The Isle of Dogs

Nashe Woodcut
Woodcut caricature of Nashe in chains (1597)
The Isle of Dogs, a play now lost, was written by Thomas Nashe and Ben Jonson and performed at the Swan Theatre in July 1597. The precise subject of the satire, whether treating upon Queen Elizabeth and her courtiers who fawned on her like dogs, or whether exposing and ridiculing government officials as so many mangy curs, is not known. The consequences, however, are well documented. The performance caused an uproar, the Privy Council ordered the play to be immediately suppressed for sedition, the actors (among them Jonson) were jailed, and a warrant was issued for the arrest of Nashe. Nashe, who claimed to have only written the prologue and first act, managed to escape arrest by fleeing London, but all of his papers were seized, examined, and destroyed. The Privy Council ordered the closure of all London theatres for months as a punishment and an example of what would await any future displays of “slanderous” material. Ben Jonson's career, which would involve future arrests for governmentally undesirable content, was not unduly hurt by this incident, indeed it was just beginning. Nashe was not so fortunate—he remained in exile from London until his death in 1601, a further indictment (for another cause) having banned all of his writings to be burned, with no more of his writings ever to be printed thereafter.

Article Citation:

Jokinen, Anniina. “The Isle of Dogs.” Luminarium.
             29 Nov. 2001. [Date when you accessed the page].

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Created by Anniina Jokinen on November 29, 2001. Last updated July 1, 2006.