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The Prince Review and Analysis.pdf

Political Science
Course Code
Janice Stein

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The Prince Summary and Analysis
Machiavelli composed The Prince as a practical guide for ruling (though some scholars argue that the
book was intended as a guide on how to rule). The Prince is not particularly theoretical or abstract;
its prose is simple and its logic straightforward. These traits underscore Machiavelli’s desire to
provide practical, easily understandable advice.
The first two chapters describe the book’s scope. The Prince is concerned with autocratic regimes,
not with republican regimes.
The first chapter defines the various types of principalities and princes; in doing so, it constructs an
outline for the rest of the book. Chapter III comprehensively describes how to maintain composite
principalitiesthat is, principalities that are newly created or annexed 附加物 from another power,
so that the prince is not familiar to the people he rules. Chapter III also introduces the books main
concernspower politics, warcraft, and popular goodwillin an encapsulated 概括 form.
Chapters IV through XIV constitute the heart of the book.
Machiavelli offers practical advice on a variety of matters, including the advantages and
disadvantages that attend various routes to power, how to acquire and hold new states, how to deal
with internal insurrection, how to make alliances, and how to maintain a strong military. Implicit in
these chapters are Machiavelli’s views regarding free will, human nature, and ethics, but these ideas
do not manifest themselves explicitly as topics of discussion until later.
Chapters XV to XXIII focus on the qualities of the prince himself.
Broadly speaking, this discussion is guided by Machiavelli’s underlying view that lofty 高尚的 ideals
translate into bad government. This premise 假设 is especially true with respect to personal virtue.
Certain virtues may be admired for their own sake, but for a prince to act in accordance with virtue is
often detrimental 不利的 to the state. Similarly, certain vices may be frowned upon, but vicious 恶意
actions are sometimes indispensable to the good of the state.
Machiavelli combines this line of reasoning with another: the theme that obtaining the goodwill of
the populace is the best way to maintain power. Thus, the appearance 外表 of virtue may be more
important than true virtue, which may be seen as a liability.
The final sections of The Prince link the book to a specific historical context: Italy’s disunity.
Machiavelli sets down his account and explanation of the failure of past Italian rulers and concludes

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with an impassioned plea to the future rulers of the nation. Machiavelli asserts the belief that only
Lorenzo de’ Medici, to whom the book is dedicated, can restore Italy’s honor and pride.
Glossary of Terms
Auxiliary 辅助的 troops: foreign troops a prince uses to fight his own wars; often a ready-made unit
Civil principate 帝国统治政体: a state in which a private citizen becomes prince by the choice of
other citizens
Hereditary principate 帝国统治政体: a state in which the prince is simply descended 传留下来
from a line of rulers; power is handed from one family member to the next
Mercenary troops: soldiers a prince hires to fight for him, often culled from a variety of places
Principate /principality: any state ruled by a prince
Florence in Machiavelli's Day
Florence in the late 1400s, when Machiavelli first entered the political world, was a beehive of a
place, buzzing with activity. Scheming politicians rubbed shoulders with aspiring artists, while
towers rose and philosophical treatises hit the presses. The city was a booming commercial center
and more or less the capital of Tuscany. Florence, a republic for as long as we have records of the
city (since around 1,000 AD) held sway over the Tuscan cities that surrounded it: Siena, Pisa, San
Gimignano, Pistoia, and others.
The Medici family ruled Florence for much of the 15th century, and theirs was in some ways an
authoritarian rule. That said, the Medicis never entirely abolished the city's representative
government. Pietro Medici was run out of the city in 1494, and shortly thereafter Machiavelli rose to
prominence 著名. The greatest menaces to Florentine republicanism were now in exile, and
Machiavelli was free to exercise his talents.
Piero Soderini, named gonfalnier in 1502, brought a greater degree of stability to Florence than it had
known in quite some time. This may have tempered some of the more turbulent aspects of the city's
politics, but it certainly did not mute them. Florence at the time possessed one of the most vibrant
political scenes in all of Europe. Most officials were limited to short terms, and therefore election
campaigns were nearly constant, and often overlapping. Among the numerous parties and factions
were religious reformers, the Guelfs (anti-German and tolerant of the Pope), and the Ghibellines
(pro-German and anti-Papacy). Guilds were active in politics, and Florentines of every class were

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politically conscious. Within this melee, Machiavelli found plenty of fodder for his written works.
Indeed, The Prince reflects in more ways than one the city in which many of its ideas were conceived.
Machiavelli, even when in exile, was always a Florentine at heart, and The Prince is not just a
quintessential Renaissance text, but a Florentine work par excellence.
Major Themes
Free Will
The Prince is one of the quintessential Renaissance 文艺复兴 manuscripts, and as such it is often
associated with individualism, humanism, and a sense of personal agency. Nonetheless, the extent to
which Machiavelli meditates 沉思 explicitly 明晰的 on free will is notable.
He writes: ―rather than give up on our free will altogether, I think it may be true that Fortune 运气
governs half of our actions, but that even so she leaves the other half more or less in our power to
control.‖ To Machiavelli, Fortune is a ―woman‖ who can be countered 反对, but who must be defied
公然反抗 with boldness 大胆 and brashness 无礼.
In many ways, The Prince can be read as an exploration of the convergence 相交 between luck and
agency in human affairs. How can a prince use luck to his advantage? How can he, in turn, surmount
克服 the obstacles 障碍 Fortune places in his way? In this regard, Machiavelli presents a
profoundly secular view, one in which men may carve out 雕刻出their own destinies 命运 through
shrewdness机灵的 and prudence小心的, in which ecclesiastical 基督教教会(有关) states are of less
analytical interest than non-theocracies, and in which Fortune must either be exploited 剥削 or
Cruelty 残忍
In one of The Prince’s key chapters, ―On Cruelty and Clemency 仁慈,‖ Machiavelli argues that it is
safer for a prince to be feared than it is for him to be loved. Men dread punishment, and this fear can
be used to a prince’s benefit.
Love can lie, but fear knows no such mendacity; it is a primitive 原始的 emotion that will not change
at the tip of a hat, that will not give way to greed or dissolve 溶解 amidst a flurry 一阵混乱 of
developments. A prudent prince will therefore use cruelty to his advantage though only when
necessary. This last point is not a minor one. Though Machiavelli’s reputation may suggest otherwise,
he argues explicitly (detailed) in The Prince that cruelty is well-used when it preserves (protect) a
prince’s safety or secures the state; gratuitous (lacking) cruelty is to be condemned 被宣告有罪的.
That said, there is a hint of admiration in Machiavelli’s tone when he writes of criminal princes such
as Agathocles and Oliverotto da Fermo.
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