Literature Reformation Movement in English Literature

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      Side by side the Renaissance was born about the time another movement named Reformation. It was also a new birth and was for a time the ally of the Renaissance. It was a rebirth of the moral nature of man following the intellectual awakening, called Renaissance. In Italy whose influence had been upper-most in Elizabethan literature, the Renaissance had been essentially Pagan and sensuous. It had hardly touched the moral nature of man and it brought little relief from the despotism of the rulers. One can hardly read the horrible records of the Medicis or the Borgias without marvelling at the moral and political degradation of the cultured nation.

The Reformation started in Germany and aimed at the liberation of the religious conscience of the people from the domination of the Pope and the Catholic Church.
Literature Reformation

       In the north, especially Germany and England, the Renaissance was awakening in England, the greatest moral reform, which swept over a nation in the short space of half a century. The Reformation started in Germany and aimed at the liberation of the religious conscience of the people from the domination of the Pope and the Catholic Church. The actual start of the movemernt was in 1517 with Martin Luther's denunciation of Pope Leo X's sale of indulgence. Luther in Germany, Calvin in Switzerland, Knox in Scotland were the leaders of the movement. Early in the next century Scotland, England and Scandinavia turned in favour of Protestantism. In England Protestantism was recognised as the state religion in the sixteenth century when Henry VI broke away from the Church of Rome. If the Renaissance was essentially Pagan, the Reformation was Hebraic. The two movements were at first linked. Both the movements were based on the assertion of individualism. But later, the influence of the former was crossed and opposed by that of the latter. Thus the former allies soon parted and began to follow different paths, hostile to each other, though in some of the poets e.g., Spenser and Milton there was strange blend of the two.

      The Reformation, which is essentially a religious movement, turned men's mind anew to the task of the translation of the Bible. The translation of the Bible into English covers a whole chapter of the history of the English prose up to the Seventeenth century. The pioneer in the work was of course Wycliffe, under whose influence two complete versions were carried out about 1384 and 1388. In the Enaissance and reformation period the pioneers in the work were William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale. The former was the first to be inspired by Luther's example and his version of the New Testament was founded both on Luther's translation and on the editions of the Greek and Latin texts. It formed the basis of the famous Authorised Version of 1611. He was a great defender of the Reformation and a good humanist withal, who knew the ancient and modern languages. He Susteren a good deal of persecution at home and he accomplished the translation work and published a fragment of the English New Testament (1525) at Cologne. His translation is based on the Hebrew and Greek originals.

      Tyndale was persecuted and put to death in the Netherlands in 1536. When the Reformation was officially established in England, Tyndale's translation of the Bible, completed by Coverdale, was accepted as the official version of the Bible in 1535. The Reformation movement led to the dominance of puritanism which gradually became an enemy of culture and literature. In the Puritan age, music, drama were stopped. The theatre was closed in 1642 and drama ceased to appeal to the minds. The drama of sensibility arose which was full of sloppy sentimentalism and flabby moralism. In poetry, except Milton and Andrew Marvel, no one produced poetry of outstanding merit. Religious poetry of Herbert, Crashaw and Vaughan, and religious prose works of Jeremy Taylor and Fuller became popular. Milton was the greatest product of puritanism.

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