In clinging to a tale of logical sequence, without the expected interpolations or detached incidents, Chaplin’s Circus for speed, gags and laughs has not been equalled on the sheet. But it’s very broad, for Chaplin makes no attempt at subtlety in this one.
Pathos to a limited degree is stuck in through Chaplin attempting to protect the bareback riding daughter of the circus owner, the father brutally abusing the girl (Merna Kennedy, the only girl programmed). The tramp falls in love with her, but when the handsome new wire walker arrives the tramp is cold. That is why Chaplin takes to practicing wire walking – to rival his rival.
The finale is real Chaplinesque. Taking the wire walker to the girl the tramp declines to go into their wagon, but returns to the empty lot as the wagon circus starts for the next stand. Seated on the plate left within the ring he watches the circus depart, then trudges in the other direction, again the tramp, permitting his back and wiggly legs only to be seen for the curtain.