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 Why does Thomas More give a surname "HYTHLODAY" to Raphael in Utopia? Peter Giles...

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necipfazil | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 20, 2009 at 6:23 PM via web

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 Why does Thomas More give a surname "HYTHLODAY" to Raphael in Utopia

Peter Giles tells Raphael to enter the king's service.  He thinks Raphael's knowladge of various counties and man would entertain the king like a buffoon, while his advice would help the king.  Why is Raphael regarded as stupid in this way?

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ecofan74 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted July 3, 2010 at 11:50 AM (Answer #1)

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In Sir Thomas More's Utopia, he emphasizes the importance of word choice and word meanings into the work.  The title of the work is indicative of this.  In the original Greek, the word "utopia" is derived from two different word, "eu-topia," or "good place," and "ou-topia," or "no place."  From this word play, the reader can surmise that More intends to discuss an ideal place and society, but at the same time he will discuss a place that does not or cannot exist.  The surname of More's protagonist, Raphael Hythloday, likewise thrives on such wordplay. 

"Hythloday" literally means "speaker of nonsense."  Raphael Hythloday, on the contrary, is a very knowledgeable protagonist.  Throughout the treatise, the reader does not come to doubt his knowledge or see his perspective as problematic.  So, the question remains.  Why give such a reliable and intelligent narrator a surname like "Hythloday"?  Taking this question with the idea that the word "utopia" likewise has a somewhat ironic meaning, an answer presents itself.  If the utopian society were interpreted along "no place" lines, then Raphael Hythloday, the narrator who discusses the society in the text as if it were a real society, would indeed be speaking "of nonsense."  Incorporating this connection reflects More's cynicism towards the social system he seeks to propose.

When Peter Giles tells Raphael to enter the king's service and entertain him with his extensive knowledge, entertainment is the sole motivation cited by Giles.  While his knowledge and advice would ultimately help the king, since its original purpose is purely to entertain, Raphael could be seen as stupid.  His role in the service of the king is that of a buffoon, and the nature of the service provided by Raphael is coincidental.  That the king essentially learns or benefits is additional, not an integral part of his service.

Because hythloday means speaker oF nonsense but he knows many things.

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