50 Circus Quotes Celebrating The Big Top

Let your inner performer come alive with our circus quotes!

Circuses have been entertaining audiences for many years. 

But where does the circus come from?

Find out with our circus quotes below. 

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What is the circus?

The circus is a company of performers who entertain audiences.

Circuses include professional acrobats, clowns, trained animals, magicians, cyclists, and tightrope walkers, just to name a few. 

Check out these circus facts below:

  • There are eight different variants of tightrope walking. 
  • The first modern American circus was performed in Philadelphia in 1793. 
  • Ancient cultures in Egypt, China, India, Greece, and Polynesia knew about juggling. 

Where was the first circus?

The answer depends on your definition of circus. 

Did you know ancient civilizations in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and elsewhere practiced acrobatics, magic, animal performances, and other entertainment arts?

While the modern circus got its roots in the 1700s in Britain, there were older examples of circus performances. 

The ancient Romans had amphitheaters which were called circuses because of their circle shape. 

The Circus Maximus was a huge event that included chariot races, mock battles, animal slaughter, and other blood sports. 

Animal training would lay the seed for modern circus performances that include animals. 

This tradition lasted over a thousand years and might be considered the longest-running circus. 

How did the modern circus get started?

This is not to say that modern people invented the circus concept. 

However, much of the idea behind the modern circus gets its roots in England. 

A man named Philip Astley was a skilled equestrian who started performing death-defying tricks on horses for crowds. 

The circus is both famous and infamous

People love the circus. 

Famed Colombian painter Fernando Botero once mused, “The circus leaves a sweet memory.”

Many people have fond memories of cotton candy, popcorn, and performances. 

However, a dark side to circus culture has always existed. 

Animals are often abused by performers and slaughtered by companies that can no longer tend to them. 

Circus life does provide opportunities for unique individuals who may otherwise find opportunities difficult.

However, cases of predatorial behavior and taking advantage of vulnerable people also occur. 

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To learn more, check out our circus quotes below. 

Short circus quotes about the most entertaining place on earth

The circus is a place where dreams become real. 

1. “I am sad, sad as a circus-lioness.” — Jean Rhys

2. “We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus!” Charles Bukowski

3. “Why the hell shouldn’t I run away with the circus?” — Sara Gruen

4. “The circus is the only fun you can buy that is good for you.” Ernest Hemingway

5. “Two things only the people actually desire. Bread and circuses.” — Juvenal

6. “The circus is the only ageless delight that you can buy for money.” — Ernest 

7. “If you can’t ride two horses at once, you shouldn’t be in the circus.” James Maxton

8. “I liked doing live things, and with the circus, we had a live audience.” — Eric Idle

9. “Circus can’t just be beautiful. It has to be weird. It has to be frightening.” — Elizabeth Schulte Martin

10. “Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.” H. L. Mencken

The top circus quotes about life

Sometimes life is more like a circus than we would like to admit. 

11. “The circus leaves a sweet memory.” — Fernando Botero

12. “So many freaks and not enough circuses!” — Rachel Renée Russell

13. “Clowns are the pegs on which the circus is hung.” — P. T. Barnum

14. “Her life was a circus, so she decided to enjoy the ride.” — Queenisms

15. “The ringmaster has altered, but the circus remains the same.” — Baron Ashdown

16. “The circus allows one to be logical and unreal at the same time.” — Fernando Botero

17. “I look like a casual, laid-back guy, but it’s like a circus in my head.” Steven Wright

18. “A circus of stars, your dreams a trapeze, faces lift like mirrored moons.” — Imtiaz Dharker

19. “We didn’t reinvent the circus. We repackaged it in a much more modern way.” — Guy Laliberte

20. “Marriage is a good deal like a circus: there is not as much in it as is represented in the advertising.” — E. W. Howe

The best circus quotes about joining the circus

21. “Nobody should try to play comedy unless they have a circus going on inside.” — Ernst Lubitsch

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22. “Nothing is what one thinks it is. Cloth is stone, and circus is an art. There are no certainties.” — Walter Moers

23. “There’s a hell of a lot of freedom in this rock and roll circus. It’s where all the freaks go. It’s the environment for me.” — Brian Molko

24. “Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands.” Bob Dylan, Mr. Tambourine Man

25. “Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.” George Orwell

26. “I hate to witness animals in captivity or see circus elephants paraded down the streets. When animals are caged, it’s a loss of what they are.” — K. A. Applegate

27. “The circus comes as close to being the world in microcosm as anything I know. In a way, it puts all the rest of show business in the shade.” — E. B. White

28. “But the truth is that I understand that desire to, in a way, go join the circus. I want to be a person that isn’t surrounded by their mail and their cat.” — Winnie Holzman

29. “It’s like running away to join the circus, everyone wants to do it when they’re young, but then you grow up and get a proper job.” — Katie McGrath

30. “You got to be around people, you got to be in a family, and that family changed from job to job. It was like being in the circus.” — Ben Mendelsohn

Famous circus quotes to live by

Here are some great quotes about the circus. 

31. “When I was a kid, I joined the circus.” — Christopher Walken

32. “I’m like a circus standing on two legs.” — Nuno Roque

33. “I went to a tent store. ‘What kind of tent do you need?’ ‘Circus’.”Mitch Hedberg

34. “A circus is like a mother in whom one can confide and who rewards and punishes.” — Burt Lancaster

35. “Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.” George Carlin

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36. “I have become rather like King Midas, except that everything turns not into gold but into a circus.” Albert Einstein

37. “We are like a traveling circus, our family! We sing, we dance, we do football, we do fashion.” — Victoria Beckham

38. “For a long time, I debated about whether I would make movies or join the circus and work as a clown.” — Denis Lavant 

39. “Circus, a place where horses, ponies, and elephants are permitted to see men, women, and children acting the fool.” — Ambrose Bierce

40. “Every country gets the circus it deserves. Spain gets bullfights. Italy gets the Catholic Church. America gets Hollywood.” — Erica Jong

Circus quotes and sayings about how life is like a circus

The quotes remind us the circus is full of surprises, just like life. 

41. “I’ll continue to try and balance like a circus act.” Katy Perry

42. “The clown is sometimes the best part of the circus.” George Bernard Shaw

43. “Time is a circus, always packing up and moving away.” — Ben Hecht

44. “A director is the ringmaster of a circus that’s inventing itself.” — Francis Ford Coppola

45. “Word gets around when the circus comes to the town, don’t it?” — Cormac Mccarthy

46. “Being an actor is well paid, but it’s a bit like being a circus traveler.” — Ben Chaplin

47. “Life is a circus ring, with some moments more spectacular than others.” — Janusz Korczak

48. “Damn everything but the circus. Everything that is grim, dull, motionless, that won’t enjoy.” — E.E. Cummings 

49. “The tiger and the lion may be more powerful, but the wolf does not perform in the circus.” — Earl Derr Biggers

50. “Keep the circus going inside you, keep it going, don’t take anything too seriously, it’ll all work out in the end.”  — David Niven

And the show must go on

Despite economic changes, circuses still travel and perform for people worldwide. 

It looks like this tradition is not going anywhere anytime soon.

What is your favorite circus quote?

Be sure to let us know in the comments section below. 

Clifton Sankofa has Master's degrees in English, Teaching, and School Leadership. He is a veteran educator and school leader. Clifton has built his career around teaching language arts, social-emotional learning, hip-hop(e), and vegan cooking. Across the country, Black and Brown communities die over preventable diseases. Clifton's aim is to help reverse this trend through cultural shifts. Using hip-hop and cultural-centered activities, he educates young people on how to reclaim their health and heritage through sustainable vegan eating, cooking practices, and literacy skills.