Discuss the impact of Reformation on English literature.

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The Reformation was a religious movement that affected every aspect of English life and government. Although in a narrow sense, the Reformation in England was marked by the declaration by Henry VIII of the independence of the Church of England from Rome and the Papacy, in other ways the importation of the European Reformation ideals into England had consequences beyond the purely religious.

The first and most dramatic was the rise of the vernacular. Although this phenomenon had started in the late middle ages, the "sola scriptura" doctrine of reformed churches meant the translation of the Bible into English in the "Authorized Version" (popularly, albeit somewhat inaccurately, called the King James Bible) and the creation of the Book of Common Prayer, both still used throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion today. Both of these are considered great works of literature in their own right, and are not only frequently quoted in subsequent English literature, but influenced literary style.

Because Protestant churches emphasized the importance of all people reading the Bible, the English Reformation was one of the causes of rising literacy rates; in the early modern period, this emphasis on Bible reading lead to higher literacy rates in Protestant than in Roman Catholic countries. This expanded audience led to a broader audience for literary works and the growth of popular literature. 


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