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Is More's Utopia A Product Of Its Time?

2078 words - 8 pages

Sir Thomas More in 1516 first conceived utopia while he served as an ambassador For England on a party expedition to Flanders. In England his vocation was law and he held the position of Under-Sheriff his knowledge in this area is an obvious influence in Utopian society. Utopia is a chronicle of More's fictitious meeting with Raphael Hythlodaeus a traveller who has lived in Island, republic society of Utopia for five years. Almost five hundred years after its writing utopia is still the subject of controversy; it has been claimed by certain political and religious followings to be specific to their ideals and beliefs. Notably both communists and Catholics of the last few centuries have reasoned Utopia to be a statement of their beliefs. This is evidence of how this 500 year old text has inspired the literate world with its inspired and fully realised criticism of not only More's society under the rule of Henry VIII but of every civilised society known to man. Communists have held the consistently topical and idealistic references held within the description of Utopia, and Utopias flourishing society as testimony to the ideals of the Marxist manifesto. Catholics have long maintained that More's Utopia was a direct result of his catholic faith and the belief of a perfect humanitarian world. There is no doubt that Utopia holds powerful insights into the inner failings of society and the prospect they all have to be totally efficient and stable with every person living in equality.

More was a man of conviction and unwavering religious beliefs, unlike many clergymen of the time More was willing to criticise and realise the flaws that have manifested themselves In the church's Politics and their habit of deliberately misinterpreting the text of the bible for their own gain.

To understand Mores own intended meaning for Utopia we have to understand what he thought about his own role in society and in particular his views on the established laws and state hierarchies. At the time of Utopia's writing England's Monarchy was in a tenuous situation as Henry VIII was growing frustrated with the lack of male heirs borne to him by Catherine of Aragon. More was a respected and important figure in Henrys court and as such he knew the consequences of defying Henry's will.

As a figure of public notoriety and authority he was constantly aware of the corruptible nature of other officials. His morals can be seen as a heavy influence in utopia and he often talks about the nature of Utopians and their lack of pride, vanity and greed. "Pride like a hellish serpent gliding through human hearts-or, shall we say, like a sucking fish that clings to the ship of state? It is always dragging us back, and obstructing our progress towards a better way of life" . This statement appears from the last pages of Utopia indicating its significance in the way More viewed his society. The Ship of state could be construed as a direct reference to the king and courtiers...

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