John Bale

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John Bale (21 November 1495 – November 1563) was an English churchman, historian and controversialist, and Bishop of Ossory. He wrote the oldest known historical verse drama in English (on the subject of King John), and developed and published a very extensive list of the works of British authors down to his own time, just as the monastic libraries were being dispersed.

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Outline of Life

He was born at Cove, near Dunwich in Suffolk.[1] At the age of twelve he entered the Carmelite monastery at Norwich, removing later to the house of "Holme", (possibly the abbey of the Whitefriars at Hulne near Alnwick). Later he entered Jesus College, Cambridge, and took his degree of B.D. in 1529.[2]

He became the last Prior of the Ipswich Carmelite house, elected in 1533.[3] He abandoned his monastic vocation, and got married, saying, "that I might never more serve so execrable a beast, I took to wife the faithful Dorothy." He obtained the living of Thorndon, Suffolk, but in 1534 was summoned before the Archbishop of York for a sermon against the invocation of saints preached at Doncaster, and afterwards before John Stokesley, Bishop of London, but he escaped through the powerful protection of Thomas Cromwell, whose notice he is said to have attracted by his miracle plays.

In these plays Bale denounced the monastic system and its supporters in unrestrained language and coarse imagery. The prayer of Infidelitas which opens the second act of his Three Laws is an example of his profane parody. These somewhat brutal productions were intended to impress popular feeling, and Cromwell found in him an invaluable instrument. When Cromwell fell from favour in 1540, Bale fled with his wife and children to Flanders. He returned on the accession of King Edward VI, and received the living of Bishopstoke, Hampshire, being promoted in 1552 to the Irish see of Ossory. He refused to be consecrated by the Roman Catholic rites of the Irish church, and won his point, though the Dean of Dublin made a protest against the revised office during the ceremony.

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