The Prince by NMachiavelli Essay

This essay has a total of 1412 words and 9 pages.

The Prince by NMachiavelli

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli provides an analysis on how to govern and maintain power
in a principality. In the first five chapters, he defines the three ways a monarch can
acquire his dominion: either he inherits it, whether he creates a new one, or annexes
territories, and further discusses how to govern them. Machiavelli states that hereditary
principalities are less problematic than the mixed ones since newly acquired dominion tend
to be more rebellious. The ruler must therefore colonize them and allow citizen to keep
their laws or annihilate the governmental structure. In order to illustrate his point, he
analyses the success of Alexander the Great conquest in Iran.

He then considers five possible ways to acquire power and become a prince (Ch. VI-XI).
First, a private citizen can become a ruler due to his own qualities or virtues, like
Cyrus or Romulus. A second way to become a ruler is through other’s power or favor.
Hence a man like Cesare Borgia gained power due to his father support, but lost it when
the latter died. For Machiavelli, getting power so quickly can be dangerous since the new
monarch might lack knowledge on how to govern. In the third case, he uses the example of
Agathocles of Sicily to illustrate power gained through murders. In his opinion, the
conqueror must decide if his crimes will help him establish power and then commit them all
at once so that he can later reestablish the confidence of his subjects. The fourth
method is called civil principality, people basically choose the ruler, and this enables
him to maintain power. The last possibility is to be elected pope and Machiavelli
provides a brief overview of the religious order.

Next, he explores (Ch. XII- XIV) which arms are best to defend a principality and states
that a ruler can chose to use “his own, or mercenaries, or auxiliaries or a mixture of all

From Chapter XV throughout Chapter XIX, Machiavelli proposes to describe how a prince
should behave and tells the truth about surviving as a monarch, rather than recommending
moral ideals. He describes the virtues commonly assimilated with a prince and concludes
that some "virtues" will lead to a prince's destruction, whereas some "vices" will enable
him to survive. He describes the advantages of being generous or greedy, merciful or
severe, deceitful or honest. Machiavelli concludes that a prince should avoid being hated
and must exhibit five virtues in particular: mercy, honesty, humanness, uprightness, and

Chapter XX states whether a prince should or not guard his dominion with a fortress and he
uses the example of the Florentines. He further analyses (Ch. XXI-XXIV) how a monarch
should chose his allies, ministers and protect himself from flatterers. In order to
insure advisers’ honesty a ruler has to make them dependent and avoid complete freedom of
debate to maintain his authority. To illustrate these points he analyses how Italian
monarchs lost their territories.

The last aspect Machiavelli focuses on is luck, or fortune, and he believes that “we are
successful when our ways are suited to time and circumstances, and unsuccessful when they
are not” (85).

Finally, Machiavelli (Ch. XXVI) applies his analysis to Italy’s current situation and asks
himself whether the country would be ready for a new monarch.

The most controversial aspects of The Prince reside in Machiavelli’s intentions in
dedicating it to the Medicis. Indeed, they had ruled (on and off) during thirty years in
the Florentine Republic, which was assaulted by the French “barbarians.” The text
provides a rather tangible and practical analysis of power, which is not necessarily
cynical. The first assumption is that Machiavelli simply wanted to gain the ruling
family’s favors, which intention then is merely straightforward. However, the irony comes
from the fact that in dedicating his treatise to the Medicis he gave them a lesson on how
to rule. This provocative explanation leads to further interpretations of the text, which
then can be considered as the apology of egoistic power and tyranny, or as a proposal for
individual success. In addition it can be seen as depicting the ruling class’ morale as
being beyond Morale and laws. Although The Prince was in its time read this way,
Machiavelli does not directly support monarchs’ immoral acts; he rather describes the
consequences of fear on citizens. He furthermore states many times that the best way for
a prince to maintain power is to have his people with him and not against him.

On the other hand, Machiavelli’s views on human nature are rather pessimistic and he
overtly doubts that citizen can be trusted. Furthermore, he presents paradoxical views at
times, when he alternatively supports honesty and deception. Machiavelli knew that past
successful rulers appeared to be virtuous and he advised new princes to follow this
strategy, since it was effective in manipulating peoples' perceptions. Hence, for him,
the end justifies the means as he states that “doing some things that seems virtuous may
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