50 pages 1 hour read

Angela Carter

Nights at the Circus

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1984

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Part 2, Chapters 7-11Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 2: “St. Petersburg”

Part 2, Chapter 7 Summary

The Colonel walks around as the circus prepares for a performance, delighted by all the activity. The Princess of Abyssinia prepares for her act, in which she plays the piano while captive tigers dance along on their hind legs. The Princess was born in France to a mother who was proficient with the piano, and a father who was proficient in working with tigers, hence her combined skills. However, the Princess has no affinity or amity with her big cats; she fears them and knows that they could attack her if they chose. As such, she keeps a loaded gun with her during the act. The Princess respects the tigers by never speaking, since the tigers seem to grow angry when she uses “that medium of human speech that nature denied them” (149).

Lizzie and Fevvers approach the Princess with Mignon in tow. Fevvers wants to incorporate Mignon into the Princess’s act. Mignon can sing along and dance with the tigers while the Princess plays the piano. The Princess is initially reluctant, fearing that the singing will anger the tigers, but Fevvers persuades the Princess to try it out; fortunately, the tigers respond favorably to Mignon’s singing. Walser, in the meantime, is preparing for the clowns’ act.