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Essay/Term paper: Report on the prince by machiavelli

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Book Reports

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1. Major themes in the book.

The Prince, written by Niccolo Machiavelli, is one of the first

examinations of politics and science from a purely scientific and

rational perspective. Machiavelli theorizes that the state is only

created if the people cooperate and work to maintain it. The state is

also one of man"s greatest endeavors, and the state takes precedence

over everything else. The state should be one"s primary focus, and

maintaining the sovereignty of the state one"s most vital concern. The

state is founded on the power of its military. Therefore, a strong

military is vital to maintaining the state. Machiavelli believes that

men respect power, but they will take advantage of kindness. He

believes that when given the opportunity one must destroy completely,

because if one does not he will certainly be destroyed. The prince

should lead the military, and he has to be intelligent. An effective

politician can make quick and intelligent choices about the problems

that constantly arise before him. He must also have virtue, which means

he is strong, confident, talented, as well as smart. A prince cannot be

uncertain, because uncertainty is a sign of weakness. Fortune controls

half of human"s actions, and man"s will control the other half. Virtue

is the best defense for fortune, and virtue must be used in order to

keep fortune in check. The prince must take advantage of situations

based solely on if it is best for the state. He should choose his

decisions based on contemporary and historical examples. A prince

cannot consider whether his acts are moral or immoral, and he instead

must act in an unbiased manner for the state. Also, it does not matter

how the state achieves its goals, as long as these goals are achieved.

Finally, regardless of the personal morality involved, the prince should

be praised if he does good for the state and berated if he hurts the

state. Machiavelli"s principles have widespread influence, and they are

quite similar to some of Thomas Hobbes ideas in Leviathan.

2. What does Machiavelli think of "the people" in the course of human


Machiavelli has a very low opinion of the people throughout history.

In general, he feels that men are "ungrateful, fickle, liars, and

deceiver." "They shun danger and are greedy for profit; while you treat

them well, they are yours. They would shed their blood for you … but

when you are in danger they turn against you." Machiavelli basically

has little respect for the people, and he feels as though they have not

earned much either. He uses this as justification for the use of fear

in order to control people. He also feels that men are "wretched

creatures who would not keep their word to you, you need not keep your

word to them." This sense of fairness justifies breaking one"s word to

men. Machiavelli also writes about how hard it must be for a prince to

stay virtuous. He concludes that with so many wretched men around

virtue is hard to create in oneself. "The fact is that a man who wants

to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many

who are not virtuous." Overall, Machiavelli is very pessimistic about

the abilities of the people. He feels that after examining people

through history, his conclusions of wretched men are correct.

3. Discuss Machiavelli"s opinions on the uses of cruelty to accomplish

certain goals.

Machiavelli tells us that the sovereign must take whatever action is

necessary to maintain order in society. In time this will result in the

most compassionate choice too. Machiavelli explains that, Cesare

Borgia, by using cruelty was able to achieve order and obedience in

Romangna. This contrast with the inaction of the Florentines, who

allowed internal conflict to develop in Pistoia, resulting in

devastation of the city. Therefore, a number of highly visible

executions can be a very effective means of controlling the people and

in preventing a major out break of violence and murder. Machiavelli

also cites the tremendous military successes of Hannibal. Even though

Hannibal led an army of different races over foreign soil, he never had

any dissension because of his reputation of extreme cruelty.

Machiavelli further concludes that it is difficult to be loved and

feared simultaneously. Hence, one should always prefer to be feared

than to be loved. During adverse times, the fear of punishment is far

more effective in maintaining control than depending people"s goodwill

and love. Finally, excessive leniency will lead to ruin, because

leniency is seen as a sign of weakness. A good historical example was

when Scipio"s armies mutinied against him in Spain.

4. What countries in history are discussed most fully by Machiavelli?

What does he in general have to say about them?

Machiavelli talks consistently about the Roman empire and its rulers.

Particularly, he stresses the importance of having a strong army and

popular support by the army and people. The Roman emperors proved to us

many times that a ruler who is perceived to be weak is the most

vulnerable to attack. Alexander Severus was controlled by his mother

and considered feminine by his troops. He was a good ruler, but it was

this appearance of weakness that led his troops to kill him. Antonius

Caracalla is another example of an erroneous ruler. He was a very

strong military leader who was a great fighter. Unfortunately, he

became an incredibly cruel and harsh ruler over time, and he was hence

killed by a centurion. Machiavelli also includes the country of Italy

into much of his writings. He hopes to reclaim the land which has been

taken away from them. He feels that Italian princes have lost their

states because they have not had armed people. Machiavelli tells us

that an "armed population is a stable population". The Italian princes

also have not acted quickly, like a real prince should act. Julius II

did act quick, and Machiavelli attributes this to his success. In

reality, the whole purpose behind Machiavelli writing The Prince was to

try and help Italy free itself from foreign domination.

5. Evaluation of the book.

The Prince has been an incredibly important book. It was written in

the 1500"s, but much of it still applies today. The book also has

influenced many people in history. Many philosophers credit Machiavelli

with leading the way in political science. They say this because he was

the first person to take a rational approach at analyzing government and

politics. Many of Machiavelli"s critics would say that he is to harsh

in his ideas, and that he even seems immoral. The truth is Machiavelli

is only being honest with what he has observed consistently in history

to be true. The effect of his writing are still found today too.

People still need virtue in order to be a good ruler or manager.

Success is still to those who can make quick and intelligent choices.

The government is still supported most by it amount of power. However,

countries are held accountable today, and few would agree that the end

justifies the means as Machiavelli wrote. Overall, Machiavelli"s work

has lasted through the years, and it has proven to be a classic piece of

literature by standing the test of time. 

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