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Thomas More ER7 Renaissance England: Utopia, A Fiction of A Perfect Soicety

Utopia, A Fiction of A Perfect Soicety

Web Renaissance [ER8] Utopia



Thomas More


  1. Thomas More, born in 1478, he was the son of a prominent lawyer. He had a first rate education. He became connected to the English court, as court advisor to King Henry VIII. He had written a fictional work that gained wide fame, called Utopia, a possibly construction for a society where a group of people (not all people) have everything they want and desire – therefore live in happiness. Women have greater roles in the workplace, and some social public settings, but more or less this society has trappings always present in distopic or utopic attempts as defining the perfect society. The constant referral to claims that this society has plenty of ‘everything’ is its limitation. This claim is used so addressing certian difficulties can be overlooked and discarded in argument.

  2. His acquaintances included, Desiderius Erasmus.

  3. In 1518, More entered the service of King Henry VIII. He dedicated Utopia to him.

  4. He rose up as a confidant of Henry, and gained the office of Chancellor in 1529.

  5. Moore despite earthy fame through royal position, continued to live ascetic lifestyle of the variation of practicing monks: rising early, fasting, engaging in prolonged prayer, and wearing a hair shirt.

  6. Moore was a leader of the Counter-Reformation, who had experienced the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

  7. Therefore, as construction of his character, one of the tenets of his Utopian society was religious toleration. At the same time, Machiavelli held the same sentiments.

  8. Some commentators base Utopia upon Humanist thought. However, this does not challenge the articulation of major humanist of the Italian renaissance who advocated bringing back Roman and Greek antiquity of republicanism. Its closest connection is that of Plato’s communistic society, but less articulated and argued. Since Plato had written on more subjects and in greater depth, this understanding, again, is qualified. But we should consider Utopia its own art form and uniqueness– it certainly is well written, in Latin, and contained advanced antiquity thoughts on the human conditions.

  9. Henry broke relations with the Vatican not over religion but politics, and he and More were stanch Catholics, this dilemma played out dramatically with More being forced to hold the church’s position. As Henry joined a new religious (gang) faction, the Anglican Church, More became the martyr, being beheaded to sooth the masses. More was executed in 1535, and canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935.

  10. More wrote Utopia in Latin and finished it in 1516, just before the outbreak of the Reformation proper.

  11. The plot depicts an ideal human society called Utopia. More does not construct his argument that society should be run in the manner depicted, instead offering Utopia only as a fictional place. Since More offers variations to the normative European society of his time in this book, it seems that he was protecting himself from pressures of a social changer or social aggravator. When Plato wrote “Laws,” a similar (not exact) communistic society, he intended it as a blueprint of a real attainable society. Yet, Plato was in his advanced age and was not concerned about persecution. The Laws was the last work he had composed.

  12.  The character Raphael Hythloday is the narrator and champion of this communism society. More may have included this character as the trickster. He may not have stood by this character’s views that Communism was the best course of action for a society.

  13. The book was a huge success, and brought More fame during his life.

  14. The book does not tell one how to run a communist society, but it suggests argument for the merits of communism.

  15. Utopia represents a long-history of thought about communitarian lifestyles, and ideal of hope with no reality in perspective. One needs to ask the question how could this ideal society exist with the reality proposed as fact in Machiavelli’s understanding of the immorality of men? It appears the two cannot co-exist.

  16. It had been said by many commentators that he founded a tradition to describe perfect societies. However, this is qualified. We know many different cultures had done this. This may apply to his time, and the renaissance period only.

  17. Characters: Peter Giles, actual real friend and helper for publishing of More’s book; More as himself, but as a mouthpiece in character, and Hythloday, the promoter of Utopia – the perfect society.

  18. Raphael Hythloday  -  A philosopher and world traveler, he lived for five years on the island of Utopia before returning to Europe to spread the word about the Utopian's ideal society. Hythloday's last name, in Greek, means "talker of nonsense," a clue from Sir Thomas More to his reader that the island of Utopia is a fiction.

  19. Cardinal John Morton  -  Actual Chancellor to Henry VIII. Morton was instrumental in furthering Sir Thomas More's education at Oxford.

  20. Lawyer  -  An unnamed man who once spent an evening with Hythloday and Cardinal Morton. He is defensive of England and unwilling to find fault with anything in English society.

  21. General Utopus -  Ancient warrior and founder of Utopia. He conquered with armies the savages who once lived on the isthmus Utopia. After conquest,  he sets his army and new subjects as  laborers cutting the land away to make Utopia an island. In his wisdom, Utopus set up the Utopian society that Hythloday finds so immensely attractive.


“Utopus that conquered it (whose name it still

carries, for Abraxa was its first name) brought the rude and uncivilized inhabitants into such a good government, and to that measure of politeness, that they now far excel all the rest of mankind; having soon subdued them, he designed to separate them from the continent, and to bring the sea quite

round them. To accomplish this, he ordered a deep channel to be dug fifteen miles long; and that the natives might not think he treated them like slaves, he not only forced the inhabitants, but also his own soldiers, to labor in carrying it on.” (Book II, opening section ,  Utopia, Sir Thomas More; English translation)



  1. More contends with paradoxes, as any construction of a perfect society has – in order to start it one must force people against their will – thus the beginning is no perfection but subjection.


“But though there is every year such a shifting of the husbandmen, to prevent any man being forced against his will [...]”( Book II, opening section ,  Utopia, Sir Thomas More)


  1. The paradox arrives early and makes this fictionalization of a perfect society tedious with its formation. The founder forces people’s will then its founder makes laws against the forcing of human’s wills.

  2. In plot sequence: 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.(mjm, America shows up on maps identifying the Americas early as mid-sixteenth century; it is quite possibly the public success of this book had associated the concept of Amerigo to America’s identification. although this is just a thought.).

  3. Utopia ideals of communism: common property.

  4. Every man may freely enter into any house whatsoever.

  5. At every ten years' end they shift their houses by lots.

  6. base system of plenty is an agricultural work: there is indeed nothing belonging to the whole town that is both more useful and more pleasant. So that he who founded the town seems to have taken care of nothing more than of their gardens. In chapter III, book II, agriculture is said taught to the young and is a the life long engagement and backbone of society. This was also later Karl Marx’s backbone of his proletarian world society.

  7. Chapter II, book II, begins the government system. It is hierarchical, therefore, discounting later Marx’s rule by the common, and one pragmatic character of government made it into the American system at its founding. The balance and check system of the U.S.A. government ideology, that is to say a slow system of legislation. Here More elaborates: One rule observed in their Council, is, never to debate a thing on the same day in which it is first proposed; for that is always referred to the next meeting, that so men may not rashly, and in the heat of discourse, engage themselves too soon” [...]. – “deliberate than sudden in their motions”(!).

  8. Chapter III, book II: everyone must work diligently. The idea of entertainment is not a part of the normal society. Entertainment a vital release for human needs is suppressed here, and no address to the mundane aspects that drive men’s passions.

  9. Obviously, the people intermarry with lose boundaries defining who is who. In some sense this society turns out to be very narrow in ethnicity, and racial issues that are a large part of today’s contentions in all matters of life, is not addressed. More, is speaking about similarly cultural, no defined groups who had came together to make this society unified in thought, action, deed and feeling. Very rarely does this exist as a norm between contending ethnicities and cultures. The perfect society therefore must discard these arguments as if they had never existed.

  10. What makes this no real is that there is always “plenty of everything.” While in reality, this could happen on a medium islet that is discussed, but for a large globe, there exists no model for the world of plenty for everyone. This statement alleviates many arguments so one does not need to address ‘want.’


There is no reason for giving a denial to any person, since there is such plenty of everything among them [...].(Book II, ch. 4, “On their Traffic,’ Utopia, Sir Thomas More; English translation)


  1. More’s criticism of man’s nature:


It is the fear of want that makes any of the whole race of animals either greedy or ravenous; but besides fear, there is in man a pride that makes him fancy it a particular glory to excel others in pomp and excess. (Book II, ch. 4, “On their Traffic,’ Utopia, Sir Thomas More; English translation)


  1. If there is plenty ( of what human’s desire), them the populous is satisfied and will not cause problems for the general public. This statement is the justification for the attempt to construct a perfect society-argument.

  2. Family is traditionally misogynistic:


But to return to their manner of living in society, the oldest man of every family, as has been already said, is its governor. Wives serve their husbands, and children their parents, and always the younger serves the elder. (Book II, ch. 4, “On their Traffic,’ Utopia, Sir Thomas More; English translation)


  1. Unfortunately, for this perfect society, there are human slaves, un elaborated upon as to their human conditions – they just exist to do the undesired (dirty) work.


There are also, without their towns, places appointed near some running water, for killing their beasts, and for washing away their filth, which is done by their slaves: (Book II, ch. 4, “On their Traffic,’ Utopia, Sir Thomas More; English translation)


  1. Utopians have war needs, and hire foreigners, like the Italian city-states had conducted their war concerns, so their people would not be hurt.


whenever they are engaged in war, which is the only occasion in which their treasure can be usefully employed, they make use of it themselves. In great extremities or sudden accidents they employ it in hiring foreign troops, whom they more willingly expose to danger than their own people: they give them great pay, knowing well that this will work even on their enemies, that it will engage thern either to betray their own side, or at least to desert it, and that it is the best means of raising mutual jealousies among them: for this end they have an incredible treasure; but they do not keep it as a treasure, but in such a manner as” [...]. (Book II, ch. 5, “On Travelling of the Utopians,” Utopia, Sir Thomas More; English translation).


  1. Machiavelli had shown how these hiring of mercenaries hurt Italian principalities and the people in them. We could expect the same. However, this is factionary writing and everything is perfect for Utopians. They do not seem to have the same pitfalls that humans in realty experience. Often when twentieth century socialist personalities had promised their supporting masses a utopia vision they had promised them through their leadership, it was flowery concepts and languages of unreality and idealism that turned out in failure. It is the same parable truth as the blind leading the blind and both fall into a ditch, so to speak. In some respects, More is giving a critique on idealism of the ‘greener pastures’ mentality. The Protestants or pagan movements had always wished for greener pastures –a concept in idiomatic expression – people are never satisfied with the intending regime, but seek change into an ideal that is never possible but is desired at costs of even bodily harm or death to escape reality.





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