Study Guide

Utopia Exploration

By Thomas More

Exploration

The most invincible King of England, Henry the Eighth...had recently some differences of no slight import with Charles, the most serene Prince of Castile, and sent me into Flanders as his spokesman to discuss and settle them. (1.8)

Not the most riveting opening lines in literary history, but Utopia's opening lines do place the theme of exploration and travel—of all kinds—front and center.

Being marooned in this way was altogether agreeable to [Hythloday], as he was more eager to pursue his travels than afraid of death. He would often say "The man who has no grave is covered by the sky" and "The road to heaven is equally short from all places." (1.10)

People took exploration very seriously in the 16th century. Back in the day, travel really was a life or death matter.

But of all the alternatives, I prefer the method [of punishment] I observed in my Persian travels among the people commonly called the Polylerites. (1.23)

Hythloday is using himself as an example of how exposure to different cultures is another kind of education.

Anyone who wants to visit friends in another city [in Utopia], or simply to see the place itself, can easily obtain permissions from his syphogrant and tranibor (2.60)

You need permission to travel in Utopia? That's not so adventurous. How does Hythloday reconcile how much he's learned from free travel with this Utopian policy?

Wherever [Utopians] go [in Utopia], though they take nothing with them, they never lack for anything because they are at home everywhere. If they stay more than a day in one place, each man practices his trade there, and is kindly received by the local artisan (2.60)

While the idea of being always at home is comforting, it takes some of the adventure out of traveling. Are Utopians anti-adventure? Are the Europeans supposed to emulate that?

Before leaving on the fourth voyage, I placed on board, instead of merchandise, a good-sized packet of books; for I had resolved not to return at all rather than come home soon (2.78)

A man after Shmoop's own heart.

I have a feeling they picked up Greek more easily because it was somewhat related to their own tongue. Though their language resembles Persian in most respects, I suspect them of deriving from Greece because, in the names of cities and in official titles, they retain quite a few vestiges of the Greek tongue. (2.78)

More is having a little fun with us here. Not only is he making a joke about all those Greek word-games we keep seeing, he's also inserting Utopia into the cultural history of a European world. Where are we again? Is Utopia similar to Europe, or really different?

Any sightseer coming to [Utopia] who has some special intellectual gift, or who has travelled widely and seen many countries, is sure of a warm welcome, for they love to hear what is happening throughout the world (2.79)

Does this make the Utopians stationary explorers? Is that even possible?

But in that New World [the area including Utopia], which is distanced from ours not so much by geography as by customs and manners, nobody trusts treaties (2.86)

Hythloday is doing something nifty here with the image of exploration. He's shifting it from being something purely literal to something metaphorical as well. The "newness" isn't so much a quality of physical discovery but of intellectual discovery.

Though there are various religions in Utopia, as I've said, all of them, even the most diverse, agree in the main point, which is worship of the divine nature; they are like travelers going to a single destination by different roads (2.104)

Religion as exploration. Can you suss out the metaphor here?