Created By: Lakija on February 17, 2014 Last Edited By: Lakija on August 30, 2016

The Circus

A place wherein entertainers perform for an audience. Features a huge tent with a circus ring, and a Ringmaster.

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Trope
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.


Examples

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.

Literature
  • 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.

Music

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.
Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • February 17, 2014
    randomsurfer
    • Circus Boy was an early 1960s TV series about a tavelling circus. The eponymous Boy was played by Mickey Dolenz, later of The Monkees.
    • The Greatest Show On Earth is set in Ringling Brothers Barnunm & Bailey Circus as it travels around.
    • 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 frrom his home in India in order to join a US circus.
    • The Chicago version of Bozo, the World's Most Famous Clown is a presented as circus, with occasional backstage sketches.
  • February 17, 2014
    DAN004
    See also Circus Brat.

    • In Madagascar3, the four main characters are abducted into a circus and live a new life there.
  • February 17, 2014
    troacctid
    • Rune Scape 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.
  • February 18, 2014
    Mamona
    • 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.
  • February 18, 2014
    FerrousFaucet
    The main character's parents own a circus in Mirror Mask. The first act of the movie is about her mother falling ill and the circus's uncertain future due to subsequent financial troubles.
  • February 18, 2014
    Dalillama
    Webcomics
    • 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.
  • February 19, 2014
    randomsurfer
    In The Avengers Volume 1 #1 The Incredible Hulk is hiding out in a circus as a clown-painted strongman before Loki starts messing with him.
  • February 19, 2014
    gallium
    I think I'll go with

    Film

    Music
  • February 20, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Film: 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 base.
  • March 14, 2014
    Lakija
    bump
  • March 14, 2014
    Tallens
    • Dumbo takes place for the most part in the circus he was born in, and features several acts that he participates in.
  • April 20, 2014
    Lakija
    bump

  • April 20, 2014
    AP
    • Marvel Comics has a group of villains called The Circus Of Crime. They fit this trope entirely aside from hypnotizing the audience and robbing them.
  • April 20, 2014
    Tallens
  • April 21, 2014
    Koveras
    • Baldurs Gate II features a circus in Athkathla as a major location: clearing it of demonic infestation is a big early quest, and doing so lets you recruit Aerie into the party.
    • Most of Contrast takes place in Johnny's broken-down circus, which Didi and Dawn have to repair.
  • April 21, 2014
    Arivne
    • Added blank line(s) for readability.
    • Changed Animated Film to Film - Animated and put in its correct alphabetical location.
    • Namespaced and italicized work names.
    • Corrected spelling (tavelling, frrom).
  • April 21, 2014
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • Classic Charlies Angels episode "Circus of Terror". The Angels are assigned to find out who's behind the acts of sabotage designed to put a circus out of business.
  • April 27, 2014
    aurora369
    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.
  • April 27, 2014
    Snicka
    Is this a trope? "Work features a circus" feels chairs-y to me.
  • April 27, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    ^ It's a stock setting, like High School.
  • April 17, 2015
    DrNoPuma
    I agree that there should be another trope about an entire circus than just Circus Of Fear, but I agree with Snicka, I think this is People Sit In Chairs. Circus Of Magic is a good idea, though, and Circus Of Joy might also work. I'm sorry, Lakija.
  • April 17, 2015
    Tallens
    How exactly can a setting be Chairs? The setting is the framework in which the story takes place.

    I'd say that this is just as valid as Port Town, Prison, or Space Station.
  • April 18, 2015
    foxley
    Frontier Circus was a series about a one-ring circus travelling The Wild West.
  • April 18, 2015
    gallium
    Film

    • He Who Gets Slapped is about a scientist who has his research stolen, is publicly humiliated, and is dumped by his wife. So after a breakdown he turns his back on the world and takes up a job as a circus clown whose whole act consists of people slapping him.
  • April 18, 2015
    TonyG
    • Bugs Bunny appeared in two cartoons set at the circus. "Acrobatty Bunny" has a circus set up over his burrow and him contending with a lion. In "Big Top Bunny" he becomes a circus acrobat at odds with his partner Bruno the bear.
    • A Sylvester The Cat And Tweety Bird cartoon "Tweety's Circus" has Tweety on exhibition at a circus and Sylvester trying to get him, while one of the circus' lions tries to get Sylvester.
  • April 18, 2015
    randomsurfer
    In the Merrie Melodies Short "An Itch In Time" a Flea Circus strongman goes on vacation. At the beginning of the short we see the circus.
  • April 18, 2015
    Rjinswand
    I think the description needs to mention that circuses are usually depicted as those big colorful tents, usually located at a carnival or a fair. But in real life, a circus can just own a stationary building in a city and perform there.
  • April 18, 2015
    Tallens
    I don't think they own them, they just rent them out. Usually they're large public venues like convention centers or sports arenas.
  • August 30, 2016
    DAN004
    Bump
  • August 30, 2016
    henke37
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=34anuxbw1ge7d9iii969yzai