BALE, John

(1495-1563)
John Bale was an evangelical Reformer, dramatist, and bishop of Ossory. He was born on 21 November 1495 in Suffolk and by the age of twelve had entered the Carmelite friary of Norwich. In 1514 he began to study at Cambridge; he eventually became a doctor of divinity. Until 1530 he remained faithful to the Catholic church, but then he began to waver, and in 1536 he officially left the Carmelite order and took a wife, Dorothy. During the 1530s he also began to write plays, which he continued to do for the remainder of his life, although only five are extant: King Johan, God's Promises, John's Preaching, The Temptation of Our Lord, and Three Laws.
In 1540 his strongest supporter, Thomas Cromwell, fell out of favor with Henry VIII* and was executed. Subsequently Bale fled England, first to the Netherlands, then to Germany. During his eight years in exile he continued to write both plays and polemics vilifying the Catholics and praising the first Prot­estant martyrs, including William Thorpe and Anne Askew.* The accession of Edward VI persuaded Bale to return to England, and in 1552 the king appointed him bishop of Ossory in Ireland. Bale vigorously attempted to implement Prot­estantism, but met hostile resistance from both the people and the clergy there. Mary I's* accession in 1553 induced him once again to flee to Strasbourg, where he published an account of his persecution, the Vocation. He began to work closely with John Foxe* and accompanied him to Wesel, Germany, where each continued to write, Foxe on the Acts and Monuments (in Latin), and Bale on the Catalogus, a history of the English church and people that also contains an account of his own life.
After Mary's death, Bale returned to England, but did not resume his position at Ossory. He continued to revise his most well-known work, King Johan, which may have been performed for Queen Elizabeth* at Ipswich in 1561. On 15 November 1563 he died and was buried in the nave of Canterbury Cathedral. Bale was best known for his dramatic, polemical, and autobiographical writings, which have continued to provide a religious and political perspective from one who was both a recorder of and a participant in the Reformation.
Bibliography
P. Happe, John Bale, 1996.
Jean Akers

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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