Machiavelli: The Prince. Translated and edited by Quentin Skinner & Russell Price. Takes place from 1469-1532.
II. Synopsis The Prince was written by Niccolò Machiavelli, who lived in Italy at a time where there was much political conflict and turmoil. Many city-states fought for Italy’s control, along with outside countries like Spain, France, and Rome. Machiavelli lived in Florence, which was a city-state in Italy looking to come into control of the country. Machiavelli had many motives to write The Prince, but his main reason came after many French invasions on Italy. Machiavelli’s attitudes towards government were formed through these events and influenced him to write his thought and advice in a book. Machiavelli composed The Prince as a practical guide for ruling a government. He dedicated the book to Lorenzo de’ Medici, the ruler of Florence at that time. Machiavelli’s intentions are to give practical and logical advice to the current ruler regarding free will, virtue, and war strategies. Machiavelli’s book distinguishes itself on these very important principles in order to have a successful and unified city-state. Machiavelli particularly focuses on free will and how we have the human power to control our outcome and destiny. Most people looked at disasters, famines, and plagues as divine destiny and out of the scope of human power. In The Prince, Machiavelli argues that free will, as opposed to divine destiny, is the ability to have prowess over fortune and the self-determination to be prepared for anything and achieve desired outcomes. “Prowess” refers to an individual’s talents, while “fortune” implies chance or luck. Machiavelli investigates the success of a ruler through his free will and prowess compared to his fortune and the environment in which he lives. He spoke many times of prosperous Italian rulers that fell because they became too comfortable and were not prepared for perilous times. QUOTE. He reiterated the importance of consistency in how a prince should treat his subjects, making sure to abide by the traditions and laws of the people. Strong states are built off strong foundations, which are established from two basic components; good laws and good armies. Good laws cannot exist without good armies, and having good armies indicates the presence of good laws.
III. Author’s Purpose
The Prince was dedicated to the current ruler of Florence, Lorenzo de’ Medici, and was intended as a practical guide for rulers of states, which can be classified as either republics or principalities. Each has its own obstacles but the purpose of Machiavelli’s writings is to allow any ruler to be able to prosper and gain the respect of his subjects by following the principles found in The Prince. Machiavelli’s writings were meant to be taken seriously; however, the public did not receive the book as he had hoped. The Prince was criticized as being immoral and unethical by the public, and was later criticized by the man to whom it was dedicated, Lorenzo de’ Medici.
One of the rather intriguing analogies that Niccolò Machiavelli gives in his book is the analogy of a mountain. When a man is standing on top of a mountain, he has a great view of everything below him. However, a man standing at the bottom of a mountain has a better view of the mountain itself. Both point of views are important to understand the beauty of the mountain. That is why Machiavelli decided to write The Prince; simply to give a perspective of the government from a different standpoint; from the people. Princes and rulers already know what it is like at the top, but what Machiavelli did in his book was show the importance of understanding the interests and needs of the people as well. He emphasized the importance of having a solid structure and foundation in having a successful government for the people. A foundation built upon a strong military unit means that the laws of the