Prince Essay Topics

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The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince is a political book concerning different kinds of principalities, military affairs of the Renaissance period, and the qualities of a supreme ruler of that time. This book includes Machiavelli's views on Italy's political structure and status during the Renaissance. The author uses many real examples, of which Machiavelli had good knowledge and experience. In order to understand the book better and to find Machiavelli's reasons for writing The Prince, it is necessary to understand the life of an author and the period he lived in. Niccolo Machiavelli was born in the spring of 1469. During this time Italy had attained a high spot in the European community, however it would not last.

By the time Machiavelli had reached the age of twenty-five, King Charles VIII of France had driven the ruling Medici family out of the city of Florence, the last resisting Italian principality. The Florentine's would not stand for this; they ousted the new ruler out of the city and founded the Florentine republic. Machiavelli soon started work as clerk under Adriani, head of the Second Chancery. Four years past by and in 1498, Machiavelli became Chief Secretary of the Florentine Republic, and then later that year, he succeeded Adriani as head of the Second Chancery. On this position, Machiavelli gained a lot of knowledge, while he was participating in various diplomatic missions.

He had learned a lot about politics and about the way, the state should be governed. This was the information that Machiavelli covered in his book. The first several chapters of The Prince explicate the four types of princedoms and the methods in which they are acquired. Chapter I states that all governments are either republics or princedoms. From there, all princedoms are hereditary, mixed, new, or ecclesiastical.

Then, Machiavelli goes on to say that hereditary princedoms are easily maintained, granted that the prince will not diverge from his ancestors policies. Mixed princedoms arise when hereditary princedoms acquire new territories. These princedoms are not as easily kept, for two reasons. The first is that the people will replace their leader if they feel it would better conditions. Machiavelli gives five defenses for this situation. The first and best is to reside in the new province.

Secondly, a prince should set up colonies to serve as connections to the mother country. A prince should then become the chief defender of the less puissant adjacent territories. Then, he should weaken his more powerful neighbors. For no reason, should a prince allow any foreign power to enter the province. The second reason mixed princedoms are hard to maintain is a prince cannot satisfy the anticipations of those who helped him take over, and he does not want to use excessive actions because he requires the backing of the people. The main thesis of the book is that The ends justify the means.

Machiavelli feels that one should make whatever actions necessary in order to gain power. The Prince does little more then to support this thesis, though the use of a multitude of historical examples and arguments, but it does an excellent job in doing so. The Prince is an examination of the nature of power in principalities, and how one can exploit it to achieve his maximum political potential. Through the course of the book, Machiavelli pays a lot of attention towards the distribution of power in the society, discusses dictatorial power, and power with the people.

He also defines two types of people on one side, the political elite, including princes, kings, nobles, and on the other side is public. He states in the first chapter of The Prince that it will not include republics, because he had already done so in a previous book. Much of the concentration of the book is on the relationship between the prince and his peers active politic elite. Because ambition and desire for power drive such men, and they are by nature selfish and greedy beings, one must in turn to be aggressive and even ruthless in his methods if the wishes to gain and maintain power. Machiavelli feels that one must take direct action when ever able, and constantly exercise his power in order to maintain his political position. He goes on the state that shared power with others will never be effective because those others too are trying to attain power; since nobles are unforgiving, and driving by greed, it would be terribly dangerous, if not suicidal for a prince to rely of their good will and honesty.

At the same time, Machiavelli writes that one must not be hated by those he controls, as the people hold the true power, The best fortress a ruler can have is not the be hated by the people for is you posses fortresses and the people hate you, having fortresses will not save you. Upon reading The Prince, one of the first things the reader notices is the books strong structure and organization. Machiavelli supports virtually every statement with real historical examples and explanations, from times ranging from the Romans (which he obviously admired as most men of his time did) to his modern day. He organizes the book into twenty-six short chapters, each pertaining to a different aspect of how one should govern his state.

He also divided principalities in two types: hereditary principalities, where the family of a prince has ruled for many generations, and new principalities, which are either entirely new, or annexed. In presenting the main concepts of his book in such a defined format, Machiavelli makes his book easily accessible, and clearly gets his points across. Throughout The Prince, Machiavelli maintains a bias that it is impossible for a person to become strong and effective ruler without being immoral. Machiavelli states that it may be possible to become a strong leader, only when taking direct action against competitors.

He finds it to be very unlikely to achieve success for a weak and kind ruler. Machiavelli makes note of leaders who have been generous to their subjects, but he does not mention any that did so and were successful in their reign. This bias does not go so far as to discredit the book as an argument entirely, but actually makes it more as the list of own thoughts. Although Machiavelli was influenced while writing The Prince, much of what he wrote was true. He stated at length that in order for a prince to maintain his political standing, he must have the respect of his people. At the same time, he should not be hated and despised by them.

This has held true throughout the ages, for nearly every time a culture is held under the control of a belligerent dictator, it revolts, and a new government is formed. His ideas concerning ruthlessness and distrust, as unpleasant as they may be, proved to be all but necessary in living in the political world of modern Europe. To be a weak leader all to often meant to be no leader at all. Regardless of weather or not one does not support Machiavelli's political philosophy; it is indeed a quality book. It does an excellent job of conveying one mans feelings, and well represents the views of his time. Therefore, it is even quite interested to read.

While Machiavelli may have intended The Prince to persuade the reader to believe that morals are a counter productive in a good leadership, Machiavelli's cynical views may in fact lead the reader to develop a new respect for them. Niccolo Machiavelli was an intelligent politician who defined the science of politics. His book, The Prince, was the first of its kind. It explores not only the obtaining of power, but also maintaining power, which defines a strong leader from the rest.

Machiavelli clearly writes about present human conditions not some ideal utopia. He uses logically arguments, is realistic in his approach, and reveals his deep understanding of the autonomy of politics. Many of his ideas still hold true today, and have proven themselves true in the 20 th century. I think that the book is excellent in its logic, especially if to take into account that it was written five centuries ago.

Sources: Leo Strauss, Thoughts on Machiavelli (Chicago, 1995) George Bull, Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (Penguin, 1999) Whitfield, J. H. , Machiavelli (Oxford, 1947)


Free research essays on topics related to: florentine republic, niccolo machiavelli, direct action, machiavelli, excellent job

Research essay sample on The Prince By Niccolo Machiavelli

  • 1

    Does Machiavelli believe in free will?

    Possible Answer:

    The fact that Machiavelli's work is written as a sort of guidebook suggests his belief in free will; were man unable to choose his path, he would have no use for a tome like The Prince. Machiavelli believes that the choices that a man - or, specifically, a prince - makes over the course of his life have a significant impact not only on the man himself, but on all those around him.

  • 2

    Machiavelli argues for the importance of history throughout The Prince, weaving examples from the past throughout his treatise. Does he acknowledge his own place in history? How does he think he will be viewed in the years after his passing? Can we even find answers, or is this a futile line of inquiry? If the latter -- why?

    Possible Answer:

    The fact that Machiavelli addresses parts of The Prince to historical figures with whom he had direct contact suggests that he was acutely aware of his own place in history. However, the ambiguity of his references to contemporary leaders speaks to his uncertainty about how later generations would view him, as well.

  • 3

    Offer an interpretation of The Prince as personal text. What biographical details from Machiavelli's life are relevant to the text? In what ways does the first-person intrude on the omniscient narrator-as-philosopher?

    Possible Answer:

    Machiavelli wrote The Prince as a gift to Lorenzo de Medici, after suffering through years of exile and torture. It is impossible to imagine that the horrors that he experienced did not to some extent inform the views that he voices in the work. His past seems particularly to bubble to the surface during his discussion of cruelty: how can a man who has suffered so be willing to commend cruelty in any form? And yet Machiavelli is willing to endorse cruelty nonetheless, holding that in many cases the ends justify the means.

  • 4

    Analyze Chapter XVII: "On Cruelty and Clemency: Whether It Is Better to Be Feared or Loved".

    Possible Answer:

    Machiavelli is acutely aware of mankind's failings, and seems to feel that the safer approach to life is to embrace these flaws. If a man behaves in accordance with his "rotten" nature he is likely to be feared, but it is safer to rule in this manner than to encourage love amongst one's subjects. Love, Machiavelli seems to believe, is far too fickle and fleeting to be useful to rulers.

  • 5

    Machiavelli was a republican; yet The Prince has often been criticized as a manual for and justification of absolutist/totalitarian tactics. Discuss.

    Possible Answer:

    Many critics have argued that Machiavelli's text has been largely misinterpreted, and that its totalitarian tactics have been emphasized while its more politically moderate viewpoints have been largely ignored. Machiavelli's work is in fact an intricately layered, infinitely complex analysis of the human condition as much as it is a treatise on the acquisition of power.

  • 6

    Discuss the use of Cesare Borgia in The Prince - as character, example, model, warning sign, narrative cog.

    Possible Answer:

    Throughout The Prince, Machiavelli cites Cesare Borgia, son of Alexander VI, as an example of an individual who was prudent and clever in his quest to attain power. Borgia, Machiavelli feels, is someone who did everything right, only to lose all that he had gained through a stroke of bad luck. This suggests Machiavelli's belief that though man may certainly exercise free will in his actions, he is ultimately not the master of his own fate, and must leave some things up to the grace of God.

  • 7

    Machiavelli was often openly contemptuous of the Church, but these feelings are sublimated to a certain degree in The Prince. Examine the instances in which Machiavelli explicitly analyzes or describes the Church. What does his position seem to be?

    Possible Answer:

    Machiavelli seems aware in this work of his audience - indeed, The Prince is positioned as a gift to Lorenzo de Medici - and thus must have been conscious of the need to temper his animosity towards the Church. However, the entire text directly refutes traditional religious values, arguing that a truly successful political leader simply cannot be a perfect Christian. Religion, Machiavelli seems to believe, has very little place in the political realm.

  • 8

    Why is Machiavelli so often called a "secular" humanist? Do you agree with the appellation?

    Possible Answer:

    Machiavelli's approach to humanism represents a dramatic shift from traditional, Christian ideas of virtue to a belief in the importance of self-interest, as justified by secularism. He expresses the opinion that virtue is not a black-and-white concept, and holds that actions should be judged as "right" or "wrong" based on their utility.

  • 9

    Does Machiavelli favor cruelty in government?

    Possible Answer:

    Machiavelli does not decry the use of cruelty by governments, but believes that it has a place only when it is useful. While kindness is favorable, cruelty should be employed when failing to do so would lead to greater harm (e.g. a civil uprising).

  • 10

    Explicate the Petrarch verse that closes The Prince in relation to the rest of the book.

    Possible Answer:

    The Prince ends with the following quote: “Then virtue boldly shall engage/And swiftly vanquish barbarous rage,/Proving that ancient and heroic pride/In true Italian hearts has never died." Machiavelli's ultimate goal in this work is to provide present and future rulers with the tools with which to uplift the Italian state and return it to its former splendor. By closing the work with these words, Machiavelli reveals his deep-seated passion for Italy and determination to inspire pride in the hearts of all who read his tome.

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