The dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s and early 1540s had significant effects on Tudor England, transforming traditional understandings of work and religious devotion. This article examines three elements of social life, associated with monasticism, that were drastically altered by the dissolution: prayer, otium, and withdrawal. As Tudor society sought to reshape or relocate these elements, writers including Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare explored and appropriated them, crafting within their literary texts a place for the monastic impulse. Writers of the period transformed the inefficacy, idleness, and withdrawal that Reformers associated with Catholic religious life into the terms through which they defined their own relative autonomy. Concluding with an examination of Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost, the essay argues that in Renaissance England the ascetic contributes to the formation of the aesthetic.

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