Born in 1478, the son of a prominent lawyer, Thomas More became one of the most interesting and influential figures of the early Renaissance. As a child he attracted the interest of Cardinal John Morton, then the Chancellor of England; through Morton's influence More received a magnificent education at Oxford. More followed the desires of his father and became a lawyer, quickly proving himself excellent at the trade, though never giving up his studies or other interests. While working as a lawyer and as the Undersheriff of London, More still had time to become a widely respected writer, historian, and philosopher. He wrote innumerable works, including the History of King Richard III (to which Shakespeare's Richard III was deeply indebted) in 1513, Utopia in 1516, many polemics against the heresies of Protestantism, and a two volume meditation on the Church in 1532 and 1533 entitled The Confutation of Tyndale's Answer.
More also cultivated friendships with the most important thinkers of England and the continent, including a friendship with perhaps the greatest Humanist thinker of the time, Desiderius Erasmus. In 1518, More entered the service of King Henry VIII, soon becoming a trusted advisor; he gained the office of Chancellor in 1529. Through all of his success, More remained a profoundly religious Catholic. Though he had decided he could better serve his God as a lay Christian, More still followed many of the ascetic practices of monks: rising early, fasting, engaging in prolonged prayer, and wearing a hair shirt. He also was famous for his immense poverty.
More lived during the early years of the ##Protestant Reformation##, and was a leader of the Counter-Reformation. In England, More was a tireless persecutor of Protestants, though, paradoxically, one of the tenets of his Utopian society was religious toleration. In 1532, the political and religious landscape of England changed dramatically. Henry VIII, like More, had long been a staunch defender...