Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Raphael Hythloday

Raphael Hythloday, a philosophical traveler who has returned to Europe from Utopia, a far-off island adjacent to a larger land mass, somewhat like England in relation to the continent of Europe. In his account of what he saw there, which forms book 2 of the work, Hythloday never characterizes individual Utopians; the interplay of character in the narrative is between Raphael and his two companions in book 1. Hythloday is an experienced traveler who is supposed to have accompanied Amerigo Vespucci on his last three voyages. He has seen the coasts of the continents that came to be named for Vespucci, as well as countries such as Ceylon and India; later, with five companions, he visited lands even stranger to Europeans. Hythloday thus arrived in Utopia with extensive knowledge of the societies of the earth, and as a student of moral philosophy, Hythloday was well equipped to interpret what he saw. His two companions regard him as a man who desires neither wealth nor power. He is also modest, rejecting his companions’ judgment that he is a man fit to advise a great prince. He understands human nature well enough, however, to know that princes are more likely to listen to a yes-man than to a wise and prudent adviser. Having scrutinized Utopian institutions such as agriculture, justice, the economy, business relations, and marriage customs, he has concluded that communal living and the utter discouragement of any attempt to accumulate property—especially money, jewels, gold, and the like—is central to Utopia’s success. On the...

(The entire section is 639 words.)