John Bale



  • (1495 - 1563) English dramatist who penned 21 plays indefence of the Reformation, formed his own company of travelling players,and eventually became the Bishop of Ossory in Ireland. His most famouswork, Kynge Johan, was published in 1536 but revised for EdwardVI and again for Queen Elizabeth I. It is usually considered the firstEnglish historical play, representing a transition between the medievalmorality play and the chronicle plays of the Elizabethans.

    The play presents John as a heroic figure who rescues WidowEngland from the clutches of an oppressive Church, declaring thathis duty is to God and not to the foreign Pope. A number of historicalcharacters appear as morality figures; thus the Pope is representedby the character Usurped Power, the Archbishop of Canterbury by Sedition,and Cardinal Pandulphus by Private Wealth. Bale's major source wasWilliam Tyndale's Obedience of a Christian Man (1528). Balealso used the interlude for religious and political propaganda.The extreme vehemence of his controversial writings earned him the nicknameBilious Bale. His life provided the basis for John Arden'shistorical novel Book of Bale (1988).