An Introduction to Tudor Drama

By Frederick S. Boas | Go to book overview

VIII
CHRONICLE-HISTORY AND BIOGRAPHICAL PLAYS

IN the Induction to A Warning for Fair Women, History, as has been seen, appeared with Tragedy and Comedy, and had made her exit with the cry:

And, Tragedy, although to-day thou reign,
To-morrow here I'll domineer again.

By 1599 such a boast could be fairly made, but it was not till the closing decade of the sixteenth century that the chronicle-history play had fully established its place in the public theatre. Yet in a hybrid form, in John Bale King Johan, it had made one memorable contribution to English drama during the reign of Henry VIII. Bale was a contemporary of the group of early Tudor playwrights discussed in the first chapter of this book, and he had gifts which might have given him a prominent place among them. But his violent Protestantism led him to subordinate his ambitions as a dramatist to bitter religious propaganda.

Bale was born near Dunwich in Suffolk in 1495. His early training was under the Carmelites. He took orders, but in the early 'thirties of the sixteenth century or perhaps before, was converted to Lutheranism. Thomas Cromwell gave him his protection, but when he fell from power in 1540, Bale had to vacate the vicarage of Thorndon and flee to Germany. After the accession of Edward VI he returned, and in 1553 became Bishop of Ossory in Ireland. During Mary's reign he had a second period of exile at Basle. Under

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