Survey of English Literature I
January 4, 2010
More’s Utopia as a Guideline for Renaissance Clergy
More’s Utopia represents one of the responses to the discovery of the New World. Throughout a simple composition, More introduces readers with idealistic society. Utopia, as a fiction, “does not have much to offer in terms of dramatic events or actions, except the brief travel of More the dratmtis persona to meet the reporter Hythlodaeus and that of Hythlodaeus to the land of king Utopus”(Sawada, par. 5).
However, what matters is the place and its society. The geography of Utopia, slaves, customs and treasure are some of plenty of other topics that More deals with in Utopia. Very interesting and maybe the most discussable topics are those about religions. The view on religion in Utopia is completely different from the sixteenth century one. Utopians are more tolerant on that matter. Furthermore, through Utopia More is trying to show importance of Christian humanism and educated priests. He describes Utopian ethic as hedonistic, and fully dedicated for the good of society.
At first, when More talks about religions it is inevitable to notice that Utopians are very religiously tolerant society, and the only thing that is not tolerated is atheism, which is considered to be immoral and unacceptable. “Such toleration (defended not only in Utopia but in some of More’s later writings) would apparently place More years (if not centuries) ahead of his time” (Peters par.16).
HUMAN NATURE: ARE PEOPLE GOOD OR BAD? From the time when humanity was able to believe in it, Utopia has existed as a mere word, thought or principle. It is a place that is hoped for, and is also a society that was and is apparently deemed to be possible, or is it? The Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines it as "an imaginary and indefinitely remote place of ideal perfection in laws, government and ...
All Utopians worship and believe in a single god, and only what differ each from another is its nature. “Some worship as a god the sun, others the moon, still others one of the planets” (More 447).
According to More, they all have an opportunity and freedom to choose what they will believe in. On the other hand, it “seems completely out of character with Catholic “orthodoxy” as then understood – and for that matter, from More’s own later practice. It cannot, however, be brushed under the carpet by suggesting that this is not More’s thought. Rather, it stamps More very firmly as a Christian Humanist rather than as a Mediaevalist” (Peters par.16).
Secondly, the priests in Utopia are “of extraordinary holiness, and are therefore rare among corrupted men” (Nelson).
They are those kinds of people who „reject all the pleasures of this life as harmful, and look forward only to the joys of the life to come, which they hope to merit by hard labor and all-night vigils“(More 450).
They are in a way prefect and totally contrary to the priests in the sixteenth century. “In Utopia, More expresses his firm faith in the potential reforms that could better all of Europe if only men embraced humanist education, service for one another, and the philosophia Christi” (Nelson par.3).
He also “wrote Utopia when it was not yet so dangerous to criticize the faults of the clergy and the Church hierarchy, and when criticism did not yet mean absolute schism” (Nelson par.3).
To put it differently, Utopians believe that not many people are moral or educated enough to become priests, and so there are not many of them in Utopia. On the contrary, the European society is full of corruption, immorality and poorly educated priests.
In the final analysis this paragraph will examine Utopian ethic that More describes as hedonistic. Utopians think that their dedication to the offices of charity “will increase their chances of happiness after death; and so they are always busy” (More 450).
They are unconditionally devoted to one another, and they do not expect any credit for their deeds. Criticizing others and boasting of their own good deeds is socially unacceptable. It is unusual for that time to talk or write about hedonism and religion because they are two totally opposite worlds. More, through Raphael Hythloday says “that the Utopians believe that human beings “are drawn by virtue itself” to the view that happiness consists in pleasure“(Bartlett par.11).
Positives and Negatives of the Utopian Society Sir Thomas More wrote a novel named Utopia about a country that existed only in his mind. More used the story to explore his views and feelings about politics and government. People still believe that the story holds truths that are relevant today even though More wrote Utopia during the Renaissance. Utopia contains information about More's vision of ...
Once again More is placed years ahead of his time.
All things considered, significance of the island Utopia and its people is metaphorically used in More’s Utopia. Through fiction he expresses aspiration for religiously tolerant society, but also criticizes not only Church, but the whole present situation. Utopia offers different types of religions, complete tolerance, and educated priests. On the contrary, sixteenth century society is opposite from all good values of Utopian people. Unlike other Renaissance writers, More fearlessly comes down on Roman Catholic Church, and criticises their politics. He openly suggests what priests should do, and how to behave morally, and he is not afraid of their reaction. To conclude, even though there is never going to be such an idealistic society as Utopia, it must be noticed that it represents a small, but significant step for further development of religion.
Bartlett, Gabriel. Hedonism in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia. 20. April 2006. 4. Januray
More, Thomas. “Utopia.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. Vol. 1.
Edited by M. H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. New York, London: W.W.
Nelson, Julia. Sir Thomas More, Christian Humanism and Utopia. 4. January 2010
Peters, Robert. Utopia and More’s Orthodoxy. 4. January 2010
Sawada, Paul Akio. Toward the Definition of Utopia. 4. January 2010
Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature. Annina Jokinen. 9 October 1997.
4 January 2010