Thomas More 'Utopia'

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THE UNIVERSITRY OF LATVIA Faculty of Foreign Languages Thomas More "Utopia"

Open University

5 course

Contents Introduction “Utopia”The Second BookConclusionBibliographyIntroduction

The "dark" Middle Ages were followed by a time known in art and literature as the Renaissance. The word "renaissance" means "rebirth" in French and was used to denote a phase in the cultural development of Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries.

Thomas More, the first English humanist of the Renaissance, was born in London in 1478. Thomas More wrote in English and in Latin. The humanists of al1 European countries communicated in the Latin language, and their best works were written in Latin.

His style is simple, colloquial end has an unaffected ease. The work by which he is best remembered today is "Utopia" which was written in Latin in the year 1516. It has now been translated into all European languages.

"Utopia" (which in Greek means "nowhere") is the name of a non-existent island. This work is divided into two books.

In the first, the author gives a profound and truthful picture of the people's sufferings and points out the socia1 evils existing, in England at the time. In the second book more presents his ideal of what the future society should be like.

“The word "utopia" has become a byword and is used in Modern English to denote an unattainable ideal, usually in social and political matters. But the writer H.G. Wells, who wrote an introduction to the latest edition, said that the use of the word "utopia" was far from More's essentia1 quality, whose mind abounded in sound, practical ideas. The book is in reality a very unimaginative work.” (Harry Levin, “The Myth of the Golden Age in the Renaissance.” 1969.)Thomas More's "Utopia" was the first literary work in which the ideas of Communism appeared. It was highly esteemed by all the humanists of Europe in More's time and again grew very popular with the socialists of the 19th century. After More, a tendency began in literature to write fantastic novels on social reforms, and many such works appeared in various countries.

“Utopia”

The historical Thomas More, the author of Utopia, was an extraordinarily complicated man who tied up all the threads of his life in his heroic death. The real man is to me much more interesting than the plastic creation adored by his most fervent admirers. The Utopia is the sort of complicated book that we should expect from so complicated a man.

It is heavy with irony. Irony is the recognition of the distance between what we say and what we mean. But then irony was the experience of life in the Sixteenth Century - reason enough for Shakespeare to make it perhaps his most important trope while the century was drawing to a close. Everywhere in church, government, society, and even scholarship profession and practice stood separated by an abyss.

In Utopia three characters converse and reports of other conversations enter the story. Thomas More appears as himself. Raphael Hythlodaeus or Raphael Nonsenso, as Paul Turner calls him in his splendid translation is the fictional traveler to exotic worlds. More's young friend of Antwerp Peter Gillis adds an occasional word.

Yet the Thomas More of Utopia is a character in a fiction. He cannot be completely identified with Thomas More the writer who wrote all the lines. Raphael Hythlodaeus's name means something like "Angel" or "messenger of Nonsense." He has traveled to the commonwealth of Utopia with Amerigo Vespucci, seemingly the first voyager to realize that the world discovered by Columbus was indeed a new world and not an appendage of India or China.

Raphael has not only been to Utopia; he has journeyed to other strange places, and found almost all of them better than Europe. He is bursting with the enthusiasm of his superior experiences.

But how seriously are we to take him? The question has been much debated. The Thomas More in the story objects cautiously and politely to Raphael's enthusiasms.

Anyway, the main point about renaissance dialogues and declamations such as Utopia is that their meaning depends on how we hear them. How we hear them depends on what we bring to them.

“More was one of the most thorough and consistent thinkers in the Sixteenth Century. He argued everything like the splendid lawyer he was. I believe that when we read Utopia dialectically, through his other works, we may penetrate to some degree the ironic screen that he has thrown over the work. Even so, complete certainty about his meaning sometimes eludes us.” (Harry Levin, The Myth of the Golden Age in the Renaissance, New York, Oxford University Press, 1969.)