Explain the literature of the English Reformation

Write a note on the Reformation movement and its impact/effect on English literature | Causes of Reformation

literature of the English ReformationThe Reformation movement was a momentous event in the history of Europe and it was occasioned by the corruption and evil practices of the Roman Catholic. The movement by Martin Luther aimed at creating a new religion that could be based upon the scriptures. It was after a long time that the English church passed from a position of chaos and confusion into a state of stability. It was during the reign of King Henry VIII that the reformation was turned at once a into a political, religious and a social event.

Explain the literature of the English Reformation

The recognition of the King as the head of the church, the subjection of the clergy to the laity and the division of the estates and social influence of the monasteries among the ordinary people constituted a great social and religious revolution. It was a consequence of this movement that protestantism was born. The reformed religion was also called new religion and very soon its influence was felt over a wide area in England as well as in other parts of the continent.

One of the effect of the Reformation was that it evolved a kind of religion for the common people particularly of the middle class. Therefore, the squires, lawyers, merchants and yeoman accepted the new faith. The Reformation also left an important mark upon English literature. It was under the impact of this movement that ‘The Authorized Version of the Bible’ and ‘The Book of Common Prayer’ was produced. Besides the Reformation put an end to the medieval tradition of anonymous authorship. In other words, the reformation brought about a significant change in the very outlook of the people towards religion and other matters related to it.

The Reformation like the Renaissance produced a new kind of thinking in the mind of the people and the reflection of it could be seen in the literature produced after it.

The Reformation which begins in the time of Henry VIII reaches its culmination during the Elizabethan Age. So the influence of it is more profoundly seen in the literature of that period. Spencer’s ‘The Faerie Queene’ presents the best trends of the movement. ‘The Faerie Queene’ is in fact a moral allegory and shows the distinct impact of the movement. Another great poet appearing towards the later part of Elizabethan Age was John Milton. His greatest work ‘Paradise Lost’ was the product of his strong reformative zeal.

As a matter of fact every other religion or moral revolution that has taken place in the history of Europe has been influenced by the Reformation movement. Indeed this Reformation movement had so powerful impact upon English life and society. Its beliefs and ideas, its tradition and culture as the reformation movement and the enrichment of the literature in particular has to be given a special importance.


Religious causes:

Corrupt financial practices by the Popes and the higher clergy.
The sacraments were often celebrated meaninglessly.

Cultural causes:

The study of Hebrew and Greek enabled scholars to read the Holy Scriptures in the languages in which the original had been written.

Political causes:

The kings were increasing their power over their own people and also against the Pope and the emperor.
When the Reformation began, some monarchs broke completely away from the Pope.

Economic causes:

As the cities grew wealthy and independent, they threw off the control of the local lords and prince – bishops.

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