What is Reformation Movement? , Impact of Reformation Movement in Literature.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, "Reformation means the action of reforming something. It is the 16h century movement in Europe for the reform of the Roman Catholic Church, which resulted in the  establishment of the Protestant Churches".

In fact, Reformation is a great change for the better in social, religious or political affairs. The Reformation Movement was a revolution. It was an uprising against the high privileges and unrestrained liberties of  Medieval Church. At that time, the Church very nearly lost
control over itself. It allowed all manner of abuses and corruption.
However, it had a great impact on English literature. One of its immediate effects was to check and delay the growth of early English Humanism. Renaissance in England was opposed and crossed by the religious reformation. It was thereby arrested and made different and more puritanical in character.

The Reformation began in the latter part of the reign of king Henry-VIII. It continued through the reigns of Edward-IV and Mary till the accession of Queen Elizabeth. It was a great social, economic and religious revolution. It was an upheaval. The upheaval shook the
very foundation of English society. It ended the domination of the church and destroyed the monasteries. Thus it transformed England into a nation of free-thinkers.

We know that king Henry-VIII ruled over England from 1509 to 1547. He had married Princess of Aragon, Catherine. Catherine was a close relation of king Charles-V of Spain and the emperor of Germany. Actually. Henry-VIII was a restless and headstrong person. He was soon tired of Catherine. Because the queen had failed to provide him with a male heir. Besides, he had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn and wanted to marry her. But the Pope refused to grant him permission to divorce Catherine. He asked the king to attend trial at Rome. But the king was furious at Pope's obstinacy.

He resolved to break off with Papacy and seek divorce in his own courts. The Parliament gave him support and passed the Act of Supremacy in 1529. This act made him the supreme head of the Church of England. He was so cruel that he persecuted and executed those Catholics who refused to acknowledge his supremacy. But at the same time, he beheaded or burnt at stake many Protestants too.

Cardinal Wolsey had to pay the price with his life. Because he did not want to obey the royal wishes. At that time, Thomas More helped a great lot to Henry-VIII. He had risen so rapidly to several offices. Finally, he was able to fill the position vacated by Wolsey. But he did not support king's autocratic royalism. So he had to die. He was beheaded on the Tower Hill on 6th July, 1535. Catherine was also divorced and banished from the court. Again king Henry- VII was married to Anne Boleyn, his fiancee in 1533.

The teaching of Martin Luther resulted in a religious revolt in 1517. The revolt spread like wildfire through Germany. In course of
time, it transformed the Reformation from merely an attack on the abuses of the church into an attack on the Church itself. The Reformation no longer remained a purifying and modifying influence. It became increasingly protestant in character. Calvin and Zwingly joined Martin Luther. The church and the monasteries had immense power and wealth. They were misusing that wealth and power. The corruption within the church was giving rise to widespread indignation. Its wealth was exciting the greed and envy
newly rich merchant class who wanted to settle down in the country. As a result of reckless spending, Henry-VII too was bankrupt. He stood in dire need of money. All these socio-economic factors  combined to strengthen the hands of the King who acted promptly and cruelly.

A number of Acts were passed. They severely diminished the ancient privilege of the clergy. The authority and supremacy of the Pope was refused. Between 1536-1542, the immense possessions, lands building, gold, silver etc. of the monasteries were seized and
placed at the disposal of the King. As the King was in pressing need of money, he could not retain the rich possessions of the church, monasteries and the nunneries. Only a part of it went to the endowment of schools and colleges. The rest was sold off at fabulously low prices and the result was a great socio-economic revolution. The church property was purchased by the newly rich merchant class. Many of them built up spacious country houses on lands which formerly belonged to the monasteries. Many old abbeys were converted into the mansions of the rich. In this way, there grew up a new aristocracy of shrewd country squires who made their fortunes out of the sale of church property. According to law,
property was inherited only by the eldest son. The younger sons of
these families were usually apprenticed with the merchants in the city. In  the course of time many of them became prosperous
merchants. The blood relationship between the rich country families
and successful traders in the cities continued unbroken till quite recent times.

The Reformation has other aspects too. Many of the early English humanists were reformists and men of enlightened views.

They were classical scholars like More and poets like Wyatt and Surrey. But they stood only for the reform of the many abuses that
had crept into the church. They never wanted the separation of the
English church from continental influences or the plunder of church
wealth by aggressive capitalism. They were opposed to the cruel methods of Cromwell. They refused to recognize Henry as the
Supreme Head of the Church. They refused to take the oath
recognizing the legality of Anne Boleyn's marriage. So they were
beheaded. Their death sent a thrill of horror through Europe. It arrested the growth of classical learning in England. With them died
the hope of the early Renaissance in England.

At last, we can say that the impact of the Reformation on English literature was immense. The Reformation of Henry-VIII simply divested the church and monasteries and their property. It
refused the authority of the Pope. It did touch the creed and the dogma of the church. It was not in the least protestant in character. It was simply an expression of opposition towards the clergy. It hampered the normal growth of literature with the touch of
Renaissance. Sir Thomas More and Sir Thomas Wyatt were famous poets. They tried to compose being influenced by Renaissance. More wrote “Utopia” or “Kingdom of Nowhere” expressing his idealism. He dreamt an ideal world where the evil would be banished. On the other hand, Wyatt wrote many sonnets imported from the foreign countries. He is regarded as the first importer and writer of this enjoyable form of writing. But both the poets were beheaded for the Reformation.

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