Comparing Virtue and Vice in Utopia, The Bible, and Othello
The definition of virtue varies between cultures and societies. Utopian ideas of virtue do not necessarily agree with Biblical or Elizabethan England views, however, More’s "Utopia," the Biblical accounts in Genesis of Joseph and Jacob, and Shakespeare’s "Othello" all present the concept of virtue prevailing over vice. Although at times vice may appear to triumph over virtue, ultimately poetry presents virtue as superior based on the differing definitions of virtue. The punishment of vice and advocacy of virtue is a popular theme of literature and the reason why Sir Philip Sidney correctly asserts that poetry encourages virtue and condemns vice as repulsive.
More’s "Utopia" advocates the pursuit of virtue, however, virtue is defined as a type of hedonism. Utopians follow a unique definition of virtue, which advocates a life of pleasure and the pursuit of happiness. Virtue is considered living the way people are designed to live, or according to nature. Utopians believe this translates as living a life based on achieving pleasure. The Utopian definition of pleasure may include helping other people, humanitarian views which are still advocated in the 21st century, but definitely does not include working hard for painful "virtue" which they consider not true virtue at all if you must deprive yourself and suffer misery. A virtuous life is encouraged by the punishment of crime, or vice. Utopians reward virtue, and punish those who attempt crime. Strict slavery is the punishment for violating wedding vows, and the other punishments are determined based on the extent of the crime. More’s fictional world of Utopia contrasts virtue and vice in society and upholds virtue as desirable and vice as punishable.
The Biblical narratives in Genesis present the conflict between virtue and vice, and the victory of virtue over vice through the lives of Joseph and his father Jacob. The Biblical views of virtue differ from both Utopian hedonism, and 21st century individualism. Joseph is a man who rises to power in Egypt in the house of Potipher. He succeeds despite the malicious intent of his brothers who become jealous because his father loves him the most, and who sell him into slavery. The story of Joseph shows the defeat of evil vices such as jealousy, hate and anger. The vices are defeated and Joseph gains power in Egypt. He then later assists his brothers and family when they are in a time of need during a famine, and shows his forgiveness and love of them. Virtuous love and family loyalty reigns, and the evil jealousy and hatred are vanquished. The life of Jacob, Joseph’s father, also shows the success of virtue. In this instance,...