Before Donne was born, The Reformation took place in 1534 with the Act of Supremacy as Henry VIII became head of the new Church of England, to get his divorce. Donne's family were strong catholics, including Sir Thomas More, his great-great Uncle, and as anti-Catholic legislation increased, his relatives, (later including Donne's uncles Jasper and Ellis) became Jesuits.
1601: MARRIAGE AND APOSTACY
John Donne, Ann Donne, Un-done
John and his brother Henry matriculate at Hart Hall, Oxford, aged 11 and 12, the only college with no Chapel, to avoid suspicion by not attending Anglican services. They went so young so that they could graduate before 16, and thus not have to subscribe to the 39 Articles, betraying their Catholic faith.
1615: PRIEST AT ST. PAUL'S
Donne studied at Lincoln's Inn, where he later becomes master. His earlier poems were circulated amongst friends here, encouraging homosociality, a breeding ground for his masculinity and current day 'locker room chat'. Meanwhile, his brother Henry dies in Newgate Prison, having been hiding a Catholic priest.
Donne marries Ann More in secret, to the outrage of her father, Sir George, who sees Donne as far inferior to his only daughter. Donne loses his job and the two live in a cottage, where he writes 'The Good Morrow'. Around this time is when Donne questions his faith in Catholicism, and begins to shift towards Anglicanism. He has 12 children and, as Carey wrote 'Love fills the void created by apostasy'
In 1614 Donne becomes an MP for Taunton and, in 1615, with the birth of his tenth child, he takes Anglican Orders and becomes a deacon and priest at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. By 1621, he has become dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, his days as a forbidden Catholic and a dominant alpha male long behind him.