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Introduction Utopian Literature Dystopian Literature Utopian Communities



Sir Thomas More. Libellus vere aureus nec Minvs Salvtaris Qvam Festiuus de optimo reip. statu, de[?]; noua Insula Vtopia.... Louvain: Theodoricus Martinus Alustensis 1516.





SIR THOMAS MORE (1478-1535)

NOPLACIA (Utopia) was once my name,
That is, a place where no one goes.
Plato’s Republic now I claim
To match, or beat at its own game;
For that was just a myth in prose,
But what he wrote of, I became,
Of men, wealth, laws a solid frame,
A place where every wise man goes;
GOPLACIA (Eutopia) is now my name.

The English humanist and Lord Chancellor, Thomas More, both coined the word and framed the concept of “utopia” in Utopia (1516). “A fruitful, pleasant and witty work, of the best state of a public weal, and of the new isle, called Utopia,” as it was described in the first English translation of the work in 1547, provided humanity with a name for its yearning for perfection. The word itself is that favorite device of More, a pun, on the Greek ou topos (no place) and eu topos (good place).

The book framed More’s social commentary in a fictionalized conversation with Raphael Hythloday, an explorer to the New World who returns and relates his adventures in Utopia to More.

Influenced by Plato’s Republic, More realized the futility of trying to create an ideal society from existing structures; it was necessary to abolish all historical traditions and social conventions and start with a clean canvas. However, More, in addition to establishing the structure of a perfect communistic society, also portrayed the daily lives of his Utopians and their dedication to their true goal, “pleasure as their end and happiness.”