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MonkeyNotes-Utopia by Sir Thomas More
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Notes

In the beginning of their discussion, a serious debate ensues. After Hythloday's preliminary adventures are briefly described and the knowledge of where he has been and what he has learned is ascertained, both More and Gilles enter into an argument about what Hythloday's responsibilities are due to the knowledge he has of so many cultures. These men are not interested in listening to the usual marvels of mariner's tales because these are very common. Instead, More and his companion are more interested in hearing about good governance. This convinces the reader that this may be interesting.

To Giles and More, Hythloday should use his knowledge as a service and aid to the king. They wonder why he is not part of a king's counsel. To Hythloday, service to a king is equivalent to bondage. He seeks no honor or wealth for himself and wishes to continue with his free unencumbered life. This statement reveals Hythloday's character. He cherishes his freedom and considers royal service slavery. He desires no money or honors for himself.


Hythloday's statement gives More a chance to state a few ideas about the role of the monarchy. The king or ruler is the fountainhead from which both good and bad spring. The king is of paramount importance and should have good councilors who will guide him to the path of virtue. Nothing is more important than that. More, the courtier, here shows that to him royal privilege is totally tied to royal responsibility. This is a very progressive doctrine in the days of absolute monarchy. All the contemporary European kings were inclined to do only what they wanted. This was particularly true of Henry VIII and Francis I of France who tended to be despots. More is disturbed about the state of affairs and deftly introduces his opinions into his narrative.

The three men continue debating the point for some time. Each man is adamant in his own way. More insists on his firm belief that it is the duty of a learned man to advise his king -- very much like he himself did with his monarch and was to continue to do later. By not doing so, a learned man is failing in his moral responsibility. This shows that More took the role of councilor very seriously.

Yet Hythloday proffers a good point to his reasons for refusing to take on such a role. He thinks that his advice would not be heeded because he would not be believed or appreciated. He has a negative view of the monarchy while More and Giles represent all that is good about the monarchy. This sets up the critique of the government and social system in Europe that Hythloday will embark on in the rest of Book I, especially the many judicial and social abuses occurring in England.

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