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The Prince By Niccolo Machiavelli Essay

1758 words - 8 pages

Book ReportThe Prince by Niccolo MachiavelliIn the early sixteenth century Italy was divided up into several isolated city states. It was the battle ground between the papal armies, France, Spain and the German kingdoms in the North. One of these city states was Florence which at that time was under the rule of a free republic government. One of the government officials was Niccolo Machiavelli. He was born in Florence and lived from 1469 to 1527. His father was a lawyer and he received a good education. He started working for the Florentine government and worked himself up to a high position within the government. In 1512, the Spanish invaded Florence and deposed the republic government and ...view middle of the document...

It must be said, however, that Machiavelli did have a particularly sadistic view on human nature. The book is first and foremost a handbook for Lorenzo de Medici on how to govern a small principality like Florence. Machiavelli also notes that the type of government depends on its time. Certain governments will be good for certain situations, but since political situations are continually changing the ideal form of government will also always be changing. This is how we should read the Prince; not as the ultimate form of government, but as a specific solution for the situation of Italy in Machiavelli's time. The political climate of Italy caused Machiavelli to express cruel and absolutist views in The Prince encompassing the position princes should take as a ruler in specific situations.One of the topics which Machiavelli addresses is that of virtu and fortuna. These words have a slightly different meaning in Italian than in English. Virtu does not necessarily mean good quality; it can be translated more along the lines of character trait. Fortuna in addition to meaning fortune in The Prince also means anything that is not within the prince's control. For example an invading army would be fortuna, but also the acquiring of a new principality could be fortuna. A prince should have enough virtu to overcome any bad fortuna that is thrown at him. Machiavelli says, "Therefore, since fortune changes while human beings remain constant in their methods of conduct, I conclude that men will succeed so long as method and fortune are in harmony and they will fail when these are no longer in harmony." (94) If the prince does not have enough virtu he will not be able to maintain his own kingdom. Machiavelli gives several examples of leaders from past and present with good and bad virtu. "Therefore these princes of ours who were long in possession of their states must not blame fortune but rather their own sluggishness for having lost them." (90) He also states that although a prince should always try and display his moral character traits such as kindness and justice, a prince may also display his vices. If it is for the betterment of the state, then a prince may display cruelty. Machiavelli does not say that a prince should always behave justly and again gives examples from the past where leaders have failed because they were not cruel. Machiavelli seemingly opts for the immoral and cruel situation when advising a prince on whether or not to use cruelty.Machiavelli conveys throughout The Prince that as a ruler it is better to be feared than loved. This belief came about as a direct cause of the state that Italy was in. Machiavelli thought that by conveying the need to unify Italy in The Prince, he would regain favour with the Medici family. Machiavelli says it is best to be both loved and feared, but often a prince can only achieve one. Therefore he expresses that fear is stronger than love, when trying to maintain or capture a principality. This opinion of...

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