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MonkeyNotes-Utopia by Sir Thomas More
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OVERALL ANALYSES

CHARACTERS

Raphael Hythloday

Raphael Hythloday is the main character in the book although he acts more like a figure or device in a rhetorical work and cannot be considered a true character as in a play or a novel. He is static and does not change. His task is to tell his audience about Utopia as the perfect state.

For this purpose, Hythloday is well suited. He is a mariner, sunburned and bearded with a cloak cast carelessly over his shoulders. He is a Renaissance voyager, well learned and observant and not a mere adventurer. He is well read, and a scholar in Greek who prefers Plato to Aristotle. A philanthropist, who had given away his patrimony to his family, he had accompanied Amerigo Vespucci in his voyages. In the last voyage, he, along with a few friends, had broken away from the main party, and in this course of his adventures, he discovered Utopia. In a sense, Hythloday is the representative Renaissance.

More's hero lends truth to the fiction. Physically, he is the archetypal mariner, whom one could have come across in Bristol or Cadiz or Antwerp. But this mariner has been to Utopia. Hythloday's account is free from instruction and preaching that spoil so many Utopian tales. The discovery of perfection has left him angry and perplexed that places like this do not exist in Europe. He is tantalized by the knowledge of remedies that could correct the problems of his society. His diatribe against pride at the end of the book as "the mother of all mischief" is the voice of a disillusioned man. But despite his comic earnestness, Hythloday is almost a tragic figure in his frustration. He has seen perfection exist, yet he cannot convince the world to accept his convictions and knowledge.

How much of the author does Hythloday represent? Hythloday and More are two fundamental sides to the same question. Sometimes Hythloday speaks for More when he deplores and condemns the greed of men who enrich themselves while depriving others of the basic amenities. Yet other times what he says seems to contradict More's own beliefs, especially about religion.


Thomas More

More is the successful diplomat, the envoy of Henry VIII, who comes to the Netherlands on business and is asked by Peter Giles, a rising young attorney of Antwerp, to meet a man he thinks he will enjoy-Raphael Hythloday. Together, these two men listen to Hythloday and argue with him of the role that men such as he can play in the court.

More and Giles are important technically because they convert Hythloday's talk into a dialogue. More, or the persona he dons in the book, is an Englishman who is a representative both of what his country is and what it should be. In the first role he stands steadfastly for English values. Yet he also thinks that changes could be made to improve the lives of a good portion of the society as well as make government and religion less corrupt.

Peter Giles

His function is primarily to pose the questions in the dialogue and to state superficial arguments that the other two cannot. Giles' main function is to begin conversations as he does : "surely Master Raphael... I wonder greatly why you get not into some kings court "(p.21). He is a decent man of the world who considers Europeans civilization quite impressive.

In real life, Peter Giles, the town clerk of Antwerp, is typical of the Humanist Renaissance. He was intimate with both More and Erasmus and in the book plays host to Hythloday and More. A learned, cultivated, liberal man, he emphasizes the importance of these qualities in More's idea of perfection.

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