Reform in Thomas More’s Utopia Essay

In Thomas More’s Utopia, Raphael Hythloday proposes reform to capital punishment such that capital punishment is for murder but not theft. The author critiques the proposal through the use of other characters symbolic of distinct perspectives to debate against his reform. Thomas More’s Utopia presents a reform through Raphael Hythloday, theft will not be given the death penalty, to the English judicial system. Hythloday mentions his proposal to a lawyer, the character More, Peter Giles, and Cardinal Morton. The main purpose of these characters is to criticize from certain perspectives against his idea. However, there is an opposite effect in which the criticism creates reinforcement for Raphael’s reform.

To begin with, Thomas More’s Utopia was published in 1516 before the reformation began but still during the renaissance. The renaissance was the rebirth of the classics. Part of this came the renewal of rhetoric and Humanism, a way of thought that “placed great emphasis on the dignity of man and upon the expanded possibilities of human life in this world” (Brooklyn College).The importance being that Thomas More was a humanist and the character that portrays him is exceptionally skilled in rhetoric.

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The first discussion chronologically to occur is the debate Raphael has with the lawyer. The lawyer is meant to represent the perspective of rationality. The lawyer makes critical reasons against Raphael’s idea witch Raphael is able to dismiss. First is the lawyer says that thievery should not be a necessity because the thief can always learn a craft to earn his livelihood: “there are many handicrafts, and there is husbandry, by which they may make a shift to live unless they have a greater mind to follow ill courses”. Basically, the l…

… Raphael could be providing an honest reform to how justice is served or can be a satirical solution to only show the use of rhetoric. Truly there is strong use of rhetoric by the author in supporting the idea in stopping the killing of those convicted of stealing for a lesser punishment like forced labor with a chance at freedom again.

Works Cited

Logan, George M., and Robert M. Adams, eds. Utopia. New York: Cambridge, 2003. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.

Logan, George. Utopia and Deliberative Rhetoric. N.p.: thomasmoresstudies, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

Melani, Lilia. Renaissance. Brooklyn: Brooklyn College, 2009. N. pag. Brooklyn College. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

Wegemer, Gerard. “The Rhetoric of Opposition in Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’: Giving Form to Competing Philosophies.” Philosophy & Rhetoric. Volume 23, Issue 4 (1990): 286-300. Penn State University Press.


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