Who Is Machiavelli's The Prince?

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The culmination of Renaissance thought and culture is evident in the writings of the Italian Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527 CE). In this mini-lecture and module we will look at his life and his writings, especially in his political manual, The Prince.

Machiavelli, born in Florence in 1469, was involved with Florentine politics, serving as an ambassador and secretary of the republic. He was not in favor with the Medici family, and when they returned to rule Florence in 1512, Machiavelli was forced to live in exile. A short time later, in 1513, he wrote his most famous work, The Prince. The manuscript was circulated during his lifetime, but unfortunately, it wasn 't published until five years after Machiavelli 's death.

Prior to The Prince,
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For the first time, he advocated that leaders must do what is necessary in order to be successful and continue to rule, regardless of "moral virtue." He points out the fact that the public is fickle; however, a leader must submit to the demands of the public in order to keep his position and rule effectively. As Wilcox writes, "But unlike his (Machiavelli) humanist predecessors he felt that the truth was best found in particular perspectives, that its expression varied with time and historical circumstance, and that no systematic and abstract statement of reality could be complete and meaningful." (p. 162) Machiavelli, as demonstrated by Wilcox, feels that truth is subjective. There is not one way to rule; there are not universals such as truth, morality, and virtue, as Christian and Medieval thinkers had …show more content…
People themselves decided who would be in power, and who would not. The values of the crowd shifted quickly, and it was a ruler 's responsibility to make sure that he used his knowledge and experience to do whatever was necessary to remain in power. Therefore, one might have to NOT be good and virtuous to continue leading effectively. He writes, "A prince, first of all, should have no other object or thought in mind than war and how to wage it. He must not take up anything else to be skillful in, for war is the only art essential to those who govern." (Thompson, p. 279). In order to wage war effectively, a leader must be able to be a strategist, to anticipate his enemy 's move. (Just like in a game of chess!) In order to do so, one must be able to think like his enemy, which requires the ability to think on more than one level. Doing what is "right" is not always possible, says Machiavelli, when one is a

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