The Reformation of History in John Bale’s Biblical Dramas

  • Andrew W. Taylor
Part of the Early Modern Literature in History book series (EMLH)


Introducing the autobiographical The Vocacyon of Johan Bale (1553), Happé and King aver that, ‘during his long career as an ecclesiastical reformer, he demonstrated varied capabilities as a prolific author, editor, preacher, dramatist, controversialist, antiquary, scholar, collector of books and manuscripts, historian, biblical commentator, and evangelical bishop’.1 Bale is indeed a difficult figure to contain: yet although his diverse reforming endeavours complicate a narrative of his developing thought, these belie the sustained and single-minded engagement with religion and the past. His early and politically uninterested study of his religious order, the Carmelites, anticipates the monumental biobibliographical patriotism of his Summarium (1548) and Catalogus (1557–9), profound responses to the English Reformation and the need to reconfigure history.2 This chapter explores the workings of Bale’s historical imagination in the biblical drama initially conceived either during or immediately following his conversion, which he himself stated was not before Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy in 1534 (although some put it as early as 1531).3


Historical Consciousness Henry VIII True Religion Biblical Narrative Religious Reform 
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© Andrew W. Taylor 2008

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  • Andrew W. Taylor

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