The Prince had no actual characters, but instead discussed and analyzed the political policies of political leaders, highlighting their faults and strengths. The setting was 1513 Europe. This is the same time when major areas were having power struggles and religious conflict was rampant. His tone is that of the ambitious leader. It conveys the thoughts of one who knows how to gain and maintain power. Though this is true, the thoughts are built upon principalities probably learned by way of many mistakes made by one who will never again be in the position to imply his theorems and strategies. Machiavelli’s own ruthless mind probably served as the bases for him knowing the ways of the corrupt. The thesis seems to be that the ends justify the means.
Chapters such as the one describing “How one should govern cities or principalities that, before being conquered, used to live under their own laws” show Machiavelli’s thirst for power and highlights a stressed point of his. This point is that one must learn how to maintain power before gaining it for it can be as easily lost as gained. It was conveyed in his writings that even minor power is more useful if it can be maintained, where major power that cannot be maintained is a mere missed opportunity. This dissertation stressed the maintaining of power because it was written from Machiavelli to His Magnificence Lorenzo de’ Medici, a figure whom was already holding power.
“It is better to be feared than loved,” is a popular extraction from Machiavelli’s dissertation. He stated,
“Men are less hesitant about offending or harming a ruler who makes himself loved than one who inspires fear. For love is sustained by a bond of gratitude which, because men are excessively self-interested, is broken whenever they see a chance to benefit themselves. But fear is sustained by a dread of punishment that is always effective.”
Machiavelli went on to discuss the strategies of ruling by fear. “For it is perfectly possible to be feared without incurring hatred,” shows that Machiavelli really thought over his writings. For it is highly possible that one who hates may to try to destroy that which he hates even if it means self destruction in the process.
Even with seemingly ruthless tactics, Machiavelli recognized the importance of keeping the people you rule happy. This was strongly displayed in a chapter concentrating on “How rulers should keep their promises.” Using a combination of Greek mythology and discussing animals metaphorically he first spoke of the centaur. Telling of the centaur raising the likes of Chiron and Achilles he wrote, “Having a mentor who was half-beast and half-man signifies that a ruler needs to use both natures, and that one without the other is not effective.” Machiavelli went more in depth explaining,
“Since a ruler, then, must know how to act like a beast, he should imitate both the fox and the lion, for the lion is liable to be trapped, whereas the fox cannot ward off wolves. One needs, then, to be a fox to recognise traps, and a lion to frighten away wolves. Those who rely merely upon a lions strength do not understand matters.”
Containing no true climax, The Prince ecstatically peaks in every paragraph. One who takes the principals and strategies of this book to be only political is missing the whole point. Ones life is very political. May it be socially, criminally, etceteras, life is a complexity of politics. From school to a working environment, Machiavellian tactics can be utilized. Some may even be employed in various types of relationships. Note, some may be used, and the type of relationship appropriates different tactics. For an intimate relationship would need to be approached differently from a competitive work environment. You wouldn’t want to rule your “significant other” with fear. This book should be read and analyzed by all people in positions of power and those with ambition to attain it. It seems to be a literal formula for the attaining and maintaining of power. “The ends justify the means,” should be closely thought out. The means for global peace could be genocide of those causing conflict. This means calls for an exponential amount of what the ends is trying to prevent. Machiavelli’s Prince is political brilliance intertwined with ruthlessness.