The Prince And Julius Caesar Comparative Study Sscbwb Essay

1036 words - 5 pages

All texts are ultimately the product of their own times where composers anchor their views from their social cultural times into their texts. Niccolo Machiavelli’s 1513 political treatise, The Prince explores the need for a leader to sacrifice morality and advocate the use of pragmatism and political expediency in order to obtain and maintain power. In contrast, William Shakespeare’s 1599 Roman tragedy, Julius Caesar, offers a cautionary allegory of the ensuing chaos and social instability that arise as consequences of a quest for power, one that is driven by political pragmatism and expediency. A comparative study demonstrates how the intertextual perspective on leadership and other political values and attitudes are inherently shaped by their social contexts.
Machiavelli, in The Prince, emphasises that leaders must rule with political expediency and an abandonment of morals to successfully acquire power. Machiavelli asserts that leaders should avoid the restraints of mortality if they are to effectively gain and maintain power conveyed by the metaphorical assertion, “The gulf between how one should lie and how one does live is so wide that a man who neglects what is actually done for what should be done moves towards self-destruction.” He then justifies the use of being cunning and shrewd through the analogy and bestial imagery of “the fox and the lion”, as a way of defining a leader with a duplicitous nature and one that has eliminated their moral scruples. Such virtù is required in order to secure a leader’s military and political position during a time when Renaissance Italy was divided into different nation states and besieged by anarchy and external military threats. Machiavelli’s didactic tone and second person narration emphasises the necessity of unvirtuous behaviour, continuing to blur the lines between virtue and vice by arguing, “there’ll always be something that looks more morally right but would actually lead to disaster,” thus positioning his audience to question their own doubts about unethical means of obtaining power. Thus, Machiavelli emphasises the necessity for a leader to disregard moral scruples when effectively attaining power.
Contrastingly, Shakespeare, in Julius Caesar, uses the historical allusion to Julius Caesar to caution against ambitious quests for power with such immoral approaches. While Machiavelli advocates politically pragmatic strategies, Shakespeare warns against the catastrophic dangers of ambition unrestrained by moral judgement. Shakespeare’s characterisation of Caesar embodies deceit as he tricks the Romans and he denies the crown “thrice” to ensure his ultimate election. Shakespeare’s dramatic staging of Caesar’s body, “now on Pompey’s basis lies along” ironically foreshadows the consequences for Rome of such political manoeuvres. Similar to Machiavelli, Shakespeare’s dramatic conspiracies respond to the internal conspiracies to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I, warning his contemporaries against the...

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