The Circus YKTTW Discussion

The Circus
A place wherein entertainers perform for an audience. Features a huge tent with a circus ring, and a Ringmaster.
(permanent link) added: 2014-02-17 14:43:58 sponsor: Lakija (last reply: 2015-04-18 16:18:33)

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Note: There two YKTTW out there: Circus Of Magic and Circus Of Joy. This needs to be edited a lot. Suggestions welcome, of course. What can be cut, if anything? Circus of Fear is the only circus trope about a whole circus. See also Circus Index.
The Circus is a company of performers, stunt masters, animal handlers, and vendors who travel together to perform in different venues.

The circus has been around more than 150 years, and there are a great many different kinds of them in different countries, making this trope prevalent in many works.

Some notable elements of the circus include the Big Top. This is the name for the biggest tent on the circus grounds. Under the big top is where the main show takes place, and usually where works of fiction or non fiction may use for a setting. It is here where the Ringmaster hosts the show.

There are some notable performances that have come to be synonymous with circuses and circus life: clowns act out comedic performances in the circus ring to humor the audience; animal handlers do dangerous stunts with their animals, usually tigers, elephants, or seals; acrobats do a variety of different stunts of the most popular are Tightrope Walking, trapeze artists, and tumbling teams; then there's the stuntmen, who most famously portrayed stunt is usually being shot out of a cannon.

Circuses can include other tents on the grounds which serve as concession stands and carnival-esque games, or even smaller specialized shows.

In works, the circus is either the main setting for a story (or a plot device about which the rest of the story revolves), or it is briefly visited.

When only briefly visited, the circus tends to be used for nostalgias sake: flashbacks help the audience to examine the childhood of a character. Or a character may be come lost there, or learn some new information.

Frequently the circus is used in horror or to evoke horror. This is probably because the circus as a traveling company has declined since it's popularity during the world wars. The idea of the circus has declined as well, and so a circus of crumbling attractions and ghosts and out of tune circus music serves as a sad shadow of the circus's past.

Add any trope examples involving a creepy circus to the page Circus of Fear.


Comic Books

Film - Animated
  • In Madagascar 3, the four main characters are abducted into a circus and live a new life there.
  • Dumbo takes place for the most part in the circus he was born in, and features several acts that he participates in.

Film - Live Action
  • The Greatest Show on Earth is set in Ringling Brothers Barnunm & Bailey Circus as it travels around.
  • The main character's parents own a circus in MirrorMask. The first act of the movie is about her mother falling ill and the circus's uncertain future due to subsequent financial troubles.
  • The Circus, starring Charlie Chaplin, in which The Tramp stumbles into a circus while running from the cops, and accidentally becomes the biggest hit act in the show.
  • In Octopussy Octopussy runs a travelling circus. In the climax James Bond is dressed as a clown while trying to disarm a nuclear device hidden in the Human Cannonball's cannon.

  • The book The Night Circus takes place at an enchanted circus that comes unannounced.
  • In Diamond Sword, Wooden Sword, one heroine starts out as a slave stagehand in a traveling circus run by a spy of the local Magocracy and used as an excuse to mosey around the country, and also infiltrated by agents of the local Murder, Inc.. In short: Few of the performers are just performers in this circus.

Live-Action TV
  • Circus Boy was an early 1960s TV series about a travelling circus. The eponymous Boy was played by Mickey Dolenz, later of The Monkees.
  • The Chicago version of Bozo, the World's Most Famous Clown is a presented as circus, with occasional backstage sketches.
  • In one episode of Murdoch Mysteries, a tiger tamer is eaten by her tiger. As the circus company immediately tries to leave Toronto, Murdoch arrests all of them, after which the police station is filled with juggling, fortune-telling, cartwheeling and murdering circus artists.


Video Game
  • RuneScape features a traveling circus with an enormous demon named Balthazar Beauregard as the ringmaster. Players can gain Experience Points by joining in the performances, which include tightrope-walking, knife-throwing, fire-eating, and magic.
  • The beginning of Dark Cloud 2 features a circus as the way to get Maximillian past the threshold part of the Archetypal Hero Cycle; trying to get a circus ticket and finding out about a conspiracy involving the circus gets him on his way.

Web Comics
  • In Girl Genius, Agatha travels for a while with Master Payne's Circus of Adventure, a traveling carnival composed of mad scientists.
  • The Barsoom Circus Command story arc of Schlock Mercenary involves Schlock and several other Toughs going undercover at the circus. Despite his Bizarre Alien Biology, Schlock is assigned to janitorial duty, as there was a group of amorphs just fired from the circus because the audience was bored with them.

Western Animation
  • In one episode of Arthur all the kids go to Circus Camp for a couple of weeks. They learn acrobatics, juggling, etc. Francine can't get the hang of any of it, but she finds her niche as a clown.
  • In the Merrie Melodies cartoon "Hobo Bobo" Bobo the elephant runs away from his home in India in order to join a US circus.
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