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MonkeyNotes-Utopia by Sir Thomas More
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The Debate

As Hythloday begins his story, he tells his audience how he and his companions traveled around for some time occasionally meeting with some hostility but mostly making friends with the local people. Of these rather commonplace events, Hythloday is not willing to talk and More is not anxious to listen because any mariner's tale is replete with them. More and his companions want to hear about nations ruled by good and wholesome laws because these are very rare. Hythloday assures them he will talk about Utopia, their manners, customs, laws and ordinances.

Before starting his description of the Utopia commonwealth, Hythloday speaks knowledgeably about good and bad laws both in the Old and New World and cites many examples that he has observed. Struck by the mariner's knowledge, Giles interrupts the conversation and wonders why Hythloday is not in the service of some king. Any king would surely value the advice of such a learned and outspoken man. And, in such a service, Hythloday would be of immense help to his family. Hythloday replies that as he has distributed his patrimony among them, he owes his family nothing, and he certainly would not dream of putting himself in bondage to any king.


Giles says that he did not mean bondage but service. Hythloday could advise the king and make himself wealthy in the bargain. Everybody would benefit from this arrangement -- the king by Hythloday's excellent advice, his people because of Hythloday's good sense and Hythloday could become very wealthy. Hythloday replies that he does not want to become wealthy and that, in a king's service, his freedom would be curtailed severely.

More joins the conversation. He says that he admires Hythloday for his contempt of worldly goods, but he feels that Hythloday is being very selfish in not using his diligence in the service of the public well being. Any ruler will benefit from his honest opinion and virtuous persuasions and it is more or less Hythloday's duty to offer his services. Once more, Hythloday rejects this reasoning. He does not want to exchange his independence for anything. Regarding advice, no king or his councilors would be willing to listen and act on the advice he has to give. All kings are greatly interested in war-like matters and feats of chivalry. They are more interested in conquering new territories than in ruling benevolently over what they have. All king's councilors are mean-spirited and selfish men who think their own advice is the best. These men would prevent any other man from bending the king's ear.

This conversation on ethics and good governance among the three men is called "the dialogue of council."

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