Machiavelli: The Prince

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Machiavelli: The Prince

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Machiavelli: The Prince

Answer 1)

Machiavelli's book is absolutely practical and not at all idealistic. Leaving aside what government is “best” in an ideal world, The Prince takes for granted the presence of an authoritarian ruler, and tries to imagine how such a ruler might achieve success. It is, of course, also entirely topical as well: Machiavelli offers Lorenzo an expert handbook that deals with precisely the situation of Florence at the time. He seems genuinely interested in using his political experience, as well as his wide reading in history and philosophy, to help Lorenzo be the best prince he can be. But he also obviously expected some personal gain from the book as well - Machiavelli clearly hoped that Lorenzo would find The Prince so helpful that he would immediately bring its author back to Florence where he could be a political counselor once again!

Unfortunately, Machiavelli's cunning plan didn't work. Despite the lavish praise for Medicis and Popes that continues throughout The Prince, Lorenzo did not seem to like the book very much, and certainly never called Machiavelli back from exile. Ironically, shortly before Machiavelli died, Charles V of France defeated the Pope and removed the Medicis from power. Florence became a republic once again, and Machiavelli surely expected his long exile to end at last. There was one slight problem, however: Machiavelli had written a short book dedicated to Prince Lorenzo de Medici, advising him on how best to acquire and maintain power - not a very republican thing to do! And so, that very book that Machiavelli had hoped would bring him back to Florence - The Prince - finally kept him away for good.

Answer 2)

In this chapter, Machiavelli introduces the theme that will occupy much of the rest of the book: how princes should act. He announces his intention to turn the reader's expectations upside down by recommending that princes be bad rather than good. He was consciously going against a long tradition of advice books for rulers, the "Mirror for Princes" genre, which predictably recommended that leaders be models of virtue, always upholding the highest moral standards and being honest, trustworthy, generous, and merciful. Machiavelli declares that this is fine if you are an imaginary model prince living in a perfect world, but in the real world, a prince is surrounded by unscrupulous people and must compete with them if he is to survive. To put it in modern terms, he must learn to swim with the sharks.

Therefore, the prince must know how to behave badly and to use this knowledge as a tool to maintain his power. Machiavelli recognizes that princes are always in the public eye. Their behavior will affect their public image, and their reputation will affect their ability to keep power. With this in mind, Machiavelli advises that it is fine to avoid vices, but because no one can avoid them all, the prince should be careful to avoid those that will most severely damage his reputation and, ...
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