Christian history has a great tradition of women who had relevant influence on the spread of religion. Amongst them, Anne Askew (c. 1521-1546) is remembered for her first-person narrative that recreates her imprisonment for heresy. Indeed, as Allyna E. Ward posits, Anne Askew was “[b]y far the most discussed female martyr […], whose death by burning at the stake in Smithfield in 1546 was first memorized by John Bale” . In this light, Bale’s Examinations are considered as both a spiritual autobiography and as an outstanding historical document that provides new insight into women’s status and conditions in the English society during the Reformation. This work records her questionings during which she was tortured, condemned and, eventually, burnt at the stake for having refused to abandon her Protestant faith. On these premises, this paper analyses Anne Askew as an independent and unconventional heroine, who breaks the silence imposed on women by the authority of the Renaissance male-dominated society, all seen through the perspective of John Bale’s The Examinations. While not exhaustive, the paper especially focuses on Askew’s standpoint on religion, also offering new perspectives and debates on women’s roles in past societies. It also proposes that gender and religion intermingle in the concepts of passivity and in the metaphor of sowing the seed as a result of a renewed interpretation of doctrinal controversy.
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