Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

A Carmelite friar and scholar turned Protestant propagandist, John Bale wrote literary history, chronicle history, and religious polemics as well as verse drama. While a Carmelite, he edited some devotional works and compiled several Latin-language catalogs of the Order’s practices and history in England. His Illustrium Maioris Britanniae Scriptorum (famous writers of Great Britain), first issued in 1548, subsequently revised and retitled in 1557, gave biographical information about the important writers of England, Scotland, and Wales and listed the titles and dates of their works. Bale also wrote chronicles of persons he deemed noteworthy Protestant martyrs: A Brief Chronicle of Sir John Oldcastle, the Lord Cobham (1544), The First Examination of Anne Askew (1546), and The Latter Examination of Anne Askew (1547).

A bitter opponent of the traditional Catholicism, from which he converted in mid-life, Bale wrote polemics combining dialogue with diatribe. He interpreted the pope as the Antichrist in The Image of Both Churches (part 1, 1541; part 2, 1545; part 3, 1547). In The Acts of English Votaries (1546), Bale attacked the behavior of those in religious orders. He disputed the positions of various Catholic apologists in the verse tract An Answer to a Papistical Exhortation (1548), and in prose in An Expostulation Against the Blasphemies of a Frantic Papist (1552) and The Apology of John Bale Against a Rank Papist (c. 1555). Bale attacked the papacy in Acta Romanorum Pontificum (1558; acts of the Roman pontiffs), and he criticized opponents nearer to home in his book A Declaration Concerning the Clergy of London (1561).

Bale edited a work on the sacrament of Holy Communion by John Lambert, A Treatise to Henry VIII (c. 1548). In 1538, he translated from the German Thomas Kirchmayer’s Protestant play Pammachius, though his translation is not extant. Bale’s The True History of the Christian Departing of Martin Luther (1546) is a translation of German accounts originally collected by Justus Jonas, Michael Cellius, and Joannes Aurifaber.