Machiavelli was an author and an aspiring political figure who had a strong influence on several aspects of Europe’s government. Due to his critical writings in The Prince, many historians see Machiavelli as a cruel and diabolical political figure whose true intentions were to gain power for himself. However, after looking further into Machiavelli’s political past, one can see that Machiavelli is in fact an intelligent man who possesses a hidden motive to write his novel. In his work, he covered several topics that were used by future city-state leaders to help them become successful.
Machiavelli proves to be an astute political mind who used his political experience to assess the actions of famous princes and to write The Prince as a noteworthy satire in order to educate political leaders. Machiavelli’s political experience was the foundation for his political knowledge and belief that princes can be cruel. Machiavelli worked for the Florentine Republic before the Medici family came into power. According to Vincent Barnett, being a diplomat allowed Machiavelli to gain experience and knowledge on the “winding ways of power politics” and to learn about many powerful political figures.
This political experience allowed him to assess the actions of past and present princes. Machiavelli’s Republican beliefs also explain why he disliked principalities. According to Barnett, Machiavelli lost his job in 1512 and was “imprisoned and tortured for his beliefs and associations” due to his support towards the Florentine Republic. These cruelties towards Machiavelli explain why he strongly believes that cruelty from princes can be unjust. Machiavelli strategically writes The Prince as a satire in an attempt to accentuate the fact that princes are often cruel and unjust.
In his book, Machiavelli portrays successful princes as cruel people who care more about maintaining their own power than the happiness of their people. Rather than being a manual for princes, The Prince is a satire that portrays successful princes as evil people who care more about maintaining their own power than the happiness of their subjects. According to Barnett, if The Prince is in fact really a satire, it is the “most convincing satire ever written, one that has fooled many commentators and leaders alike for centuries. ”
This is ecause Machiavelli drily and bitterly outlines that the most successful princes are often the coldest, most calculated ones. Machiavelli uses his knowledge of politics to provide examples of successful and cruel princes. This helps to prove that the harsh cruelties of princes are a reality, rather than just a theory. For example, when Machiavelli explains that the best way to hold a once-free territory is by destroying it, he turns to the Romans as examples. He explains that “The Romans, to retain Capua, Carthage, and Numantia, destroyed them and never lost them.
On the other hand, when they thought to hold Greece as the Spartans had held it, leaving it its freedom and allowing it to be governed by its own laws, they failed, and had to destroy many cities of that province before they could secure it (11). ” This shows that when the Roman leader tried to allow the citizens to live happily and freely, they were not able to maintain their power. This led to the prince destroying many cities and killing many people. Machiavelli uses examples of these failed princes to show that only the cruel princes are successful most of the time.
Machiavelli uses his knowledge on politics to accurately assess the actions of both present and past princes. In The Prince, when Machiavelli is writing a letter to Lorenzo Medici, he states he cannot think of a better gift to offer than “to offer you the opportunity of understanding in the shortest time all that I have learnt in so many years… ”(3). Machiavelli is addressing that he cannot think of anything more valuable that his knowledge which he wants to share with future princes so that they can succeed.
Throughout The Prince, Machiavelli includes various thoughts and explanations on the successes and failures of past princes and also what makes a good prince. For example, Machiavelli explains that it is often better for a prince to be feared than loved because the Prince “will find greater security in being feared than in being loved (43). ” Machiavelli explains that humans are inherently evil, and if they do not have a fear of being punished, they will turn on their prince because their love for themselves overrides their love for their prince.
Machiavelli also explains that it is important for a Prince to know when to be cruel. He explains that “it is essential therefore, for a Prince who desires to maintain his position, to have learned to be other than good (40). ” He believes that it is impossible for a person to succeed in politics if they were to remain good all the time. Machiavelli explains that a prince must put aside his morals if he wants to maintain his power. Machiavelli’s belief that a prince should be harsh to keep his citizens in line is a recurring theme throughout the book.
This is what leads many people to believe that Machiavelli is an evil and diabolical political figure, even though this is not the case. In conclusion, The Prince is a political satire made by Machiavelli to show that princes, especially the successful ones, are often cruel and unjust. Contrary to popular belief, Machiavelli is not a diabolic political figure in search of power. He is instead an astute politician who uses his extensive knowledge of politics to analyze various princes and principalities in order to educate future rulers.