Public plays banned in City of London

Picture of 1500's London Map
by Visscher

The Biography of William Shakespeare
  • Why were the theatres banned from the city of London?
  • Who banned the plays?
  • Why did the theatres and actors have bad reputations?
  • Where did the Theatres and actors move to?
  • Interesting information about the life and times of William Shakespeare

Public plays banned in City of London


  • The theatres were a booming business! The theatres were a new idea, a new form of entertainment for Londoners
  • The theatres attracted huge crowds - up to 3000 people
  • The theatres were also used for bear baiting, gambling and for immoral purpose
  • They attracted audiences from all levels of society - the cheapest tickets were only one penny so most people could afford to go
  • It appealed to young people and many apprentices were said to have been lured to the theatres instead of working
  • The crowds attracted thieves, gamblers, pick-pockets, beggars, prostitutes and all kinds of rogues
  • Many Londoners were strict Protestants - Puritans in fact, who abhorred the theatres and many of the people they attracted
  • Objections to the theaters escalated from the Church and the City of London Officials
  • Respectable citizens added even more objections about the rise in crime and the bawdy nature of some of the plays, fighting, drinking not to mention the risk of so many people and the spread of the Bubonic Plague!


  • In 1596 London's authorities were unwilling to ignore the growing complaints any longer
  • They banned the public presentation of plays and all theaters within the City limits of London
  • Inns and Taverns were also banned from showing any plays
  • All theaters located in the City were forced to move to the South side of the River Thames
  • The London map of the 1500's shows the City of London featuring the old St. Paul's Cathedral, the River Thames and the Southbank of the River
  • William Shakespeare and the other actors continued to present theatrical productions despite the London Authorities and the Bubonic Plague!
  • The company of actors moved to the Swan Theatre on Bankside when London's authorities banned the public presentation of plays within the city limits of London
  • The Southbank clearly shows the location of the round building of the Globe Theatre situated next to the Bear Gardens which was built in 1599

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