Utopia

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1367

The Work

Illustration of PDF document

Download Utopia Study Guide

Subscribe Now

More coined the word “utopia” for this book and simultaneously provided a noun to describe an ideal society and an adjective—utopian—to signify a hopelessly impractical approach to living. The word “utopia” derives from the Greek for “no place,” but it is also a pun on “good place.” With this play on words, More sowed the seeds of argument regarding his book: Was he serious? Was he a communist, a liberal, an autocrat? Was he an advocate of euthanasia and divorce?

Background

Utopia shows many influences. More was a classical scholar of high standing—a product of the Renaissance. He also pursued a career in law with great success. Amerigo Vespucci’s writings on America inspired him with references to paradisiacal lands and the communal ownership of property. The Catholic Church was the dominant influence of his boyhood, and perhaps of his whole life. Interestingly, More wrote Utopia in a lull before the Reformation; one year after its publication, Martin Luther defied the Church by nailing his ninety-five theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg.

Utopian Practices and Ethics

In book 1, More describes meeting a man called Hythloday, who first castigates European society and then proceeds in book 2 to describe Utopia with heartfelt admiration. Hythloday condemns the idle of Europe, including noblemen and their servants. He asserts that rulers wage war, not peace, and that ministers at court do not listen to arguments, but indulge in politics for their own gain. His remedies for economic ills include stopping the enclosure and monopoly of land by the rich. With strong words, he condemns the execution of thieves as unfair and ineffective, stating that it incites men to kill, since murder, carries the same penalty.

Book 2 describes More’s fictional state in detail. The Utopians live a regulated, standardized life. All the cities are beautiful and identical. All citizens wear the same simple clothes, with some modifications for gender. They live together in families of specific size and work six hours a day, spending their leisure time reading and attending lectures. Women may marry at the age of eighteen, men at twenty-two. Adultery is strongly condemned and can result in slavery or even execution. In extreme circumstances of recurrent adultery or perversion, however, divorce is permitted.

Utopia is a state founded on compassion and altruism. No one wants for material goods. Health care is universal, though few get sick. Society gently encourages euthanasia when a mortally ill person suffers from great pain. All property is owned communally. Every ten years, a family exchanges its house, which is supposed to encourage people to take proper care for the next tenant. Even their eating takes place in a large hall that holds as many as thirty households.

Ultimately, authoritarianism is a strong feature of this model state. No one has the freedom to remain idle. Everyone needs permission to travel. Any discussion of government matters outside official meeting-places is punishable by death. Utopia also has rigid hierarchies: children defer to adults, women to men, younger to older, and families to their elected representatives. Paradoxically, however, Utopia has strong democratic elements, including voting for all key political posts, though people are barred from canvassing votes, to minimize corruption. Slavery replaces hanging as the deterrent for deviant behavior. Serious criminal behavior leads to slavery, which entails working constantly in chains, performing the meanest labor.

Citizens may practice any religion, but strong proselytizing is barred for fear that it may lead to argument. Certain tenets must be held by all: belief in a wise Providence and an afterlife. Utopians pursue pleasure as natural and logical, but they abhor vanity and pomp and place no value on gold and silver, even while storing it for economic advantage and for trade. They avoid war whenever possible but conduct military training for both sexes. When threatened by another nation, they offer rewards to kill the ruler of the opposing nation. Failing that, they sow contention in that nation and, as a last resort, hire mercenaries to fight alongside their own soldiers.

Discussion

More uses this book to debate opposing viewpoints for intellectual stimulation. For example, when Hythloday says that as long as there is property there will be no justice, More counters that in a communist society people would not work or have any incentive to better themselves. Hythloday contrasts the greed and selfishness of Europe with Utopia’s communism based on a harmony of purpose, with the family unit at its core. Utopia also, however, has internal contradictions. The residents’ humanistic values—respecting individual inquiry and religious freedom—contrast with the total conformity of their lives and the fact that certain basic beliefs must be held by all.

Utopia is a commentary on More’s own society, a combination of monasticism and feudalism, but Utopia is founded on reason, not Christianity. More is pleading: If they can do so well without divine revelation, why can Europe not do better with it? It is impossible to believe that More meant Utopia as a blueprint for an ideal society. Elements that support this conclusion include the deadpan humor (Anider, a river, means “no water”; Utopians use gold in making chamber pots) and the contrast with More’s own religious convictions (he persecuted heretics and chose execution rather than compromise his opposition to divorce). Ultimately, Utopia is not so much interesting or original in itself as it is noteworthy because it stimulated discussion regarding “social engineering” as a remedy for society’s ills.

Additional Reading

Ackroyd, Peter. The Life of Thomas More. London: Chatto and Windus, 1998. A helpful biographical study of Sir Thomas More’s life and times, which explores the ideas he developed and the difficult personal decisions that he faced.

Baker-Smith, Dominic. More’s “Utopia.” New York: HarperCollins, 1991. A complete study of Utopia that balances analysis of its contents as a literary work and as a treatise on political theory. Includes information about the history of Utopia’s composition, the Renaissance humanism that permeates More’s thought, and the sources that influenced its ideas and literary style.

Fox, Alistair. Thomas More: History and Providence. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983. This intellectual biography details the evolution of More’s thought, delving deep into his views about God and humanity.

Fox, Alistair. Utopia: An Elusive Vision. New York: Twayne, 1993. A veteran More scholar offers an interpretation of More’s aims in the writing and vision of his famous Utopia.

Guy, John. Thomas More. London: Arnold, 2000. A study of the life and thought of the author of Utopia.

Hexter, J. H. More’s “Utopia”: The Biography of an Idea. New York: Harper & Row, 1965. Examines Utopia for evidence of its stages of composition. This sequence forms the basis for analyzing More’s intentions in writing Utopia and the ideas he wanted to express in his work.

Johnson, Robbin S. More’s “Utopia”: Ideal and Illusion. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1969. An essay interpreting Utopia based on an honors thesis by a Yale undergraduate. Presents More’s Utopia as a continuing discourse on the balance between ideal and reality in society and government.

Marius, Richard. Thomas More. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984. A well-crafted biography that analyzes a man torn between the medieval world of faith and the modern world of reason and who ultimately chose the spirit over the flesh.

Martz, Louis L. Thomas More: The Search for the Inner Man. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1990. An effort to interpret the complexities of More’s life, which involved politics, philosophy, and religion.

Monti, James. The King’s Good Servant but God’s First: The Life and Writing of Saint Thomas More. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997. A biographical study that explores the clash of politics and religion in More’s life.

Olin, John C., ed. Interpreting Thomas More’s “Utopia.” New York: Fordham University Press, 1989. Helpful essays by important More scholars explore and assess the meaning and significance of More’s classic on the ideal human society.

Reynolds, E. E. Thomas More and Erasmus. New York: Fordham University Press, 1965. A careful study of the relationship between two dynamic thinkers who influenced the development of European humanism.

Ronald William Howard John K. Roth

Places Discussed

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 769

*Antwerp

*Antwerp. Flanders city (now part of Belgium) in which More’s novel opens. In 1515 More was part of a diplomatic mission sent by England’s King Henry VIII to Flanders, where he spent many months. While there, he met many of Europe’s leading intellectuals, with many of whom he had already enjoyed a lively correspondence. One of these was Peter Giles, the town clerk of Antwerp. More uses his diplomatic mission, and in particular a visit he paid to Giles, as the starting point for his story. Other than a passing reference to attending a service at a cathedral, More makes no attempt to describe Antwerp; however, it is there that he is introduced to Raphael Hythloday, a philosophical traveler who has returned from Utopia. Hythloday’s story is then told through a frame.

By anchoring his story to the events of a real embassy and real people, such as Giles, More gives his book plausibility, which is further enhanced by his making Hythloday a member of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci’s crew. Vespucci’s highly fanciful account of his voyages to the New World had been published widely only a few years earlier and contributed greatly to the European perception of the Americas as a land of strange peoples and creatures. So successful was More in making his book look like a true account that he was accused by a contemporary critic of having merely written down what someone else told him.

*London

*London. England’s capital city figures only peripherally in Utopia; however, More—through Hythloday—makes a number of pointed references to people and places in London, in particular the head of England’s church, the archbishop of Canterbury. Although at pains to praise the intelligence and wisdom of the archbishop, Hythloday uses a debate about social and legal issues as a way of illustrating deficiencies in the English way of doing things.

Utopia

Utopia. Far-off island adjacent to a larger landmass, somewhat like England in relation to the continent of Europe, which Hythloday reaches by a long, roundabout route and a series of strange adventures after being left behind in the New World by Vespucci. Hythloday’s adventures serve to hide the exact location of Utopia, but it is possible to place it in the Western Hemisphere—on the other side of the globe from England. More places Utopia both physically and symbolically opposite to England.

The name Utopia is a Greek word, which contains a pun: In Greek, the name could be either U-topia, meaning “no place,” or Eu-topia, meaning “better-place.” Renowned not only as one of the most learned men of his day but also as a great wit, More almost certainly intended the pun. He describes his book as a comedy, and though not a comedy in the modern sense, it is clearly a work whose details are intended to amuse, one that uses a lightness of touch as a way to deflect the consequences of his criticism of religious and political institutions, which were, at the time, supposedly above criticism.

The novel is divided into two parts. The first records a conversation between More and Hythloday that introduces Utopia; the second is a discourse by Hythloday on the institutions and practices of Utopia. This latter is the main focus of the novel. More’s intent in questioning the social and political institutions of his own country is served by presenting the ideal social and political institutions of Utopia. The nature of the location, therefore, enters only peripherally into the second part of the novel. It is more closely described in the earlier dialogue, when it becomes clear how well ordered the country is.

What makes Utopia “utopian” is how rational everything is, such as the treatment of criminals and the Utopians’ relations with neighboring states. Utopia maintains its own peace in the face of ceaselessly warring neighbors through a Machiavellian mixture of alliances and corruption. The utopian ideal contains a healthy dose of reality: Their marriage practices require brides and grooms to be revealed naked to one another before their betrothals. The layout of Utopia is also rational; the ordered patterns of cities and towns—their roads and farms—clearly reflect the sensible way in which the country is run and contrast noticeably with the disordered pattern of towns and cities in the real world of England. While More is careful not to make the landscape seem artificially regular and contrived, he uses the shape of his imaginary island as a mirror for the sensible ordering of this ideal world that makes Utopia such a sane and happy land.

Context

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 344

Thomas More’s Utopia, written during the turbulence of sixteenth century English political strife, presents an ideal map of the political countryside against which to measure existing states. The English word “utopia” derives its meaning from a Greek term that can be translated “nowhere.” To call a scheme “utopian” is to suggest that it cannot actually be implemented. Thomas More invented the term and applied it to a mythical community, then used his account of this community as a means of criticizing certain European social and political practices that he considered unreasonable.

More’s own life lends interest to the contents of his famous book, for More served Henry VIII, the strong-willed English king, in a number of important political capacities. In 1535, More died on the block for resistance to the monarch’s policies in a power struggle between the English nation and the Roman Papacy. In spite of his humanistic leanings, More stood firm in refusing to recognize Henry’s claim to the title that made him head of the Church in England. As an adviser to the monarch, More became a tragic figure caught between opposing institutional pressures that played a unique role in shaping modern English history.

More’s Utopia is made up of two books. Book 2 (which contains an elaborate description of the Utopians) was written first, in 1515, a year before the completion of book 1 (which discusses several general political questions, including whether philosophers ought to advise princes). The latter portion of Utopia introduces the primary figures in the work, who include More himself, presented as having heard the ensuing account of social affairs while serving his monarch on state business in Antwerp (Belgium); a gentleman named Peter Giles, who is said to have introduced More to the leading participant in the written work; and a stranger named Raphael Hythloday, a world traveler widely acquainted with political matters who shows impatience with several customs then little questioned in European social and political life. Hythloday is a spokesperson for what must have been More’s own critical opinions about contemporary practices.

Advising Princes

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 942

The early discussion centers on whether philosophers ought to advise rulers—a question provoked by Giles’s and More’s suggestion that Hythloday’s extensive knowledge could be put to such use. Hythloday shows little interest in attempting to advise rulers. At the same time, he argues that the social arrangements of the Utopians (whom he discovered somewhere below the equator) would serve well as a basis for “correcting the errors of our own cities and kingdoms.” He is nonetheless convinced that to serve a king in an advisory capacity would make him miserable. “Now I live as I will,” Hythloday argues—illustrating the tension existing between private and public demands on a person—”and I believe very few courtiers can say that.” Hythloday insists that princes do not want advice from philosophers, that what they seek is agreement with their fixed policies of waging constant, aggressive warfare. Princes ignore sound advice and refuse to tolerate any posture except that of absolute agreement among their counselors. “They are generally more set on acquiring new kingdoms rightly or wrongly, than on governing well those that they already have.” Hythloday illustrates his viewpoint by recounting an episode that had occurred at a dinner given by a famous Cardinal. At this affair, Hythloday became entangled in a discussion when another person present praised some judicial practices that Hythloday thought foolish.

What Hythloday advocates during the discussion resembles a reformist rather than a retributionist theory of punishment for wrongdoing. He also seeks a general theory that will explain why so many people (Englishmen, in this case) risk the death penalty by stealing. Hythloday wants to understand the causes of thieving. He presents a crude yet clear economic thesis, arguing that the land enclosures in sixteenth century England create economic conditions that increase the compulsion to steal. The existing practice of hanging culprits who steal deals only with the symptoms and not with the causes of that unfortunate practice. Unable to gain a fair hearing for their economic situation, the poor are finally driven from the land. “They would willingly work,” Hythloday insists, “but can find no one who will hire them.” Glaring social extremes tend to develop, such as abject poverty existing side by side with extreme luxury. Hythloday presents a bald and bold environmentalist theory about the origins of criminal activities. His views condemn the legal and judicial customs of the day. The economic situation inevitably produces the thieves whom the existing laws then require to be hanged. This policy is neither just nor rationally expedient.

Hythloday then proceeds to sketch a wiser policy respecting theft and its legal treatment. Citing the Roman practice of employing thieves to work quarries, he mentions the procedures of the mythical Polyerites (meaning “much nonsense”) who require apprehended thieves to make full restitution. Thieves convicted of their crimes must work at public services, under state supervision, thus producing some social benefit. They are dressed in a common uniform and distributed in different regions of the country to prevent possible formation of rebellious political groups. Each year some are pardoned. This picture of penal procedures suggests the practices of a number of twentieth century states as opposed to the generally cruel systems prevalent in More’s century.

Having heard Hythloday’s account, the Cardinal admits that such procedures might well be tried. By this admission he introduces a note of experimentalism into the discussion. The Cardinal concludes that if, on trying such means, the thieves were not reformed, one could then still see them hanged.

More is described as wanting to hear even more from the interesting stranger, Hythloday. He reminds Hythloday that the Greek philosopher Plato thought that political wisdom could never prevail until philosophers became kings or kings became philosophers. Hythloday replies to this argument by setting up imagined cases in which a philosopher attempts to advise an actually existing ruler—say, the French king, in one instance. Hythloday attempts to show that if he asserts that the king, as shepherd of his people, ought to care more for the welfare of the sheep than for himself (an obvious borrowing from Plato), he will be ignored by the royal council. His conclusion is that the philosopher should never give advice when he knows it will fall on deaf ears. Hythloday also refers to the practices of mythical peoples such as the Achorians (a word that means “no place”) and the Macarians (meaning “blessed”), the latter of whom permit their king to possess only a thousand pounds in his treasury at any time. The point of these cases is that Hythloday wants to convince the participants in the discussion that “there is no place for philosophy in the councils of princes.”

To this somewhat cynical position, More makes a significant counterargument. More admits that speculative philosophy is unhelpful to practical princes. However, he argues that there exists another kind of philosophy. This practically useful philosophy “is more urbane” and “takes its proper cue and fits itself to the drama being played, acting its part aptly and well.” Thus, More reveals himself as a believer in nonspeculative, prudential philosophizing able to adjust to changing circumstances. For this reason, he cautions Hythloday, “Don’t give up the ship in a storm, because you cannot control the winds.” The prudentially oriented philosopher must seek to guide policy formation in an indirect manner. Hythloday’s response includes the argument that the prudential philosopher must “rave along with them” (meaning the ruling council). He insists that even Christ’s teachings run counter to many existing customs, even in England. Even Plato, Hythloday reminds his listeners, advised outstanding individuals to refuse to meddle in politics.

Private Property

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 251

Hythloday returns to his economic thesis—that the chief cause of evil customs is the existence of private property. Only among the Utopians has he found a social system that makes virtue the primary goal of living. Other nations seeking to create sane institutional arrangements undermine their own efforts by maintaining private property and a money economy. Their laws hopelessly try to protect for the individual what, by the nature of private property, must always stand under threat. Hythloday advocates the total abolition of money and privately held property.

More objects to this view, although he shows interest in a fuller description of the Utopians while insisting that absolute equality of possessions means that many will cease working. People need the incentive of the hope of gain, according to More. From a policy enforcing equal possessions in cases when all people experience extreme want, only warfare and constant factionalism can ensue. People require authority over themselves based on some distinction in abilities and worth. To More’s objections, Giles adds his own view that other people are not better governed than the English. His reason for so thinking is that the abilities of English and European rulers are equal to those of other persons. European governmental practices also rest on long historical experience. Hythloday replies that the Utopians also possess a long history—that their peculiar success in managing their affairs results from their willingness to learn. His associates in the discussion ask Hythloday to provide more information about the Utopians.

Utopia

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1104

In book 2, three aspects of Utopian civilization receive consideration under a number of separate headings. Hythloday describes first the island where Utopia exists and the number, distribution, and geographical arrangements of its cities; second, the social and political institutions of Utopia; and third, the ideas and moral norms by which the Utopians live.

Each city in Utopia is divided in a manner as to require several magistrates. From the body of the magistrates, three representatives are chosen to meet in the capital city once a year. Individual cities contain households fixed in number and built on a planned model, thirty households requiring one magistrate in a given district. Agricultural pursuits aiming at economic self-sufficiency require existence of country households containing forty men and women each. These households receive their members on a rotational basis from the cities. Each Utopian must take a turn at farming and related forms of labor, thus spreading the burden of physical work; but individuals particularly fond of country life and work may remain longer than the otherwise stipulated two-year period. Something very much like scientific farming operates in Utopia.

A wall surrounds each city. Its inhabitants work only six hours each day (an astounding suggestion in More’s time). The remainder of a citizen’s time is devoted to private pursuits. These pursuits indicate that Utopia is a society composed of professorial humanists or transcendentalist moral philosophers who enjoy academic talk. The citizens are well read. They also attend a wide variety of public lectures. Hythloday claims the Utopians undertake these surprising intellectual pastimes on a voluntary basis. The six-hour day in Utopia produces no idlers or maladjusted persons. Apparently, though a Christian, More could picture a human society in which evil does not exist. Utopia fails to discuss the problems associated with possible misuses of leisure time.

Living in a balanced, well-planned society, the Utopians wear casual, common dress (indicating that More’s humanism reflects also some puritanical dislike of color and variety). Gambling, drinking, and related activities do not occur. Good teaching leads Utopians to ignore the usual allure of gold and precious stones. Gold is used for children’s ornamentation and, in the adult world, for the making of chamber pots. The Utopians thus learn that gold has no intrinsic worth. Indeed, as Raphael points out, most of the genuinely valuable elements in nature, including air and water, exist in plentiful quantities. In Utopia, marriages are also regulated. Children and parents dine in common halls (suggesting some of the practices of organized camp life). The Utopians live moderately, each doing his share of work—including cooperative building and repair of roads.

Social habits in Utopia remind one of aspects of Plato’s ideal state, which also emphasized communal domestic life. The general picture reveals a society that trains people so as to minimize cupidity, channeling strenuous energies to productive community ends. However, each Utopian retains a large share of time for private pursuits. More’s ideal society combines a moderate Puritanism with a humanistic stress on learning and moral development. Nowhere in More’s Utopia is there a discussion concerning the realism or lack of realism of the humanistic social image presented.

More then considers the Utopians’ moral philosophy, their marriage customs, the unique love of learning displayed by the citizens, their bondmen (who seem to do a large amount of bothersome menial labor), care of the sick, legal procedures and punishments, warfare, foreign relations, and religion. The Utopians seek knowledge without requiring irate schoolmasters or crass materialistic inducements. They are an admirably tolerant people, as consideration of a few of their beliefs will indicate.

Happiness (defined as pleasure in accordance with virtue) stands as the Utopian moral ideal. This shows the influence of Epicurean and Aristotelian ethical notions on More’s humanism. In fact, the Utopians possess books given to them by Hythloday on a return voyage he made to their island—philosophical works by Plato and Aristotle; literary productions by Aristophanes, Homer, Sophocles, and Euripides; historical narratives by Herodotus and Thucydides. The Utopians are a rather philosophical people able to make fairly sophisticated ethical judgments based on reason. As More describes them, the Utopians “discriminate several kinds of true pleasure, some belonging to the mind, others to the body. Those of the mind are knowledge and the delight which comes from contemplation of the truth; also the pleasant recollection of a well-spent life and the assured hope of future well-being.”

Bodily pleasures are classified in accordance with the way they produce some immediate sense effect or turn the senses inward (as in the case of the enjoyment produced by hearing music). The Utopians debate aesthetic issues and seek to find delight in “sound, sight and smell.” They guard and nourish the mental and physical capacities.

Utopia does enforce some rigid sexual rules. Marriage occurs only when a man reaches twenty-two years and a woman, eighteen. Premarital sexual experience leads to severe punishment. Indeed, in the Utopian scheme, those who are caught in illicit affairs forfeit the right to marry for a lifetime unless pardoned by a prince. A few divorces are permitted, but only on the authorization of the senate.

More’s account of the religious beliefs of the Utopians provides an interesting instance of tolerance. Different religious systems exist in Utopia. Dogmatic fights over doctrines and creeds are outlawed. Respect for views other than one’s own prevails and is defended by the laws. Priests must be elected and are kept relatively few in number. All Utopians must accept belief in an afterlife as well as the view that God punishes in accordance with one’s conduct in this life. No one may challenge these beliefs in public. The common element shared by all religions in Utopia affirms a providential order that reasoning about nature can discover. Some priests are celibate while others marry. The different religious worshipers call the object of their devotions Mithra. They pray for guidance in moral endeavors and ask for an easy death. Reason rather than revelation seems adequate to determine religious beliefs and practices.

Hythloday (as More’s spokesperson) ends his account of Utopia with a criticism of humanity’s essential weakness: pride. Only human pride keeps the world from adopting the sensible laws and customs of the Utopians. Reason shows that class distinctions, property rights, and human anxiety exist only in societies that fail to curb pride. More writes that Hythloday’s picture of society fails fully to satisfy him, yet he concludes: “I must confess there are many things in the Utopian Commonwealth that I wish rather than expect to see followed among our citizens.”

Bibliography

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 444

Additional Reading

Ackroyd, Peter. The Life of Thomas More. London: Chatto and Windus, 1998. A helpful biographical study of Sir Thomas More’s life and times, which explores the ideas he developed and the difficult personal decisions that he faced.

Baker-Smith, Dominic. More’s “Utopia.” New York: HarperCollins, 1991. A complete study of Utopia that balances analysis of its contents as a literary work and as a treatise on political theory. Includes information about the history of Utopia’s composition, the Renaissance humanism that permeates More’s thought, and the sources that influenced its ideas and literary style.

Fox, Alistair. Thomas More: History and Providence. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983. This intellectual biography details the evolution of More’s thought, delving deep into his views about God and humanity.

Fox, Alistair. Utopia: An Elusive Vision. New York: Twayne, 1993. A veteran More scholar offers an interpretation of More’s aims in the writing and vision of his famous Utopia.

Guy, John. Thomas More. London: Arnold, 2000. A study of the life and thought of the author of Utopia.

Hexter, J. H. More’s “Utopia”: The Biography of an Idea. New York: Harper & Row, 1965. Examines Utopia for evidence of its stages of composition. This sequence forms the basis for analyzing More’s intentions in writing Utopia and the ideas he wanted to express in his work.

Johnson, Robbin S. More’s “Utopia”: Ideal and Illusion. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1969. An essay interpreting Utopia based on an honors thesis by a Yale undergraduate. Presents More’s Utopia as a continuing discourse on the balance between ideal and reality in society and government.

Marius, Richard. Thomas More. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984. A well-crafted biography that analyzes a man torn between the medieval world of faith and the modern world of reason and who ultimately chose the spirit over the flesh.

Martz, Louis L. Thomas More: The Search for the Inner Man. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1990. An effort to interpret the complexities of More’s life, which involved politics, philosophy, and religion.

Monti, James. The King’s Good Servant but God’s First: The Life and Writing of Saint Thomas More. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997. A biographical study that explores the clash of politics and religion in More’s life.

Olin, John C., ed. Interpreting Thomas More’s “Utopia.” New York: Fordham University Press, 1989. Helpful essays by important More scholars explore and assess the meaning and significance of More’s classic on the ideal human society.

Reynolds, E. E. Thomas More and Erasmus. New York: Fordham University Press, 1965. A careful study of the relationship between two dynamic thinkers who influenced the development of European humanism.

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-hour free trial
Previous

Critical Essays

Next

Quotes