The "classical revival" was at the center of the intellectual and artistic agitation of the age. It involved a realization — or rediscovery — that a very great civilization had flourished in ancient Greece and Rome and a conviction that conscientious study and imitation of that civilization offered the key to new greatness. The Renaissance artists studied ancient works of architecture and sculpture, not only for their form and technique but also for their spirit. Renaissance scholars came to appreciate the literature of the ancients as a storehouse of wisdom and eloquence, and through their study they acquired attitudes and developed tastes of enormous value: to challenge dogma, to recognize the authority of nature, and to regard living a full life in "this world" as an opportunity and an obligation. They came to believe in their right to accept and enjoy physical beauty and the whole sensory world. Finally they acquired a sense of the worth of the individual and of the dignity of man. Growing gradually out of these concepts came the philosophy of "humanism" and the magnificent achievements in the fine arts.
In George Orwell's 1984 (1949), the society of the year 1984 which Orwell projects for us is based on the assumption that a "limited" nuclear war of the 1950s had left civilization severely crippled and that government controls were seized by well-organized opportunists employing the familiar methods of a police state to maintain power. London, the scene of the novel's action, is the capital of Oceania, one of three superpowers. The other superpowers are called Eastasia and Eurasia. The city of London contains a few enormous government buildings and a small number of fine apartment buildings, but the vast majority of the buildings are eighteenth- or nineteenth-century houses in dilapidated condition which provide shelter for the common people. There are also a good many neglected bombed-out areas. Certainly this is not a picture of somebody's dream city.
Thomas More lived from 1477 to 1535. He was convicted of treason and beheaded in 1535 for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. Utopia, written in Latin, was published in 1516. It was translated to English by Ralph Robinson in 1551. The translation by Clarence Miller was published by Yale University Press in 2001. [This review is based on the Miller translation.]
Utopians do not like to engage in war. If they feel countries friendly to them have been wronged, they will send military aid, but they try to capture, rather than kill, enemies. They are upset if they achieve victory through bloodshed. The main purpose of war is to achieve that which, if they had achieved already, they would not have gone to war over.
The only ancient authors other than Plato who have been mentioned as possibly influencing or suggesting comparison with More are Lycurgus, Cicero, and St. Augustine. Lycurgus is reputed to have dictated a body of laws for ancient Sparta, the best account of which is found in Plutarch. It declared equal possession among the "citizens" — that is, the upper-class members of the community. The "helots," who were in the vast majority, were virtually on the level of slaves. Instead of gold and silver for coins, iron was used. All luxuries were banned, and both men and women were disciplined to endure hardships and were motivated to sacrifice everything for the welfare of the state.
The film depicts the life in the futuristic and idyllic utopian society where wealthy people live very comfortable lives. Carefree life of one of those citizens - Freder Fredersen, comes to an end when he discovers that below the residences of the wealthy is located an underground world of the poor who work their entire life on maintaining the machinery that makes the Utopian civilization on the ground functioning. He becomes involved in the attempt of the underground leaders to unite the two societies, bringing equality among two classes.