August 12, 2019 by sampler

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Thomas More
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This was written by Thomas More in order to show his disdain about the political corruption that was happening in Europe at that time. Aside from the corruption in Europe, he also talked about the hypocrisy of religion that was happening at that time. Utopia stands for the imaginary island that he created.

It is actually ironic that he is the advisor of King Henry VIII. In spite of it all, he was able to create literature that is still being celebrated and read by different people up to now. The fact that it has been passed on from one generation to another says a lot about the power of More’s words.

August 12, 2019 by sampler

In Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, More creates a land that contrasts directly to 16th century Europe. More starts by using the stories of fictional character Raphael Nonsenso to directly criticize the European form of government. He also attacks the European philosophy in his description of the Utopian Commonwealth, which is designed to reflect the flaws of Europe. Although some concepts of More’s Utopia seem impracticable, the society he creates is viable because its laws counteract man’s inherent failures as a race. By abolishing currency, mandating education, and legislating two years of required agricultural work, Utopia manages to demolish corruption, eradicate social class structures, and guarantee a consistent sense of morality among its citizens. More’s outlook on 16th century English society depicts an immoral world run by greed. Some of his criticisms bear more significance than others. Initially, More tells a fictional story of a dinner party attended by Raphael Nonsenso, a lawyer, a Cardinal, and a friar. The topic of capital punishment for thieves arises, and while many support this new decree, Raphael points out its flaws on secular and religious grounds. He proposes an alternate punishment for thieves: the return of the stolen goods and a lifetime of slavery. The lawyer (whose profession, incidentally, does not exist in Utopia) argues that Raphael’s proposal is impossible, and others agree until the Cardinal points out that the outcome of Raphael’s idea could not be known unless actually tested, Hearing that, each dinner guest changes his view and begins to praise what he had just been ridiculing. This story first shows the flaw in the English judiciary system, which is that testimony is judged by counselors who are more interested in power than truth. More importantly, it shows that judgment is formed not on the merit of a proposal but as a response to the opinions of the powerful. As Raphael observes: “This [response], from the Cardinal, was enough to make everyone wildly in favor of an idea which nobody had taken seriously when I had produced it.” (p. 32) In English society, opinion reflects obsequiousness more than rational thought. More further rebukes English society for the gap between the rich and the poor, specifically the differences in class distinctions. More describes each Utopian city as surrounded by farmland, and each citizen must spend occasional two-year stints in the countryside performing agricultural work for his or her respective city. These farms are regarded as land to be worked rather than personal estates to be owned, so when one city gains an agricultural surplus, it is exported and distributed among other Utopian cities at no cost. More says, “Under such a system, there’s bound to be plenty of everything, and, as everything is divided equally among the entire population, there obviously can’t be any poor people or beggars.” (p. 65) The idea of communal agricultural work was a revolutionary idea for its time, most notably because agricultural work was a task usually reserved for the poor, derided by those with any amount of wealth or notability. Thus the Utopian system razes the class distinctions that dominated 16th century Europe. Furthermore, Utopian markets operate under a form of communism, and the economic structures of markets and money simply do not exist there. Without a capitalist economy or a formal currency, greed becomes impossible and the bribery and political corruption that accompany greed are gone as well. More creates a character to disagree with the usefulness of the Utopian agricultural system, stating, “I don’t believe you’d ever have a reasonable standard of living under a communist system. There’d always tend to be shortages, because nobody would work hard enough. In the absence of profit motive, everyone would become lazy, and rely on every else to do the work for him.” (p. 45) However, this is proved untrue by the description of the economical framework of Utopia. Although there is immense motivation in capitalist societies, it is also true that for every one highly motivated and essential worker, there are several others who contribute nothing to society, including most women, priests, landowners, and beggars. In contrast, Utopian workers labor for only six hours per day, but because “hardly any other member of the population is either unemployed or non-productively employed,” (p. 58) tasks are completed equally as fast with less work required from each citizen. Furthermore, More’s comment that in a communal society no one would feel the compunction to work for the simple reason that they would be fed by the work of others is answered in the Utopian law punishing all laziness and lounging on the job. This law acknowledges the flawed nature of man; therefore, it is not that More’s criticism is wrong, but that it can be overcome through proper teaching and social structure. Thus, Utopia is not the result of ideal human behavior, but instead is the product of laws that force its citizens to act perfectly despite their innate flaws in nature. Consequently, the Utopian Commonwealth described becomes a viable possibility. Because Utopian laws and customs compensate for the inherent nature of man, the practices can be applied to any people, no matter the culture or society. For example, natural greed is curbed by the lack of a recognized form of currency while precious metals and stones are devalued. More states: “The Utopian way of life provides not only the happiest basis for a civilized community, but also one which, in all human probability, will last forever. They’ve eliminated the root-causes of ambition, political conflict, and everything like that.” (p. 112) Although the Utopian system is theoretically feasible, it would be almost impossible to fully transform any other form of government into it. Because the changes made to common human desires are so radical, people would naturally resist the change because it would be seen as having a negative impact on their personal lives. Despite the unlikelihood of More’s ideal government becoming a reality, his Utopia is an important foil to the English society of his time.Works Cited:Saint, More, Thomas Sir,. Utopia. London: Penguin Books, 2003.


In Utopia, Sir Thomas More presents to his readers an idealistic portrayal of a nation employing an egalitarian government. Through his spokesperson, the sagacious and well‐traveled Raphael Hythloday, More describes and evaluates Utopian politics and social values, including attitudes toward money, work, land ownership, punishment of crime, and poverty. This essay examines parallels between Utopian society and the sociopolitical structure in 16th‐century England during the reign of King Henry VIII. Through his description of Utopia, the reader may discern More's attitude toward contemporary political situations as well as social laws and customs in Tudor England. The author writes, for instance, about the dangers of enclosures (which inevitably led to poverty, unemployment, and crime), the unfairness of capital punishment for theft, the problems that might ensue from capitalism, and the inequitableness of the wide disparity that existed between the wealthy and the poor. Although More writes about an idealistic and fictitious nation (Utopia) and 16th‐centtury England, his ideas transcend time and are thus valid in today's society


Sir Thomas More (1477 - 1535) was the first person to write of a 'utopia', a word used to describe a perfect imaginary world. More's book imagines a complex, self-contained community set on an island, in which people share a common culture and way of life. He coined the word 'utopia' from the Greek ou-topos meaning 'no place' or 'nowhere'. It was a pun - the almost identical Greek word eu-topos means 'a good place'. So at the very heart of the word is a vital question: can a perfect world ever be realised? It is unclear as to whether the book is a serious projection of a better way of life, or a satire that gave More a platform from which to discuss the chaos of European politics. 


More was an English lawyer, writer, and statesman. He was at one time, one of Henry VIII's most trusted civil servants, becoming Chancellor of England in 1529.


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Sir Thomas More wrote Utopia in 1516. The work was written in Latin and it was published in Louvain (present-day Belgium). Utopia is a work of satire, indirectly criticizing Europe's political corruption and religious hypocrisy. More was a Catholic Humanist. Alongside his close friend, the philosopher and writer Erasmus, More saw Humanism as a way to combine faith and reason. In depicting Utopia, More steps outside the bounds of orthodox Catholicism, but More's ultimate goal is to indicate areas of improvement for Christian society. Is an ideal state possible? Utopia means "no place" but sounds like "good place." At the very least, Utopia exposes the absurdities and evils of More's society by depicting an alternative.

As a satirist, More continues the tradition of Ancient Roman writers like Juvenal and Horace. As a philosopher brave enough to tackle the idea of the "ideal state," More leans away from Aristotle and towards Plato, author of The Republic. Sustaining the arguments of The Republic, Utopia fashions a society whose rulers are scholars (not unlike Plato's philosopher-king). Though Aristotle was opposed to the idea of common property and the abolition of private property, Aristotle's ideas of aesthetics, justice and harmony are present in the Utopian's philosophy.

A devout Catholic, More was beheaded as a martyr in 1535, standing opposed to the principle of the Anglican Church and the King of England's role as the head of the Church (replacing the Pope in Rome). In the 1530s, More wrote polemical tracts and essays attacking Lutheranism as heresy. All the same, More's Utopia implies that Utopians are better than some Christians. St. Augustine's City of God established the theme of the earthly city of God, reiterating the image of New Jerusalem presented in the Biblical Book of Revelations. Utopia is a type of New Jerusalem, a perfect place on earth. The Puritan experiments of the 1600s (in Britain and in North America) exemplify the programming of Utopian New Jerusalem.

Certianly, we must remember the context of New World exploration. Raphael Hythloday gives us the story of Utopia because he once sailed with Amerigo Vespucci. The First Four Voyages of Amerigo Vespucci was published in Latin in 1507. Columbus, Vespucci, and others returned with stories of the New World but earlier works of Marco Polo and John Mandeville already developed a genre of travel writing‹stories of far-off lands that combined fact with a great deal of fiction. More uses the New World theme to get his philosophical points across. He is less interested in New World politics and more interested in offering Utopia as an indirect critique of the Catholic European societies (England mainly, but also France, the Italian city-states, and other areas to a lesser extent). More opposed the vast land enclosures of the wealthy English aristocracy, the monopolistic maneuvers of London's guilds and merchants, and the burdensome oppression of the work through the imposition of unjust laws.

More's work has left a lasting impact on subsequent political thought and literature. The Greek word Utopia translates as "no place" or "nowhere," but in modern parlance, a Utopia is a good place, an ideal place (eu-topia). The term "utopia" has gained more significance than More's original work. Utopia has inspired a diverse group of political thinkers. The utilitarian philosophy expounded in the late 1700s and early 1800s developed the idea of the ideal and perfect balance of happiness. Jeremy Bentham, a leading Utilitarian thinker, developed ideas of surveillance and the panopticon by which all can be seen. These reformatory practices, designed to quantify happiness, calculate moral goodness and produce the optimal balance, echo the anti-privacy measures inflicted upon the citizens of More's Utopia.

In the 1800s, the rise of urban industrialization triggered the proliferation of Utopian projects (agricultural communes), all of which failed. Utopia became the project of creating an ideal society apart from the demoralizing city. These Utopian projects were especially popular in Britain, France, and New England. The Utopian celebration of common property and dependence upon extensive state planning are the groundwork for communism and socialism as presented in Marx and Engels' written works. 1848, the year of Marx's Communist Manifesto is a year of urban revolutions. Utopia's criticisms of the nobility's perversion of law to subjugate the poor were applied to the suffering of industrial and factory workers. The abolition of money, private property, and class structure would undermine the power of the bourgeoisie. Socialists believed that agricultural economies with property held in common would cure the ills of industrial capitalization.

With the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the twentieth-century rise of communism, the ills of Utopia were made evident. The overbearing regulation and stifling of individualism were apparent in the communist Eastern Bloc and Soviet states. To be sure, More was neither a Communist nor a Socialist‹and it wouldn't necessarily be accurate to call More a Utopian either. All the same, More's work certainly propelled the philosophical development of these themes.

As a literary work, Utopia has retained its power to impact British and American writiers. From the Greek prefix dys- (i.e. bad, ill) comes the word "Dystopia," reflecting Utopia's negative qualities. Dickens' novels of industrialized Britain depict planned factory cities gone wrong‹like the city of Coketown in Hard Times. Utopia remains in the backdrop: a desirable alternative but an equally failing effort. Works like George Orwell's 1984, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 are dystopic novels that warn of the false hope of heavily programmed utopias. In 1887, a New England socialist named Edward Bellamy wrote Looking Backward, a novel that glanced into the future, presenting a celebratory image of a Utopian America.

The word Utopia has a double meaning then. In the academic disciplines of architecture and urban planning, leading figures like Lewis Mumford, Le Corbusier, and Frederic Law Olmsted (creator of Central Park) all developed the idea of Utopia in a positive sense. In political theory, however, Utopia has often been interpreted as a most dangerous form of naiveté. The impulse to plan perfection leads to the tyranny of Orwell's "Big Brother."

Next SectionUtopia SummaryBuy Study Guide Cite this pageSTUDY GUIDE NAVIGATIONAbout UtopiaUtopia SummaryCharacter ListThemesSummary And AnalysisIntroductionBook OneBook Two (first half)Book Two (second half)ConclusionRelated LinksQuizzes - Test Yourself!Quiz 1Quiz 2CitationsRELATED CONTENTStudy GuideEssaysQ & AE-TextSir Thomas More Biography

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Utopia by Thomas More

Utopia is a work of satire, indirectly criticizing Europe's political corruption and religious hypocrisy.

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More’s Utopia, describe the social rule of a perfect society what is the purpose of this excerpt from Utopia.

What excerpt are you referring to?

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An Idealist on Utopia: the Perfection of PerfectionMore's Utopia: Practical IdealismSir Thomas More and the Case of the Careful CriticWomen and Feminism in Sir Thomas More's UtopiaThe Overarching Utopian Litotes: An Examination of the Relationships Between the Two Parts of Utopia and Their Greater Rhetorical SignificanceVIEW OUR ESSAYS FOR UTOPIA…

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Thomas More is a public servant living in London with his family. He writes a letter to a friend in Antwerp (Belgium) named Peter Giles. Giles is a printer and editor, as well as a clerk for the city. In More's letter, we read that More is sending Utopia to Giles for editing and publication. Utopia chronicles a conversation that More and Giles enjoyed with a man named Raphael Hythloday.

Thomas More and Peter Giles are real persons. In Utopia, they are fictionalized. Their mutual acquaintance, Raphael Hythloday, is entirely invented and fictional. In Book One, Utopia recounts the initial meeting of Hythloday, More and Giles. Book One introduces Hythloday and vaguely mentions the New World island of Utopia. More visits Giles in Antwerp, and this is when Giles introduces Hythloday to More. Hythloday is a Portuguese man who sailed to the New World with the Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci. Hythloday stayed behind in the New World and traveled to a few additional locations, eventually making his way back home to Europe. During these travels, Hythloday became acquainted with the Utopians.

The three men make their way back to More's lodging place in the city and they enjoy a conversation in the garden. Hythloday is quite a talker; More and Giles can barely get a word in edgewise. Hythloday gives his opinions on a wide range of topics. Having toured Europe, Hythloday believes that many of the Utopian customs are morally superior to European customs. Hythloday especially focuses on political and economic issues (the distribution of labor, capital punishment for thieves, land reform, the abolition of private property). Hythloday's arguments are rather surprising and the Utopian society is quite unlike the European commonwealths.

Neither More nor Giles professes deep belief in or total support of Utopian policies. Nonetheless, both men are interested in hearing more about the island nation. The three men break for lunch and Book Two chronicles the continuation of Hythloday's presentation, in which he presents the details of Utopia.

Book Two is a long commentary on Hythloday's part. It is not very much of a dialogue and there are few interruptions from More or Giles. Hythloday describes Utopian history, geography, social customs, legal and political systems, economic structures, religious beliefs and philosophy. Utopia is quite unlike the negatively portrayed New World villages with primitive levels of social organization and development. 1760 years before Raphael's commentary on the island, the general Utopus conquered and civilized the area, giving the land and the people his name. As a demonstration of mastery over nature, Utopus formed the land into an island, organizing a labor force that cut through the thin isthmus connected Utopus from the rest of the continent.

Hythloday notes that the Utopians have retained many of the plans and values initially established by Utopus. The rulers are selected from the order of scholars. Language, social customs, religion, dress, architecture and education are identical in Utopia's fifty-four cities. There is a large degree of uniformity and very little individual expression. Laws and social customs heavily regulate the private decisions of individuals. A child is re-assigned to another household if the child wishes to learn a trade other than his or her father's. Households are composed of extended families, but family members can be relocated to other households if the distribution of adults per household becomes uneven within a given city.

In terms of natural geography, the Utopians have capitalized on their natural resources. The capital city, Amaurot, is in the center of the island. The city is a major trade port, sitting on the banks of the Anyder River. Hythloday's depiction indicates that Amaurot is an improved London and the Anyder River is a cleaner version of the Thames River.

The Utopians are a morally developed people though they are not Christians. Hythloday mentions that the Utopians were eager to hear more about Christianity and that many Utopians had already converted. Most Utopians are monotheists and their religion is similar to Christianity. Some of the Utopians' beliefs run counter to the moral traditions of the Christian church (e.g. the Utopians encourage euthanasia when the patient is terminally ill). The Utopians believe that pride is the root of great evils. Accordingly, the Utopians have eliminated wealth, the nobility, private property, and currency. Labor and goods are distributed equally. Property is held in common. Everyone works the same hours and even though the rulers are exempt from public labor, they work to set a good example for the others. Work hours are equally distributed and there are no monasteries, convents, alehouses, or academies wherein an individual might withdraw from the rest of society. All Utopians are socially productive.

Utopia ends with another letter from More to Giles. In the letter, More positively reflects upon the initial reactions to the published work Utopia. More also gives the reader enough jokes and puns to fix the idea that Utopia is an imagined and unreal place. The writer has presented Utopia as an entertaining way to stir contemplation of serious issues. As such, the book is "medicine smeared with honey."

Note: The characters of More, Giles, and Morton all correspond in biographical background to actual historical people, Sir Thomas More (author ofUtopia), the Humanist thinker Peter Giles, and former Chancellor of England Cardinal John Morton. The fictional characters of the book, however, should not be considered to be direct translations of these historic personalities to the page. In particular, the character of More should not be taken to hold the same views as Sir Thomas More himself. For the purpose of the following Summaries and Commentaries, the name More will refer to the fictional character while Sir Thomas More refers to the author.


More travels to Antwerp as an ambassador for England and King Henry VIII. While not engaged in his official duties, More spends time conversing about intellectual matters with his friend, Peter Giles. One day, More sees Giles speaking to a bearded man whom More assumes to be a ship's captain. Giles soon introduces More to this new man, Raphael Hythloday, who turns out to be a philosopher and world traveler. The three men retire to Giles's house for supper and conversation, and Hythloday begins to speak about his travels.

Hythloday has been on many voyages with the noted explorer Amerigo Vespucci, traveling to the New World, south of the Equator, through Asia, and eventually landing on the island of Utopia. He describes the societies through which he travels with such insight that Giles and More become convinced that Hythloday would make a terrific counselor to a king. Hythloday refuses even to consider such a notion. A disagreement follows, in which the three discuss Hythloday's reasons for his position. To make his point, Hythloday describes a dinner he once shared in England with Cardinal Morton and a number of others. During this dinner, Hythloday proposed alternatives to the many evil civil practices of England, such as the policy of capital punishment for the crime of theft. His proposals meet with derision, until they are given legitimate thought by the Cardinal, at which point they meet with great general approval. Hythloday uses this story to show how pointless it is to counsel a king when the king can always expect his other counselors to agree with his own beliefs or policies. Hythloday then goes on to make his point through a number of other examples, finally noting that no matter how good a proposed policy is, it will always look insane to a person used to a different way of seeing the world. Hythloday points out that the policies of the Utopians are clearly superior to those of Europeans, yet adds that Europeans would see as ludicrous the all-important Utopian policy of common property. More and Giles do disagree with the notion that common property is superior to private property, and the three agree that Hythloday should describe the Utopian society in more detail. First, however, they break for lunch.

Back from lunch, Hythloday describes the geography and history of Utopia. He explains how the founder of Utopia, General Utopus, conquered the isthmus on which Utopia now stands and through a great public works effort cut away the land to make an island. Next, Hythloday moves to a discussion of Utopian society, portraying a nation based on rational thought, with communal property, great productivity, no rapacious love of gold, no real class distinctions, no poverty, little crime or immoral behavior, religious tolerance, and little inclination to war. It is a society that Hythloday believes is superior to any in Europe.

Hythloday finishes his description and More explains that after so much talking, Giles, Hythloday, and he were too tired to discuss the particular points of Utopian society. More concludes that many of the Utopian customs described by Hythloday, such as their methods of making war and their belief in communal property, seem absurd. He does admit, however, that he would like to see some aspects of Utopian society put into practice in England, though he does not believe any such thing will happen.

Born in 1478, the son of a prominent lawyer, Thomas More became one of the most interesting and influential figures of the early Renaissance. As a child he attracted the interest of Cardinal John Morton, then the Chancellor of England; through Morton's influence More received a magnificent education at Oxford. More followed the desires of his father and became a lawyer, quickly proving himself excellent at the trade, though never giving up his studies or other interests. While working as a lawyer and as the Undersheriff of London, More still had time to become a widely respected writer, historian, and philosopher. He wrote innumerable works, including the History of King Richard III (to which Shakespeare's Richard III was deeply indebted) in 1513, Utopia in 1516, many polemics against the heresies of Protestantism, and a two volume meditation on the Church in 1532 and 1533 entitled The Confutation of Tyndale's Answer.

More also cultivated friendships with the most important thinkers of England and the continent, including a friendship with perhaps the greatest Humanist thinker of the time, Desiderius Erasmus. In 1518, More entered the service of King Henry VIII, soon becoming a trusted advisor; he gained the office of Chancellor in 1529. Through all of his success, More remained a profoundly religious Catholic. Though he had decided he could better serve his God as a lay Christian, More still followed many of the ascetic practices of monks: rising early, fasting, engaging in prolonged prayer, and wearing a hair shirt. He also was famous for his immense poverty.

More lived during the early years of the ##Protestant Reformation##, and was a leader of the Counter-Reformation. In England, More was a tireless persecutor of Protestants, though, paradoxically, one of the tenets of his Utopian society was religious toleration. In 1532, the political and religious landscape of England changed dramatically. Henry VIII, like More, had long been a staunch defender of Catholicism. However, Henry's loyalties were more political than heartfelt. In order to obtain a divorce, Henry broke relations with the Vatican; in short order he declared himself head of a new Anglican church, divorced his wife, and married Anne Boleyn. More, in protest, refused to attend the coronation of Boleyn and was marked for vengeance. A number of false charges were soon brought against More, and though More disproved them, he was convicted and sentenced to be drawn and quartered, the death given to a traitor. Henry commuted the punishment to a simple beheading; More was executed in 1535, a martyr for his religion. More was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935.

More's life spanned a tumultuous era in European history. Europe and England were still founded on the economic models of feudalism, in which virtually all power resided with rich nobles while the peasants endured a backbreaking existence that supported the lavish lifestyles of their rulers but provided little more than a subsistence level of existence for themselves. The late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries were formative years in the Renaissance, a flowering of art and thought that began in Italy and flooded through Europe and England. Aspects of this revolution included a renewed interest in classical Greece and Rome, an emphasis on reason and science, and an intellectual movement known as humanism that, remarkably for the time, was dominated by secular men of letters rather than religious monks or priests. Humanists emphasized the dignity of man and the power of reason while remaining deeply committed to Christianity. Their thought and writings helped to break the hold of the strict religious orthodoxy that had constrained thought through the Middle Ages. Humanists often argued against feudalism, seeing it as a society dominated by the rich and exploitative of everyone else. Further, they saw feudal society as irrational, and, in many ways, as paying only lip service to Christian ideals. While humanism allowed for a new understanding of society, it had effects far beyond what its foremost practitioners--including More and Erasmus--anticipated or supported. In 1517 Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg, marking the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. With the Reformation, the face of Europe was warped by intense religious and political conflict. England was no exception; protestants continuously cropped up throughout the country only to be persecuted. Then Henry VIII broke with the Pope and England itself became Protestant, leaving the staunch English Catholics in the lurch.

More wrote Utopia in 1516, just before the outbreak of the Reformation, but certainly during the time when the stresses and corruption that led to the Reformation were swelling toward conflict. Utopia,originally written in Latin and later translated into many languages, depicts what its narrator, Raphael Hythloday, claimed to be an ideal human society, the island of Utopia. The book was a huge success, vaulting More into renown, and not only founding a literary tradition but lending that tradition its name, the utopian novel. This tradition involves the attempt by an author to describe a perfect, ideal human society. However, the tradition founded by Utopia is so powerful that it seems to have obscured Utopiaitself. Few critics would today agree that More considered the island of Utopia to be a perfect society. Through the book's fictional frame and the dialogue of its characters, the book gains a certain ambiguity about the convictions of Utopia's standard bearer, Raphael Hythloday. It is clear that the author does not necessarily support the ideas presented by Hythloday. However, while More might not have envisioned Utopia as a perfect society, it is inarguable that he forwarded utilitarian, rational Utopia as a criticism of the European world he saw around him. It is vital, then, to understand that the book is a response to a specific historical time.

There are many ways to analyze the society of Utopia. It can be thought of as the culmination of rational thought or Humanist beliefs, as an alternative to feudalism, a statement in favor of communal society, or an effort to promote reform according to Christian values. These different critical approaches are not mutually exclusive, and Sir Thomas More was certainly aware of the complexity of meanings embedded in his book.

The book is composed of two parts; paradoxically, the first written last and the second written first. It is the second book that depicts Utopian society and which most closely resembles the Humanist thinking of Erasmus. The first book serves as an introduction to the second, but also as a commentary on it. In fact, the first book was itself likely written in two parts. Initially, it was simply a short introduction, a way to introduce the fictional More to the character of Hythloday. The second part of the first book involves an extended speech by Hythloday on a number of issues, some that were of vital and personal interest to More the author, others that provide a certain insight into Hythloday and perhaps reveal him to be not quite as knowledgeable as one might first believe. Utopia is, then, a depiction of a semi-ideal society and all of the criticism of European society that ideal represents, and it is a commentary on itself and its themes. Often, Utopia, the product of a profound thinker who was still developing his thought, seems to question itself. The book can at times be paradoxical, just as More himself could: a man who preached religious toleration and methodically persecuted Protestants, who decided to remain a lay Christian rather than enter the priesthood but ultimately died a martyr for his faith. Ultimately, Utopia is a book that, like More, attempted to navigate a course through the ideal and the real, between a desire to create perfection and the pragmatic understanding that perfection, given the fallibility of mankind, is impossible.

More and Giles are so impressed with the political and social insight Hythloday displays during his description of the countries through which he traveled that they suggest he attach himself to some king in order to put his great knowledge and understanding to public use. The beauty of such a course, according to More and Giles, will be that Hythloday would put himself in position to help the common people, his family and friends, and himself. Hythloday disagrees, first saying that he has no desire for personal wealth or power and feels no further debt to his friends or family since he already dispersed his wealth among them when he left on his travels. As for being a benefactor of the public, Hythloday rejects the notion that a royal counselor can have any such effect. He argues that princes are interested in war rather than peace, in conquering new territory rather than finding better ways to govern their own. He further argues that the advice of the prince's favorites, whether wise or foolish, will always be met with approval by men trying to curry favor. In such an atmosphere, the advice of an outsider, no matter how wise, would meet with disdain.
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