

    Sounds so romantic and yet – think of all the things we have that they didn’t! Could we go back for just a week rather than permanently to see what life was like in simpler times? Can I take my iPhone with me LOL!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Haha! Yes it would be nice but as i said to another blogger I might not be so keen on 18th Century plumbing.


  3. susiesopinions Avatar

    Nice to go back in time

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Indeed it is. Apart from having to go back to the 18th Century plumbing! lol


I’d love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: