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What Is Machiavelli Getting At?

September 27, 2010

Throughout the whole text of The Prince,  Machiavelli gives advice on how to rule an empire.  He explains what to do in certain situations and basically gives a guideline on how to go about ruling over people in numerous circumstances.  But, why is Machiavelli writing this script and what is he trying to prove?

It was stated in class that Machiavelli was imprisoned for plotting against the Medici, so the first thought that comes to mind is that he is trying to win back the Medici’s trust.  But is this actually the case?  Machiavelli states in his writing not to trust your enemies and to kill them while you have the chance, so why should the Medici save him?  Although The Prince makes many well supported arguments, his statements seem more of common knowledge.  I’m not going to pretend like I know how intelligent the Medici or his advisors were, but it would seem highly unlikely that a regime could not have figured out those same guidelines as Machiavelli.  In this case, it would seem insulting for someone to make suggestions to a person of such high power, no matter what the intentions were.  Maybe Machiavelli was trying to give the Medici a new perspective of realism to win back his trust.  In either case, Machiavelli’s blunt tone and lack of morals show that he has great confidence in what he says.  He must have really understood the Medici because he writes his words as if he either knows that Medici will like what he says, or he knows there won’t be any serious repercussions if the Medici doesn’t like what he says. 

Another point I would like to address about The Prince is that I was surfing the web and came across the idea that the writing may actually be a satire (site).  I had never thought of that idea before, but it definitely is plausible.  If Machiavelli actually lacked morality the way he seems to in the text, I doubt his credibility would be where it is today.  Since he lived in the heartland country of Catholocism where having religion and following morals took and still hold as high values, he surely wouldn’t have had much support, no matter how much success he had in his life, if he actually disregarded morals the way he seems to in The Prince.  Could it be that Machiavelli was nearly poking fun of those rulers who are cruel and don’t show mercy?  The way I see it is that if anyone really could follow all the guidelines of Machiavelli’s writing, that person could no way live a fulfilling life.  Yes, the person would have a ton of territory and money, but they would absolutely have no time to do anything else because they would be too busy looking over their shoulder to see if they’re advisor is planning on killing him or if a state under their control is going to rebel.  In fact, that life seems almost miserable.  After only mediocre thought, it is plain that no matter how powerful you are, there are always going to be someone trying to take you down and it is basically impossible to stop every rebel from getting power.  The only way you could possibly suppress every threatening rebel is to dedicate all your time and effort to doing so, leaving you useless for other tasks and goals.  It is clear that this sort of living is something very undesirable and leaves you susceptible to other priorities one would have, such as a family or sleep.

It is impossible to tell what Machiavelli truly thought when he wrote The Prince and it would be ignorant to pretend that I knew.  The only thing that is sure is that Machiavelli clearly demonstrates boldness in his writing through his amoral thoughts.


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