A ringmaster, or ringmistress or sometimes a ringleader, is a significant performer in the many circuses. Most often seen in traditional circuses, the ringmaster is a master of ceremonies that introduces the circus acts to the audience.
Duties and functions
A ringmaster introduces the various acts in a circus show and guides the audience through the experience, directing their attention to the various areas of the circus arena and helping to link the acts together while equipment is brought into and removed from the circus ring. A ringmaster may interact with some acts, especially the clown acts, to make the various acts part of a seamless circus performance. Ringmasters have become an integral part of the many circus shows and sometimes will be involved in elements of some of the acts performances.
It is traditionally the ringmaster's job to use hyperbole whenever possible while introducing the acts to enhance the expectations of the audience. Declarations of the "biggest," "most dangerous," "amazing," "spectacular," and similar expressions are common.
A ringmaster is traditionally attired in a bright tailcoat, often red with gold trim and with a top hat. The outfit is designed to look like an 18th-century gentleman's riding habit, and often includes a whip, a relic of when the ringmaster directed the performance, not as an announcer and host but as director of the many equestrian acts. It is generally accepted that this costume was first adopted by George Claude Lockhart on the orders of Bertram Mills in 1928, when Lockhart worked as ringmaster for his circus at Olympia, London. A female circus leader is known as a ringmistress, and often wears a red skirt and knee-high black boots, and either the same topcoat and tails as a ringmaster or a blouse.
In non-English speaking countries the ring master is known by different titles. In France he is called "Monsieur Loyal" after the Anselme-Pierre Loyal (1753-1826), one of the first renowned circus personalities.