Siteseen Logo

The Swan Theatre

Picture of the Swan Theatre

The Picture of the Swan Theater in Paris Garden, Surrey
Not one inside picture of the old Globe is in existence, however, a picture of another amphitheatre, the Swan,  has survived.  In 1596 a Dutch traveller and student called Johannes de Witt attended a play at the Swan Theatre in London.

Whilst he was at Theatre de Witt made a sketch of the inside of the Swan. A friend of Johannes de Witt called Arend van Buchell copied the sketch and de Witt added this drawing to his diary. His diary note, together with the picture, is probably the single most important source of information regarding the internal layout of London theatres.

All of the London theatres, or amphitheatres, were similar in design, so the picture of the Swan Theatre can be used a good guide to the structure and layout of the old Globe. The exact dimensions of the amphitheatres have been lost in time, however, the picture of the Swan allows for an approximation. There are also several original copies of Tudor maps available (see below). The map makers of the Elizabethan era were accurate in detailing sizes and perspectives. The Swan was built by Francis Langley and opened in 1595.

The Diary note of Johannes de Witt
From diary of Johannes de Witt: "There are four amphitheatres in London so beautiful that they are worth a visit, which are given different names from their different signs. In these theatres, a different play is offered to the public every day. The two more excellent of these are situated on the other side of the Thames, towards the South, and they are called the Rose and the Swan from their signboards. There are two other theatres outside the city towards the North, on the road that leads through the Episcopal Gate called Bishopsgate in the vernacular. There is also a fifth, but of a different structure, intended for fights of animals, in which many bears, bulls, and dogs of stupendous size are held in different cages and behind fences, which are kept for the fight to provide a most pleasant spectacle to the people. The most outstanding of all Theatres, however, and the largest, is that whose sign is the swan (in the vernacular, Theatre of the swan), as it seats 3000 people. It is built out of flint stones stacked on top of each other (of which there is great store in Britain), supported by wooden pillars which, by their painted marble colour, can deceive even the most acute observers. As its form seems to bear the appearance of a Roman work, I have made a drawing of it"

The Swan Theatre - Shakespeare's London History Lives On...
The history of Theatres that were prominent during the life of Shakespeare is fascinating and we have provided the London Map detailing Theatres that Shakespeare would have most certainly known and visited and quite probably have acted in. We have researched the history and locations of many of these theatres and plotted their locations into a modern Map of London. The names of many of these theatres still live on in London as they are reflected in the names of many current London Roads. Although we are born in bred in London we were not aware of this. We were amazed to find that Paris Gardens are still mentioned on the map which were the gardens in which the Swan Theatre was built. These links with the past and Shakespeare's London are endless...

Globe Theater
Structure and Layout of the old Globe Theatre
Elizabethan Playwrights and Authors Timeline
Elizabethan Theaters and Playhouses
Elizabethan Acting Troupes
Elizabethan Theatre Map
Site Map

Privacy Statement

Cookie Policy

2017 Siteseen Ltd