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The Reformation (1525-1578)

The Reformation Period (1525-1578) consists mainly of Ralph Roister Doister, The Reformation or, The Reformation Movement  , Gorboduc Or, Ferrex and Porrex , Humanism, The Renaissance  etc. Here, these things are discussed in small areas.
important short notes on The Reformation period

Ralph Roister Doister

Ralph Roister Doister is the first comedy in English literature. It is written by Nicholas Udall probably about 1553. It is written on classical models. The play is a rhymed doggerel. It represents the courting of the widow, Christian Cunstance who is betrothed to Gawin Goodluck by Roister. Goodluck is an absent merchant. Roister is repulsed and beaten by Cunstance and her maid. Good luck is reconciled to her after being deceived by false reports.

Ralph Roister Doister shows similarities to the comedies of Plautus and Terence. In this play, the Latin five-act comedy appears like Gammer Gurton's Needle. It is complete in all its parts and wholly domesticated. Ralph Roister Doister depicts middle class life in London. The conventional character types of the Greek and Roman city comedy are most observable in this play. Here we find a boastful soldier and a parasite. But the leading figure in the play is Dame Christian Constance. She is as English as the Wife of Bath in The Canterbury Tales.

The Reformation Or,The Reformation Movement 

Reformation is a great change for the better in social, religious or political affairs. According to the Oxford Dictionary, Reformation means the action of reforming something or the process of being reformed. It is defined in this dictionary in the following way--------
  "The Reformation is the 16th century movement in Europe for the reform of the Roman Catholic Church, which resulted in the establishment of the Protestant."
In fact, the Reformation Movement was a revolution. It was an uprising against the highest privileges and unrestrained liberties of the Medieval Church. At that time, the church very nearly lost control over itself. It allowed all manner of abuses and corruption. It was a dual movement. It was a Protestant revolution. It was also a reformation within the Catholic Church which reduced the abuses and led to the establishment of schools and a stricter discipline for the clergy. It is believed that the Reformation Movement started from 1525 to 1578. But the process of reformation started many years ago. The Translation of the Bible and the Contribution of Monastery are notable events in the movement. King Henry-VIII contributed a lot to this movement. He ruled over England from 1509 to 1547. He married Princess of Aragon, Catherine. He was restless and headstrong. He soon got tired of Catherine and wanted to divorce her. Besides, he had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn and wanted to marry her. But the Pope refused to grant him permission to divorce his first wife. He asked the king to attend the trial at Rome. The King did not obey it. This event also contributed a lot to the Reformation.

Gorboduc Or, Ferrex and Porrex

Gorboduc is the first English tragedy written on classical models. It is also the first English tragedy in blank verse. It was acted in 1562. The first three Acts are written by Thomas Norton and the last two by Sackville. Gorboduc is constructed on the model of a Senecan tragedy. Its subject is taken from the legendary chronicles of Btitain. In this play, Gorboduc and Videna are king and queen. Ferrex and Porrex are their two sons. The Dukes of Cornwall, Albany and Cumberland are the other chief characters in the play. In the tragedy, Ferrex and Porrex quarrel over the division of the kingdom. Ferrex is killed by Porrex who is also murdered by his mother. The Duke of Albany tries to seize the kingdom and civil war breaks out. The people of the kingdom get angry. They rise in rebellion and put father and mother to death. So anarchy, usurpation and the death of the usurper ensure at last. In spite of the violence and crimes, the play is cold. It lacks movement and drama. Its authors do not have the genius of putting life to characters. They have a didactic aim which is very prominent in the play. It has the melodrama, violence and morality of a Senecan tragedy. Each act opens with a pantomime. However, Gorboduc introduces the idea of fatality in the English tragedy. Basically, it is not successful. But it is the fore-runner of the English tragedies which culminate in the works of Kyd, Marlowe and Shakespeare.


The term "Humanism"   includes revolutionary qualities of liberal thinking and Athenian democracy. Man was discovering himself. This was enabled by the shift from the orthodox religious outlook to the secular one. Man began to take interest in his own world rather than the other world. He gained confidence in his powers and abilities. By using these powers, he opened up vast regions of speculation and aesthetic enjoyment and conduct. His own soul and individuality became the source of his expectations and aspirations. Human life and human affairs began to occupy the writer's minds in greater measure as we find in Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio. Humanism recognized the great importance of human being by placing him at the centre of the universe. In England, the root of Renaissance is Humanism. John Wyclif is the morning star in the sky of Humanism. But Erasmas and Colet are regarded as the innovator of the Humanism movement. The curiosity which revived in the 15th century about art and literature of ancient Greece is called Humanism.

Italy is not only the motherland of Renaissance but also the real seat of Humanism. The writings of Petrarch, Dante and Boccaccio show a deep interest in human emotions and behaviour. They also show a fierce passion for the past that was being slowly uncovered. In England, Sir Thomas More, Edmund Spenser, Sir Philip Sidney, Francis Bacon, William Shakespeare and others exercise Humanism in their works. In fact, classical literature, scientific outlook, interest in human personality, moral temperament and some aesthetic awareness mark clearly the Renaissance Humanism in English literature.

The Renaissance 

The term "Renaissance" is a French word which means rebirth, revival, reawakening or regeneration. It was both a revival of ancient classical mythology, literature and culture. It was also a re-awakening of the human mind after the long sleep of the dark Middle Ages. On the influence of Renaissance, mankind felt as  if they had awakened from a long sleep and looked at the glory of nature with astonishment. According to a French historian, Michele, "Renaissance means the discovery of the world and the discovery of man, by man. In brief, to know the unknown and to see the unseen is called the Renaissance. The periods of Regeneration or Renaissance are the great ages of the world.

Renaissance began with the fall of the then Constantinople in 1453. Mohamad-II defeated the Christians in the same year and occupied the city. He was the sultan of the Ottoman Turks and a crusader. We know that Constantinople was the then capital city of the Byzantine empire. It was the centre of classical learning. After the defeat, the Christian scholars fled to different parts of Europe. They tried to spread their knowledge there. Thus ancient learning started reviving. This revival of the classical knowledge is called Renaissance. But in England Renaissance started at the beginning of the 16th century. It was more or less influenced by the Italian Renaissance. It dominated and brought change in society and in literature very much. Renaissance in England started after many years of Italy. After 1490, some English youngmen  like William Grocyn, Thomas Linacre and John Colet went to Italy to learn Greek. They tried to spread their achieved knowledge to the seeker after knowledge. In this way, it started in England.


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