Below is an example of a stage-set that was designed by Baldassare
Peruzzi. You can see the Roman Colosseum and Castel Sant'Angelo in the
background. The ingenious use of perspective seems to allow one to walk
into the backdrop; clicking on the picture will give you a better
impression of walking into the image.
This map indicates the location of London's playhouses between the years 1574-1642.
Try and locate (from left to right) Phoenix or Cockpit (1617) on Drury Lane, and Whitefriars (1608), Salisbury Court (1629), and the first and second Blackfriars (1576 & 1600) theaters -- all below Fleet Street near the River Thames.
Near the top of the map you may find Red Bull (1605) on St. Johns Street, Fortune (1600) off of Golding Lane, Theater (1576) and Curtain (1577) off of Shoreditch.
On the other side of the Thames River, you can see the Swan (1595), Hope (1614), Rose (1587), and Globe (1599) theaters.
This image is a portion of the Agas map of London (the sketches for which were made between 1569 and 1590, then printed in 1631). You can see the bull- and bear-baiting rings that scholars believe were possible prototypes for the three-tiered, unroofed theater buildings. Other scholars believe that plays took place in these arenas merely by setting up removable booth stages in the arena.
We have our knowledge of these theaters from drawings and maps of this period, but also from recent discoveries, such as the excavations of The Rose and a small portion of The Globe in 1989. The Rose excavations show that the theater was polygonal in shape (probably with 14 sides), had an outside diameter of approximately 72 feet, and an interior yard diameter of apporximately 49' 2''. This yard was sloped toward the stage.
This image is of The Swan Theater, 1596. The original drawing, was made by a Dutch visitor, Johannes de Witt, when he visited London and attended a performance at the theater. He recorded his playhouse impressions and made a pen sketch of the Swan interior, both of which have survived in a transcription by Arend van Buchell:
"There are four amphitheatres in London of notable beauty, which from their diverse signs bear diverse names [the Theatre, Curtain, Rose, and Swan]. In each of them a different play is daily exhibited to the populace. The two more magnificent of these are situated to the southward beyond the Thames, and from the signs suspended before them are called the Rose and the Swan. The two others are outside the city towards the north on the highway which issues through the Episcopal Gate, called in the vernacular Bishopgate. There is also a fifth [the Bear Garden], but of dissimilar structure, devoted to the baiting of beasts, where are maintained in separate cages and enclosures many bears and dogs of stupendous size, which are kept for fighting, furnishing thereby a most delightful spectacle to men. Of all the theatres, however, the largest and the most magnificent is that one of which the sign is a swan, called in the vernacular the Swan Theatre; for it accommodates in its seats three thousand persons, and is built of a mass of flint stones (of which there is a prodigious supply in Britain), and supported by wooden columns painted in such excellent imitation of marble that it is able to deceive even the most cunning. Since its form resembles that of a Roman work, I have made a sketch of it above."