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One of the men whom Raphael Hythloday speaks with at Cardinal Morton’s table, the lawyer praises the severity of English justice: he thinks it a good sign that so many thieves in England are hanged and that so few escape hanging. After Hythloday thoroughly critiques his position, the lawyer attempts to respond in pompous, verbose terms, but the Cardinal worthily silences him. Later, the lawyer just dismisses Hythloday’s argument out of hand—and ironically everyone present agrees with him, except for the Cardinal himself. The lawyer represents how pride and prejudice make us deaf to reason and wisdom.

A Lawyer Quotes in Utopia

The Utopia quotes below are all either spoken by A Lawyer or refer to A Lawyer. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Travel, Discovery, and Place Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Oxford University Press edition of Utopia published in 2009.
Book 1 Quotes

Provision should have been made [in England], so that no man should be driven to this extreme necessity, first to steal and then to die.

Related Characters: Raphael Hythloday (speaker), A Lawyer
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Hythloday recalls a conversation he had with a cunning lawyer about justice. Their conversation centers on the example of the thief, who, in Europe, is hanged for his crimes. Hythloday argues that this punishment is extreme and inappropriate for the crime. Indeed, Hylthloday thinks that the crime of stealing is motivated by "extreme necessity" as opposed to a base desire to do bad things. As such, the thief who steals to keep themselves or their family alive is more a victim than a criminal - their society has failed them by leaving them unable to earn a living, and then it fails them twice over when it executes them for acting on their only available chance at survival. 

This scene can be read as a sort of “parable” in which the various characters exemplify what Hythloday sees as the wrongs of European society. The lawyer and Hythloday have two conflicting ideas of justice. The lawyer thinks that justice is the law being effectively enforced, while Hythloday thinks that justice is the organization of a society such that people don’t have any need to break the law in the first place. The lawyer’s view, in contrast to Hythloday’s, seems merciless, inhumane, and ultimately ineffective.


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A Lawyer Character Timeline in Utopia

The timeline below shows where the character A Lawyer appears in Utopia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1
Bad Governance, Pride, and Idleness Theme Icon
Ideals and Practicality Theme Icon
One day, while sitting at Cardinal Morton’s table, Hythloday fell into discussion with a cunning lawyer concerning English law. The lawyer praises the rigorous justice executed upon felons and especially thieves... (full context)
Bad Governance, Pride, and Idleness Theme Icon
The lawyer responds that England should cherish these pampered, out-of-work serving men, for they are stouter and... (full context)
Bad Governance, Pride, and Idleness Theme Icon
The Ambiguities of Utopia Theme Icon
The lawyer tediously claims he will answer Hythloday, promising to rehearse each of his points in order... (full context)
Travel, Discovery, and Place Theme Icon
Bad Governance, Pride, and Idleness Theme Icon
Ideals and Practicality Theme Icon
...can be so organized that even bad people can’t help but to do good. The lawyer at once counters that, were England to do as the Polylerites do, the nation would... (full context)