John Bale


revised circa1547 and again in 1562

a synoptic, alphabetical character list


Ambition is dressed like a bishop, and claims the responsibility for Lucifer's fall, having encouraged him to attempt to rival God. He plans to corrupt the Mosaic Law by obscuring the Ten Commandments and ensuring that the clergy lead lives which openly break the laws they claim to uphold.


As in most of his plays, Bale appears as the Prologue.


As in most of his plays, Bale appears as the Prologue.


The law of Christ, represented by the book of the New Testament, which redeems mankind. The Law of Christ is the law of love which, after Infidelity has been banished by the Wrath of God, is set above the other laws to rule and guide them.


Covetousness is the Vice that, along with Ambition, is set to corrupt Lex Moseh. He is so proud that he refuses to bow to his father Infidelity, and has to be forced into doing so. He plans to corrupt the Mosaic Law by clouding its meaning in Latin, and by forcing the people to pay money for worthless rituals. He describes the Catholic Church as being interested solely in bringing in money.


Evangelium represents Christ's gospel, sent to redeem Mankind and the Laws of Nature and Moses that have been corrupted in heart and in mind by Sodomy and Idolatry, and Ambition and Covetousness respectively. He speaks of his wife the Church, using this simile to attack the Catholic celibacy of the clergy and promote the Anglican concept of married priests. He presents the greatest threat so far to Infidelity, who summons False Doctrine and Hypocrisy to help destroy him. Although they are able to drag him off-stage, Evangelium, unlike Lex Moseh and Lex Naturae, cannot be killed or corrupted, although Infidelity believes that this is the case.


Christian Faith appears once the vices have been banished. It is able to see the Laws of Nature and of Moses for what they truly are, and is then able to instruct the audience of Christian people in how to follow the laws and abjure Catholicism.


God the Father represents the Holy Trinity. He describes himself as pure spirit, and sends down his three laws to teach and govern mankind: the law of Nature, the law of Moses, and the law of Christ. Each law represents a different stage in the history of mankind, the law of Nature being the first law which is embedded in men's hearts, the law of Moses which was laid down in the Old Testament and is represented by stone tablets, and finally the law of Christ which redeems mankind. As the Laws of Nature and of Moses are corrupted by the vices of Sodomy, Idolatry, Covetousness and Ambition, God the Father sends the Gospel of Christ in their stead. This cannot be destroyed like the two laws, but is dragged off-stage by the vices of Hypocrisy and False Doctrine. God the Father then sends down the Wrath of God to drive away the chief vice of Infidelity, heals the Laws of Nature and of Moses from their corruption, banishes the vices from them and installs Lex Christi, the Law of Christ, above all.


Hypocrisy, dressed as a Grey Friar, joins with Pseudodoctrina in attempting to convince Evangelium that their sins are not sins, and that he has no right to preach without the Pope's permission. They call upon the priests, lawyers, scholars and the Pope to prevent Evangelium from preaching the Gospel and eventually drag Evangelium off-stage, leaving Infidelity to gloat over his supposed victory.


Idolatry appears in the form of a foreign woman, a raddled elderly prostitute who describes her prayers and relics as spells. Bale uses Idolatry to satirize in particular the Catholic devotion to saints. Idolatry works with Sodomy as a form of spiritual concupiscence while Sodomy represents fleshly concupiscence.


The first of the Vice figures to enter the play; Infidelity attempts to lure Mankind away from the law of Nature by its own efforts and also by sending in its cohorts, Sodomy and Idolatry, to assist in bringing about mankind's downfall.


The law of Moses, which codified the relationship between God and Man, and was represented by the tables of the 10 Commandments. It is a law of retribution rather than of redemption, and Moseh Lex is supported by the Judges and Kings of the Old Testament. To attack him, Infidelity brings in Ambition and Covetousness, Covetousness in the shape of a lawyer, and Ambition in the form of a prelate. Between them they obscure and blind Moseh Lex, so that he is no longer able to lead the people toward God, which was his appointed task.


The law of Nature, which is the first of the three laws sent by God to instruct mankind. Naturae Lex governs the ways of mankind for the first age, up until the covenant formed between God and Man which gave mankind the Mosaic Law. Naturae Lex is sent down to earth to work in men's hearts and bring them to love God and desire to do His will, but is defiled and infected with leprosy when Idolatry and Sodomy corrupt mankind both in body and in spirit. Naturae Lex is finally healed by God the Father and joins with the other virtuous characters in singing God's praises.


Pseudodoctrina, or False Doctrine, is dressed as a doctor of the Church and appears with Hypocrisis, or Hypocrisy. Both are summoned by Infidelity to attack Evangelium. As with the other characters such as Ambition and Sodomy, they boast of their concupiscence but these claim that it is no sin because they do not marry. Together with Hypocrisy they attempt to silence Evangelium and when that does not succeed, they beat and drag him off-stage with the intention of burning him to death.


Sodomy represents all forms of unchaste sexual activity, but principally any form of unnatural or perverted sex. He focuses on the Catholic requirement of celibate clergy to argue that priests are particularly susceptible to homosexuality. Together with Idolatry they succeed in corrupting mankind and causing Lex Naturae to become infected with leprosy.


Vindicta Dei, or the wrath of God, comes to avenge the maltreatment of God's messengers, and confronts Infidelity with his misdeeds. He attempts to banish Infidelity with floods and then with a sword, but Infidelity is able to withstand both of these attacks. However, when he threatens Infidelity with destruction by fire, Infidelity is forced to retreat to hell.