Komori: Book One of the Utopia Trilogy

No way, says Hythloday who we finally get to hear from directly. He's already been super generous to his family and friends and is totally not interested in being a slave to some king. Who said anything about being a slave? He just meant Hythloday could offer advice. Hythloday thinks they're the same thing. It's still a good way to help your friends, and people in general, and have a good time. Hythloday couldn't disagree more. He likes to do whatever he wants and if he worked for a king, he'd always be trying to please him and pander to people. More jumps in at this point and praises Hythloday for being so uninterested in money and influence.

But, More says, shouldn't someone so interested in philosophy want to do some good, even if he doesn't like it? He could help all those princes and kings be better by giving them good advice and sharing wisdom.

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Hythloday thinks More is completely wrong for a whole bunch of reasons: Hythloday ends by mentioning that he's even seen these kinds of attitudes in England, which surprises More since he didn't think Hythloday had ever been there. Absolutely, Hythloday responds, and explains that he was in fact there for a number of months staying with a great guy called Cardinal Morton. He was virtuous, wise, always made sure people were honest, fair, gave great speeches, knew everything One night Hythloday, Cardinal Morton, and some visitors were all having dinner.

One visitor, a lawyer, said how much he liked the current policy of hanging thieves great dinner topic, buddy!

Komori: Book One of the Utopia Trilogy

But he was a bit confused why, considering how many are killed, more and more still seem to be around. And this is how the conversation continued: At this point, Hythloday interrupts and explains that executing robbers is a terrible way of controlling robbery. People steal when they're desperate, not because they're cunning master criminals. If you want people to stop stealing, you need to give them the means to take care of themselves. In fact, the only reason they get to sit around is because they have a bunch of people slaving away for them No one teaches them how to do anything useful so that one day, when they get sick and are fired, they have no way to take care of themselves.

Nobody, not even farmers, wants to hire someone useless. The lawyer still insists for some reason that these are the people who should become soldiers. Hythloday again points out that there is still plenty of time when there are no wars going on, and these people inevitably get up to no good when they aren't kept busy. It's not just England that has this problem, Hythloday continues, France is even worse! All you have to do is read some Roman history to see how often those armies get bored and just attack their own country. Wouldn't it be better for everyone if their time was occupied by learning some useful craft?

This isn't the only reason there is widespread thievery in England, Hythloday explains. Massive private farming and land-owning is also a huge problem. There isn't any land left for ploughing! Instead, it's just owned by a handful of lazy, rich people who kick out the local farmers and do whatever they want with it.

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And remember, when he was writing Utopia , Christianity was the accepted and standard religious code, so he would have expect his readers to all believe in the Christian God, too. If a king is only king because he's horrible to his subject, he doesn't deserve to be king because he doesn't embody real authority. Wives are subject to their husbands and husbands are subject to their wives although women are restricted to conducting household tasks for the most part. Seriously, Jesus said lots of things that were considered weird back in the day, but that didn't stop him. So they all have lunch and then return to the very same spot and listen to Hythloday's description of Utopia. So Hythloday tells the council that the best kind of king just minds his own business and doesn't invade other places.

Where are all these displaced people supposed to go? How are they supposed to find money to feed themselves and their families? Especially since buying all this farming land has also lead to food and wool being more expensive. Moreover Hythloday is seriously on a rant here , these noblemen who buy land for their own private benefit intentionally charge lots of money for animals and livestock.

So that they can indulge in absurd amounts of luxury: Obviously, the rich need to be regulated. They shouldn't be allowed to do whatever they want or the problem of thievery will just get worse. He says it's just like blaming a child for being bad if his parents raised him poorly. Well, the lawyer is getting all ready for a big comeback, but Cardinal Morton shuts him down and says he needs to wait until they meet up again the next day, because no one wants to hear him talk that much.

Instead, he does want to hear more from Hythloday about this whole punishing-thieves issue. How should they be punished then? Wouldn't a mild punishment still encourage robbery? It's just completely unfair, Hythloday insists, to take someone's life because they took someone's money.

It seems like a can of worms; if killing becomes legal, what's next: God gets to make laws, not people. The laws of Moses are severe, but fair, so let's emulate that. Okay, let's take a break for a quick history snack. So, you can imagine, he was a pretty religious guy. And remember, when he was writing Utopia , Christianity was the accepted and standard religious code, so he would have expect his readers to all believe in the Christian God, too.

Aside from religion, Hythloday goes on to say that it's actually dangerous to make death the penalty for stealing because then murder and theft are punished in the same way. If that's true, won't that encourage robbers to kill their victims since they have nothing left to lose? In terms of an alternative punishment, Raphael thinks the Roman idea of putting thieves to work in chains isn't too bad, but the best one he learned from the nation of the Polylerites don't worry if you've never heard of them before More invented this name from two Greek words which, when put together, mean "The People of Much Nonsense.

Speaking of the Polylerites Hythloday gets a little off topic and offers some quick background: Hythloday explains that the Polylerites punish robbers by having them repay the actual victim of the robbery—not the state—and then they have to go off and do hard labor for the rest of their lives. But this hard labor isn't in chains or anything, they just have to be involved in a project that helps the public. If they don't work, they get whipped; if they do, they get fed and housed under lock and key by the state. This isn't an issue because the Polylerites are generous people and like to support the state.

Hythloday describes how Polylerite convicts have a particular physical appearance yes, this bit is kind of wacky: We warned you it's wacky, if not downright creepy. Friends can give them anything except money or clothing of a different color and, unsurprisingly, they don't get to carry weapons.

They also have to wear a special badge indicating that they're convicts, and escape plans are punishable by death. Sounds pretty rational, huh? Hythloday thinks it is because the goal of the system isn't just punishment, but to turn the criminals into better people. In fact, the system works so well that travelers love chatting with Polylerite convicts because they're not dangerous and they're easy to spot.

What about a slave rebellion? Not a chance, says Hythloday.

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Criminals from different districts aren't allowed to talk to each other. And why would they rebel? If they're good, they even have a chance of being pardoned. Hythloday goes on to wonder why this kind of a system isn't set up in England, but the lawyer says it would be a disaster. Cardinal Morton jumps in and remarks that there's no way to know if it would work in England since no one has ever tried it. Maybe a criminal could have his death sentence temporarily suspended and that would be a way to try it out?

No harm, no foul, right?

Suddenly, everyone at dinner seems to think this is a great idea. Hythloday is not pleased that when he suggested it they all thought it was absurd, but once mister big shot Cardinal agrees, they all love the idea. After this, someone else at dinner remarks that the only social problem they haven't discussed yet is the poor. A fool, who had been standing around being mostly silly but sometimes clever, replied that he was all over that since the poor never bother him because he never has anything to give them—just like priests ouch!

He then suggests that all the poor be sent to monasteries to help out the monks there.

A fool, like, from a play or something? The Cardinal gets a bit nervous since this fool just made fun of the church and one of his guests is a friar. But the friar thinks the joke is hilarious phew!

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And… another history moment! A friar is a religious leader somewhere between a priest and a monk that may be why he liked the joke so much. He doesn't live shut off in a monastery, but instead lives in villages usually tending to the poor. But the fool has his own comeback, and says that friars are more like the criminals they were discussing earlier.

Everyone else laughs at this one, but the friar is quite insulted.

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He starts calling the fool all kinds of mean names. Friars aren't supposed to get angry, says the fool, quoting the Bible. The friar insists he isn't angry at all in a very angry way! The Cardinal steps in to cool the friar off, but the friar insists that this is something worth getting angry about. Well, says the Cardinal, it's kind of lame that you're this upset about something a fool said.

But the friar continues to get heated, insisting it's his religious duty to show this fool just how foolish he is. What do you know—the Cardinal suddenly decides to change the subject. Here, Hythloday stops narrating his experience of visiting the Cardinal in England and apologizes for how long he's been talking.

He explains to his two friends that he wanted to include every little detail so that More and Giles would understand just how fake and flattering advisors can be. More, however, insists that he loved hearing Hythloday's story, especially since he grew up knowing the Cardinal and it brought back lovely memories. But More is still not convinced that all advisors to kings have to be bad and thinks Hythloday could do some serious good. Just think about what Plato recommended, More says: More is referring to Plato's Republic , a famous work of Greek philosophy which imagined a perfect state ruled by philosopher kings.

More's Utopia is actually modeled on this text, which some people consider to be proto-Utopian. Hythloday insists that plenty of philosophers try to influence kings all time by writing books of advice that the kings just don't read. He says he agrees with Plato's idea, but it first requires kings to become the kind of people who even care about philosophy.

Even Plato tried to influence a tyrant during his lifetime and it was a complete fail. Hythloday then offers More and Giles some scenarios to prove his point: Hythloday at the court of France in some top-secret session about how to basically take over all of Europe. Everyone has a bunch of totally different suggestions: So what does Hythloday think?

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He thinks France is big enough and the king should just be happy with the land he's got. Then at this imaginary meeting Hythloday starts talking about the Achorians, a people he encountered during his travels, who live near Utopia. Anyway, they waged war on a nearby kingdom and found out it was nothing but trouble. They were dealing with rebellions, taxes, corruption, etc.

The king couldn't focus on either his own kingdom or this new one so he finally gave up and handed the new kingdom over to a friend. So Hythloday tells the council that the best kind of king just minds his own business and doesn't invade other places. And what kind of outcome does More expect this advice to have?

Hythloday at a secret royal session about making lots of money. There are the usual bunch of sneaky recommendations from other advisors: All these imaginary advisors agree anyway that kings always need more money and kings can't really do wrong anyway, right? Slavery is a feature of Utopian life and it is reported that every household has two slaves. The slaves are either from other countries or are the Utopian criminals.

These criminals are weighed down with chains made out of gold. The gold is part of the community wealth of the country, and fettering criminals with it or using it for shameful things like chamber pots gives the citizens a healthy dislike of it. It also makes it difficult to steal as it is in plain view. The wealth, though, is of little importance and is only good for buying commodities from foreign nations or bribing these nations to fight each other.

Slaves are periodically released for good behaviour. Jewels are worn by children, who finally give them up as they mature. Other significant innovations of Utopia include: Meals are taken in community dining halls and the job of feeding the population is given to a different household in turn. Although all are fed the same, Raphael explains that the old and the administrators are given the best of the food. Travel on the island is only permitted with an internal passport and any people found without a passport are, on a first occasion, returned in disgrace, but after a second offence they are placed in slavery.

In addition, there are no lawyers and the law is made deliberately simple, as all should understand it and not leave people in any doubt of what is right and wrong. There are several religions on the island: Only atheists are despised but allowed in Utopia, as they are seen as representing a danger to the state: They are not banished, but are encouraged to talk out their erroneous beliefs with the priests until they are convinced of their error.


Raphael says that through his teachings Christianity was beginning to take hold in Utopia. The toleration of all other religious ideas is enshrined in a universal prayer all the Utopians recite. Wives are subject to their husbands and husbands are subject to their wives although women are restricted to conducting household tasks for the most part. Only few widowed women become priests. While all are trained in military arts, women confess their sins to their husbands once a month. Gambling, hunting, makeup and astrology are all discouraged in Utopia.

The role allocated to women in Utopia might, however, have been seen as being more liberal from a contemporary point of view.

Utopians do not like to engage in war. If they feel countries friendly to them have been wronged, they will send military aid, but they try to capture, rather than kill, enemies. They are upset if they achieve victory through bloodshed. The main purpose of war is to achieve that which, if they had achieved already, they would not have gone to war over. Privacy is not regarded as freedom in Utopia; taverns, ale-houses and places for private gatherings are non-existent for the effect of keeping all men in full view, so that they are obliged to behave well.

One of the most troublesome questions about Utopia is Thomas More's reason for writing it. Most scholars see it as a comment on or criticism of 16th century Catholicism, for the evils of More's day are laid out in Book I and in many ways apparently solved in Book II. Yet, the puzzle is that some of the practices and institutions of the Utopians, such as the ease of divorce, euthanasia and both married priests and female priests , seem to be polar opposites of More's beliefs and the teachings of the Catholic Church of which he was a devout member.

Another often cited apparent contradiction is that of the religious tolerance of Utopia contrasted with his persecution of Protestants as Lord Chancellor. Similarly, the criticism of lawyers comes from a writer who, as Lord Chancellor , was arguably the most influential lawyer in England. It can be answered, however, that as a pagan society Utopians had the best ethics that could be reached through reason alone, or that More changed from his early life to his later when he was Lord Chancellor. One highly influential interpretation of Utopia is that of intellectual historian Quentin Skinner.

Crucially, Skinner sees Raphael Hythlodaeus as embodying the Platonic view that philosophers should not get involved in politics, while the character of More embodies the more pragmatic Ciceronian view. Thus the society Raphael proposes is the ideal More would want. But without communism, which he saw no possibility of occurring, it was wiser to take a more pragmatic view. Quentin Skinner's interpretation of Utopia is consistent with the speculation that Stephen Greenblatt made in The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. There, Greenblatt argued that More was under the Epicurean influence of Lucretius 's On the Nature of Things and the people that live in Utopia were an example of how pleasure has become their guiding principle of life.

Another complication comes from the Greek meaning of the names of people and places in the work. Apart from Utopia, meaning "Noplace," several other lands are mentioned: Achora meaning "Nolandia", Polyleritae meaning "Muchnonsense", Macarenses meaning "Happiland," and the river Anydrus meaning "Nowater". Raphael's last name, Hythlodaeus means "dispenser of nonsense" surely implying that the whole of the Utopian text is 'nonsense'.

It is unclear whether More is simply being ironic, an in-joke for those who know Greek, seeing as the place he is talking about does not actually exist or whether there is actually a sense of distancing of Hythlodaeus' and the More's "Morus" views in the text from his own. The name Raphael, though, may have been chosen by More to remind his readers of the archangel Raphael who is mentioned in the Book of Tobit 3: In that book the angel guides Tobias and later cures his father of his blindness.

While Hythlodaeus may suggest his words are not to be trusted, Raphael meaning in Hebrew "God has healed" suggests that Raphael may be opening the eyes of the reader to what is true. The suggestion that More may have agreed with the views of Raphael is given weight by the way he dressed; with "his cloak Furthermore, more recent criticism has questioned the reliability of both Gile's annotations and the character of "More" in the text itself. Claims that the book only subverts Utopia and Hythlodaeus are possibly oversimplistic.

Utopia was begun while More was an envoy in the Low Countries in May More started by writing the introduction and the description of the society which would become the second half of the work and on his return to England he wrote the "dialogue of counsel", completing the work in In the same year, it was printed in Leuven under Erasmus's editorship and after revisions by More it was printed in Basel in November It was not until , sixteen years after More's execution, that it was first published in England as an English translation by Ralph Robinson.

Gilbert Burnet 's translation of is probably the most commonly cited version. The work seems to have been popular, if misunderstood: The eponymous title Utopia has since eclipsed More's original story and the term is now commonly used to describe an idyllic, imaginary society. Although he may not have directly founded the contemporary notion of what has since become known as Utopian and dystopian fiction , More certainly popularised the idea of imagined parallel realities, and some of the early works which owe a debt to Utopia must include The City of the Sun by Tommaso Campanella , Description of the Republic of Christianopolis by Johannes Valentinus Andreae , New Atlantis by Francis Bacon and Candide by Voltaire.

The politics of Utopia have been seen as influential to the ideas of Anabaptism and communism. The religious message in the work and its uncertain, possibly satiric, tone has also alienated some theorists from the work. During the opening scene in the film A Man for all Seasons , Utopia is referenced in a conversation. The alleged amorality of England's priests is compared to that of the more highly principled behaviour of the fictional priests in More's Utopia, when a character observes wryly that "every second person born in England is fathered by a priest.

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