Dec 13, 2017 in Literature

Religion in English Literature

Religion in Medieval Period –the Dream of the Rood

Since 6th century when Christianity spread in England, religion has played a very important role in everybody’s life.  The church as institution was well respected and the church rules were strictly followed to the letter. This made the church to accumulate enormous power in the process as a result of strict following. The church also acquired wealth due to tithes which were contributed by everybody in the society. In fact, at times church was the richest in medieval England with wealth exceeding that of the kings in the land. In those times, Catholic Church was the only church at the time. They used their enormous power to build magnificent cathedrals while at the same time connected to power due to their influence on the people (Yeates, p.88, 2006).

In practicing Christianity, the writers of that time were highly influenced by their cultures. For example, in medieval England, the Germanic culture was dominant and scholars were mostly looking for ways to represent it in the writings. This is highly manifested in the poem ‘the Dream of the Rood’ by unknown writer in the beginning of medieval period. In the poem, Jesus is depicted as a young courageous warrior who dies fighting evil rather than unaggressive as is written in the Bible. The signs of Jesus showing pains or being helped to carry the cross are completely omitted. The poem also lacks scenes where Jesus was whipped or asked for water. This depiction of death of Jesus was in line with famous myth of Beowulf who dies in heroic war according to the Germanic culture. The Germanic culture which was dominant glorified aggression and bravery in death and those who died this way brought a lot of respect to their families.

It is this belief that the poem tries to bring out the death of Jesus and his funeral as a large ceremony similar to Beowulf, the legendry warrior. However, we cannot frankly conclude that all works were written using similar methods. This is due to the fact that another poem written on the same period ‘Chris 3’ brings out the death of Jesus as in the Bible. However, the poem has a spiritual weight like Jesus fighting and defeating evil.

Religion in England during Renaissance Period –Twelfths Nights - Shakespeare

The renaissance period is the period associated with movements which emerged to challenge Catholic Church and their practices. The people did not reject God but nevertheless disputed for the first time the power which the church had on religion matters. In the medieval times, it was extremely difficult for people to rebel and the church and any rebellion was ruthless suppressed. However, as opposition which was spearheaded by Martin Luther continued more voices came up. This prompted writers and other opinion shapers to capture the periods in the church and the reforms which were happening amidst persecution as rebels were generally burnt to death.

In the ‘Twelfths Nights’ Shakespeare depicts love between two twins who are separated when the ship wreck. Viola who is saved by the captain of the ship disguise herself as the girl by the name Cesario and works on the court of Orsino. However Orsino is in love with Olivia and use Cesario to run his love errands for Olivia while at the same time Olivia falls in love with Viola thinking she is a man. The religion implication is the trinity doctrine which was postulated by St. Augustine. In the doctrine God, Son and the Holy Spirit form three entities that are connected in one through love. According to Augustine the three entities function as one with each being manifested at the appropriate time. It is only love that is able to connect things together according to Shakespeare writings. This was truly manifested in the renaissance period where Jesus love was highly advocated as people moved from the brutality which was associated with the church. The Church of England emerged and the doctrines of the church changed from general persecution and oppression which was carried out by the church to more accommodative principled based on tolerance among people.

Enlightenment Period –Fantomina (Haywood)

The period is associated with scientific discoveries and increase in intellectual reasoning among people. This period led to replacement of religion as the main explanation of natural occurrences. There was emphasis of scientific research and establishment of facts as the basis of reasoning rather than accrediting natural occurrences to Supreme Being. In this era some thinkers like Voltaire, John lock and Newton questions the morality behind church and state they openly advocated for separation of two institutions. The period also led to start of industrial revolution and French revolution where people’s rights started to be more prominent. The church was viewed by many with suspicion due to roles it had played in subsequent years when they openly collaborated with the state which was very oppressive to the people.

In this writings the author captures things that were happening between the period and how religion was losing importance as people embarked on the personal satisfaction. In the period society was highly divided in to classes with aristocratic families enjoy almost unlimited classes. Most people abandoned the notion of fate as their destiny and they tried to overcome their obstacles. In the story we see Fantomina start an affair with a rich man in order to change her economic statues unfortunately she end up being pregnant and thrown in the monastery for the last of her life while the man walks free. In the monastery she returns turns in to religion which had initially abandoned through out.

This writings shows her religion was losing it traditional roles in the society during the enlighten period and how it came in to play only when people were faced by predicaments. Unlike, medieval period where promiscuity was very rare in the enlightenment period immorality increased as religion lost importance aspects of its works which included controlling behaviors. The implication was therefore that religion took back stage in the England society playing a reference in some instances.

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