The Swan

The Swan was built in 1595 in The Manor of Paris Gardens in Southwark onThe_Swan_cropped the remains of what once was Bermondsey Abbey, and was at one point praised as the largest, most impressive amfie-theatre of the time. The Swan could house an audience of 3 000 and was built with a contemporary form of concrete with the tree frames that was typical of the Tudor era.

The theatre became the primary stage of Pembroke´s Men, a troop of actors that functioned under the patronage of Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. It is believed by some that William Shakespeare in the early 1590´s functioned as both actor and writer for the company.

In 1597 they staged the satirical” Isle of Dogs” by Ben Johnson and Thomas Nashe. No copies of the play remains, and therefore it´s difficult to know exactly what offended the Privy Council, but whatever it was, it led to the arrest of Ben Johnson as well as the actors Gabriel Spenser and Robert Shaa. The home of Thomas Nash was raided, but as he was away at the time, he escaped imprisonment.

The Swan seem to have had a particular ability to aggravate both those in power as well as the general audience both for the plays that was performed and those that wasn´t. When a play in the honor of Elizabeth I had been announced and sold out only to never be staged, the theatre was vandalized to the point where it never fully recovered. The theatre was abandoned during a number of years after 1615 to be only temporarily in use in 1621. The theatre was thereafter allowed to decay and is not mentioned in any sources after 1632. In that year it was described as a dying swan singing her own dirge.


A Shakespeare Companion – F.E Halliday

The Elizabethan Stage – E.K. Chambers



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