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MonkeyNotes-Utopia by Sir Thomas More
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Of the Cities and Namely of Amaurot

All the cities are alike in Utopia except for topographical variations. Amaurot, the capital, is only the first among others. It is longer than it is broad and the Anyder River runs through it. The river enters the ocean some sixty miles from the city. A finely built stone bridge goes over the river. It is high enough to let tall ships sail under it. A smaller river is well dammed, ensuring a constant supply of fresh water to the city.

A thick wall with turrets and bulwarks runs around the city. A dry moat filled with briars is on three sides and the river itself is on the fourth. The roads are broad, the houses are large and roomy and joined together. Each house has two doors -- one in the front and one in the back, and they are never bolted. Their gardens are diligently tended and delightful to look at. The Utopia value their gardens very highly. The walls of the houses are made of flint, plaster or brick on the outside and timber on the inside. The roofs are covered with a plaster that can withstand the violence of the weather better than any other matter. The windows have either glass panes or fine linen cloth dipped in oil or amber. This city, is in fact, the model on which the other cities are built.


Notes

A finely detailed picture of Utopian cities, especially its capital, is given in this chapter. The description of Amaurot, and by extension, other cities, provides more evidence of Hythloday's actual stay. He recounts particulars that can only come from seeing this place such as the lay of the cities, what the houses are made of, and the slope of the land. Like London, Amaurot is located on the banks of a large river many miles from the sea. Yet this is where the comparison ends. In Sir Thomas' time, London was filthy and overcrowded. The cities of England had sprung up haphazardly and there was very little town planning. The streets of London were dirty, garbage strewn and unhygienic. The houses were narrow and ill ventilated. These conditions led to an epidemic of bubonic plague a century later. In contrast, the concise planning that went into Amaurot reveals a conscientious effort to provide the citizens of Utopia with decent living conditions. The uniformity of the housing may disturb some readers as being boring yet there is a variety of building materials and in a country that espouses equality, a certain uniformity is needed.

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