Swan theatre.jpg
van Buchell - de Witt drawing, c., 1596
The Swan playhouse was built in 1595 by Francis Langley, who had bought the property at Paris Garden on the south bank of the Thames in Southwark in 1589. In the fall of 1594 Langley began construction, and the playhouse was probably ready for use by the summer of 1595. There is no documentary evidence on the initial company tenants but circumstantial evidence locates the lodgings of members of the 1594-5 configuration of the Queen's men in Paris Garden manor. One is Francis Henslowe, nephew to Philip Henslowe. Francis borrowed money from his uncle to buy a half share of a playing company on 1 June 1595 Greg I, f. 3v, and the token book for St. Saviour's parish for 1595-6 shows payment for Francis at lodgings owned by Langley. George Attewell, another player associated with Francis Henslowe, also lodged in the St. Saviour's neighborhood. This coincidence of location and profession invites the conjecture that the company at the Swan at its opening was the 1595 version Queen's men, perhaps with some of the older company's repertory in hand.

Another conjecture on tenants at the Swan concerns the Chamberlain's men (or, literally, Hunsdon's men). It is based on legal documents that imply some kind of relationship between Francis Langley and William Shakespeare in the autumn of 1596, one more plausible in terms of professional associations than personal ones.

In February 1597 Pembroke's men came to the Swan, and their tenure into August is both well known and well documented through law suits and Privy Council actions. The seminal moment is 28 July 1597, when the Privy Council issued an order that there would be no more playing within three miles of the city of London until All Hallows and that the stages, etc. of operating playhouses were to be "plucked down." There follows on 15 August an order authorizing agents of the crown to investigate the persons responsible for an allegedly seditious play; on 8 October warrants are issued for the release of players associated with Pembroke's including the playwright, Ben Jonson. In the wake of these events, a number of Pembroke's players, having broken from that company and joined the Admiral's men, sued Langley, thus precipitating further legal action plus entries in Henslowe's Diary on developing events (e.g., Greg I, f. 27v, Greg I, f.50, Greg I, F. 33v, and Greg I, f. 38v).

Presumably a company took up the lease at the Swan in the wake of the troubles of July-August 1597, but playing there subsequently was sporadic at best except for the spans of 1610-14 and 1620-21, after which use of the playhouse came to an end.


Ingram, William. A London Life in the Brazen Age, Francis Langley 1548-1602. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978 (esp. 104-20; 139-96)
Berry, Herbert. "The Swan" in Wickham, 437-40.
Schlueter, June. "Genus Cygnus: Three Species of the Swan," Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, 16 (2003): 192-217.

NB. This page is a work in progress; rather than attempting to represent a complete list of plays staged at the Swan, this page will continually be updated as new entries are created for Swan plays.

Pages in category "Swan"

The following 2 pages are in this category, out of 2 total.