Reformation in English literature

Reformation signifies the process for giving rise to refinement or correction in an institution. From the historical perspective, Reformation is an extremely crucial movement that brought about reformed and protestant churches. Reformation first started in Germany but later it spread all over Europe during the Renaissance. The Reformation of the 16th century was the outcome of discontent with the judgments of the Catholic Church

In the 14th and 15th centuries, Catholic Church was the most powerful political and financial institution. We find that clergy at that time enjoyed a lot of power. The Bible was far removed from the common man and it was only accessible to the clergy. They almost held a monopoly over the Bible. 

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The situation at that time was so bad that the common people were scared to go against the church. The church was telling the common people that sins could be forgiven if one purchased an indulgence by paying a certain amount of money. So, the church was interfering with the act of forgiveness that the Bible and God had professed. 

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Martin Luther, the leader of Reformation:

Though stemmed from a discontent with the church, the emergence of the Reformation can be traced to the objection of one person, the German priest, and theologian Martin Luther.  Martin Luther who later became the key figure in Protestant Reformation was discontented with what was happening within the church and he posted 95 theses against the sale of papal indulgences in 1517 and these 95 theses were rapidly dispersed throughout Europe because of the newly invented printing press. Initially, Luther censured the unacceptable actions of the Roman Church such as corruption and favoritism but then he openly refused any go-between power between man and God. Luther believed that the Roman Catholic priests were behaving like princes. In 1513, Leo, the tenth, became Pope and he was more interested in arts rather than ecclesiastical and theological works. Leo advocated the sale of indulgences, exoneration from penance for sins. But for Luther, only the Bible was flawless other than that all priests, bishops, and clergies make mistakes. Martin Luther dismissed the Roman Church’s explanation along with the belief that the Church had more power than the state. His main idea was that a man can achieve salvation only by having faith in God and not by giving money. In addition to that Luther translated the Bible into the German language. He used a very simple everyday language so the common man could also read and understand it. 

Consequences of reformation:

As a consequence of this reformation, Protestantism emerged as an official religion, and also during this period the Church of England was formed. The Reformation halted the ascendancy of the Roman Catholic Church and also Christians were asunder into two groups: the Catholics and the Protestants. 

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Catholicism and Protestantism:

Those who were Catholics trusted in the supremacy of the Church, but those who were Protestants believed in the supremacy of reason. Whatever the Church had said, Catholics acted upon that. His job was to obey without asking the laws which the Church had ordered, which popes and bishops directed. Protestants, on the other hand, believed that even authority can make mistakes and Jesus Christ did not send anyone whom they were compelled to obey. Protestants believed that the bible was the word of God so it should be read by all Christians, and for that, they don’t need a priest to read it, with God’s guidance and his innate intelligence he could not put a wrong interpretation on. Catholics mostly used the Latin language in their prayers and they only repeated the words of the priest whether they understood it or not. But those who were Protestants prayed with their mind as an act of faith and used to do it in a language that they could understand. Catholics used to treat popes, bishops, and priests as gods, but those who were Protestants treated popes, bishops, and priests as common men. 

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Difference between Catholicism and Protestantism

Catholics believed in the supremacy of the Church.Protestants believed in the supremacy of reason.
Catholics obey the church blindly.Protestants believed that authority might err.
Catholics prayed in Latin.Protestants prayed by faith.
Catholics treated priests as gods.Protestants treated priests as common men.

English Reformation: 

If we talk about the English Reformation, it started with Henry VIII. Henry VIII became the king in 1509. His wife’s name was Catherine of Aragon, who was a widow of his late brother. By 1528, Henry had been married to Catherine of Aragon for 20 years but Catherine of Aragon was not giving Henry a son. According to Henry, the English has never accepted a female monarch thereby he believed that his dynasty was in trouble. So he decided to annul his previous marriage with Catherine of Aragon and wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, a charming and intelligent woman. To divorce Catherine, he needed the permission of the Church which was controlled by the Pope in Rome and the Pope refused. In the meantime, Anne Boleyn gave Henry a book and it was the book by William Tyndale. Tyndale in his book criticized the Pope. He dreamt of a new kind of Christianity that would sweep away the power of the earthly church and simply get back to people worshiping God with no Church in between. This book planted a seed in Henry’s mind because he realized if there was no Pope he could get his divorce. So because Henry wanted to marry Anne Boylen, the Church of England split from the Church of Rome. Henry went to Parliament and he was declared the supreme head of the English Church and he set to work destroying the church’s earthly power. Numerous abbeys, monasteries, priories, closed down what is now known as the English Reformation. 

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In the end, we can say that reformation was the beginning of intellectual advancement. It aroused sleepy men and pervaded their minds with real Christianity.  We can define Reformation as a return to pure Christianity – cleansing the church of all the corruption and idolatry that had accumulated over the centuries. 

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