Essay on Thomas More's Utopia and His Context

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Utopia is Sir Thomas More’s seminal work, depicting a fictitious island and its religious, social, and political customs. Working as an advisor to King Henry VIII, More was aware of the issues of his time such as ridiculous inflation, corruption, wars for little or no purpose, courtly ostentation, the abuse of power by the absolute monarchs, and the maltreatment of the poor. Consequently, More used Utopia to contrast some unique and refreshing political ideas with the chaotic politics of his own country. It is important to note that More did not intend to provide an exact blueprint for a perfect society, rather he merely presents his ideas in the form of a political satire, revealing the evils of his time. More wrote his novel in 1516,…show more content…
As in Plato's Republic, a work from which More drew while writing Utopia, More's work In Book 1 presents his ideas through a dialogue between two characters, Raphael Hythloday and More himself. Hythloday is a fictional character who describes his recent voyage in Book 2 to the paradise of Utopia. Throughout the work, Hythloday describes the laws, customs, system of government, and way of life that exist in Utopia to an incredulous and somewhat condescending More. The letters at the beginning of the novel raise questions about the reality or the verisimilitude of Utopia, as well as the accuracy of More’s reporting. More asks Gilles to ‘check if [he] has left anything out’. More also questions the accuracy of ‘the distance of the bridge across the river Nowater at Aircastle’, which he believes to be 500 yards, but his assistant believes it was 200 yards. He admits that ‘if you say I’m wrong, I’ll assume that I’ve made a mistake’. This shows More’s indecisiveness of getting the facts right. Ironically, More uses paradoxes in regards to his naming of places and characters. Utopia, can mean both “no place” and “good place”. The name of his protagonist, Raphael Hythloday roughly translates to: “the speaker of nonsense”. The name of the river in Utopia’s capital, Aircastle is “Nowater”. These paradoxes show that although More thought this to be his ideal society, he knew that there would never be a place that could
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