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Main Themes, Army's Role And Ruler Characteristics In The Prince

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Machiavelli wrote the prince in dedication to Lorenzo Medici. But Machiavelli had a greater purpose in writing the Prince, he wanted to share his knowledge of statecraft to the struggling political men. The Prince was written in the beginning of the Renaissance when monarchies and governments were rebuilding themselves all over Italy and Europe. Machiavelli had insight into the political world by being a papal secretary and being a noble man as well he was not to be modest with his wisdom. Therefore, he wanted people to know that he knew what he was talking about and to take his information and use it to their advantage. Finally, his book was dedicated to the Medici’s in an attempt to re-enter the government, specifically to earn a position in the Medici government. He did this as when the Medicis retook Florence they exiled and republicans including Machiavelli. So, this book was a gift to the Medici family from Machiavelli to allow him to pursue a career.


Three recurring themes in The Prince were morals, hate, and fortune. Machiavelli believed that morals could not play a large part in politics. Machiavelli said that if you were able to do the right thing, then do it. But, if you had to do what was wrong, do it. Evil and corruption was how you succeeded in politics and therefore, your personal morals could not hold you back. Machiavelli was adamant that if you were seeking to be a ruler you could not be hated. If you were hated you would not reach a happy ending. He doesn’t make a definitive answer on whether it is better to be feared or to be loved, but he does say you can never hated, or you would meet your demise. Finally, fortune. While Machiavelli had a full strategy on how you were to be a prince he mentioned several times the role that luck and fortune had. Such as becoming a prince due to fortune, you were chosen by the people, or if it was your family dynasty. So even though Machiavelli had politics all figured out he did recognize the role luck and fortune played in politics.

The role of armies

According to Machiavelli auxiliary troops and mercenaries were useless. Mercenaries were dangerous and could invoke fear on your citizens, and they ultimately could kill you. Auxiliary troops were a lose lose situation. If your auxiliary troops failed their mission the prince is left with no protection. However, if the auxiliary troops succeed in their mission then The Prince can not take credit for the defeat of his enemies and therefore appears less. The Prince’s main goal is to create an army of his own citizens. This way, he knows these people are loyal as they followed him along his path and want him in rule to continue providing for them. Therefore, if the Prince creates an army of his own citizens he knows they trust him and will defend him, but they also won’t defy him as they are accustomed to him ruling.

Why it is better “to be both loved and feared?”

It is better for a prince to be both loved and feared because he is not being hated. If you are hated your townspeople or foreigners will take any chance they get to overthrow you. If you are loved you have the trust and loyalty of the people so they will support you genuinely. If you have a fear of the people they will respect you, and if you are respected, you will be protected and people will follow you because they want you to continue to provide for you. A prince can be both loved and feared. The people can love the prince if he acts based upon what the state wants, and what the state wants benefits the people and keeps them in good spirits. The prince can be feared in his war tactics and actions towards people outside of the state. He can be cruel and unloving, this way his people know that he has two sides. While he shows genuine care and love for them, he can be ruthless if needed. Just another way Machiavelli incorporates the idea of not letting your morals control you.

Three bits of advice

Machiavelli tells the prince to arm his subjects. In doing so, he shows his citizens that he trusts them. This evokes a great sense of pride inside the citizens, with this newfound pride, the citizens will use their arms to valiantly protect their prince. If the prince instead disarms his subjects, they will feel he doesn’t trust them. This can cause hate and rebellion which will end the prince’s rule. The second piece of advice is to defeat your enemies. Early in his writing Machiavelli states that war is inevitable, you can push it back, but it will still happen. It is better to attack and defeat your enemies, then let them attack and defeat you. When you defeat your enemies you are deemed greater. You appear strong and brave, and you send the message that you are a force to be reckoned with. Finally, you can not be hated. Machiavelli repeatedly mentions that if you are hated you will not be able to rule. If your subjects hate you you have no loyalty, no respect, and no protection. Eventually a foreigner, or one of your own subjects will attack you, and try to overthrow you. Either way, if you have a hateful kingdom you will not succeed.

For a prince to be esteemed, he needs to definitively choose a side in battle. This being that if he is neutral neither side will have positive views of him. If the prince is neutral both sides will believe he doesn’t fully trust them and will conspire without him. If the two battling sides reach a resolution, and a winner, the prince will be the new target. He has only to fear the winning side by never choosing to join the side. If the prince chooses a side in the beginning it benefits him by knowing a plan of attack and what the other side is doing. This way he has a fighting chance if his side wins he will still be in power. But without choosing any side, he will always lose in the end. If he can trust one side, and even if they lose the battle, he still has a group of devoted followers who will protect him and stay loyal. By being neutral, the prince shows no authority, or loyalty.

Characteristics of a Machiavellian ruler

First a prince needs to have war strategy. Without war strategy a prince can not lead a kingdom because he can not protect it. If he can not protect his kingdom, then he can not protect himself, and therefore he is vulnerable. A prince needs to be noble. If he is noble he is wise, and with wisdom he understands how to be respected, and how to gain the acceptance of his subjects. A prince needs to have a loving heart. With a loving heart he can be both feared and loved. His is careful and protective of his kingdom, but cold to potential threats of foreigners. A prince needs to be observant. He needs to know if trouble is brewing, he can stop a potential upset and condense the problem from the start. But, if he is unknowing, he can’t fix a problem when it is full set in motion and out of his control. Machiavelli also mentions how a ruler needs good fortune. Without good fortune your chances are slim, the odds are stacked against and no matter how good you are, if you have bad fortune nature is against you. The prince also needs to be aware of his men. He needs to know if his servant have any ulterior motives, by keeping them close he can ensure they will protect him. But if they do have ulterior motives, the prince will be able to deal with the problem swiftly. The prince must be wise. He needs to be able to develop war strategy, and know how to manipulate, deceive, and keep the economy and kingdom running. The prince must absolutely not be hated. If hated he has no loyalty and he will be killed or overthrown by his own subjects or foreigners. While the prince needs to earn trust and respect he can not put too much faith in people. He needs to slowly please them, if the people have too much faith the simplest let down can turn everyone against him. FInally a prince needs to prove bravery strength, everyone wants a leader and protector who they can trust to put themselves on the line for the state, and prevail over difficult obstacles.

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Under Machiavellian rule a state would have a powerful and cunning military. The military would be strong and eliminate threats at the source. They would be intimidating to foreigners, but also they would be desired. They would be strong and powerful and other states would envy to be like them. Along with a strong military, the prince would be kind to his subjects. He would do the best to keep his subject in good living conditions so that they were happy. However, the prince could be deceitful and manipulative when needed in order to conduct diplomatic business and keep his state on top. Finally the people would feel independent, but not so independent that they don’t need a ruler. They would look to the prince to make everything is organized, maintained and in line at all times. The state overall would be strong and stable.


The Prince was written long before any of us were born. However, it’s principles are still relevant in modern government. The Prince was written during the early years of the Renaissance when Italy and Europe were experimenting and undergoing government, and cultural change. Therefore, this experimentation brought new and strong insights on how to run and maintain a government. While Machiavelli Makes many strong points in his works, some of the most important ideas and themes that are still prevalent are morals, corruption, war strategy, and hatred.

Firstly, Machiavelli states that morals get in the way of politics. He encourages politicians to do the right thing if they can, but when it is necessary, you must do the wrong thing. Therefore, your own morals about what is right and what is wrong can not interfere with your ability to make policy. We see this in modern governments all the time. For instance, in American government we as citizens see all kinds of laws that made that don’t sit right with our morals. Abortion is a heavy topic and many believe it is a choice, and many believe a life is alife. When politcians make legislation they incorporate their own morals into abortion laws. This cause great anger to both sides of the argument. This proves why morals need to be left out, when morals are not taken into account the logical and most beneficial decision is made. It might not always be liked, but people’s opinions aren’t being attacked in the process.

Secondly, corruption is seen everywhere in American government. Many citizens do not trust their own politicians and officials and believe they don’t have the people’s best interests at heart. And many times, this is true. We read all about scandals and embezzlement ,and fraud. Machiavelli states that we have formed to complex of a society to ever reach a pure republican government. This appears to be true, as selfish human tendencies render us to put ourselves first and this corruption leads to manipulative and lying government. It causes people to do what is best for themselves and to pull strings behind the scenes. Thus, why Machiavelli’s idea about republican government and corruption rings very much true in modern government and politics.

In addition, war strategy is important for many governments around the world. During Machiavelli’s time you always needed to be prepared for attack and have a well thought out war strategy that will protect the state. While most countries are at peace, or have alliances, there are countries still fighting everyday. Not only do these countries need war strategy, but so did the countries at bay. The citizen is supposed to feel safe in their country, and when they feel safe they feel a sense of nationalism binding them to their country. In order to keep the citizens safe and their morale high, countries need to ensure that they have a meticulous and well devised strategy to ensure safety. Along with ensuring safety, they are ensuring that their own country stays dominant of itself and nobody can threaten their power, much like during Machiavelli’s time.

Last but not least, Machiavelli restated a current theme of hatred in his book. He constantly reminded the reader that the prince is not to be hated. If the prince is hated he is doomed. He has no alliances and no loyalties, He is constantly at risk of being harmed or overthrown. The prince will eventually be eliminated and a new ruler will enter power. It is a little different in modern government, but still seen. For instance, if Americans hate the President, they will most likely vote him out of office. Any natural misfortunes that are inevitable during that President’s time in office will not be overlooked, the President will surely be blamed. The other politicians will also vote against the President and will fail to cooperate with him and make his term a series of problems and difficulties. However, if the President has the people’s support, appearance will be important and so the politicians will also support the President. The theme is that if you are hated, you will not be successful, if you aren’t hated you have a much better chance. This idea if relevant to much more than government and politics in our world today.

As stated above, Machiavelli’s work in The Prince is still prevalent in modern government and politics, and can even be applied to other situations. Machiavelli was amn ahead of his time who understood how government works. He understood that morals were important, but they were also nuisances and complications. He understood that with humans adavaning their knowledge everyday and having selfish tendencies we will most likely neve be able to reach a true republican government. Machiavelli acknowledged that the human always needs to feel safe and protected, and the country always needs to feel in power and therefore need to have a war strategy at all times. Finally, Machivelli understood that if the head of power was hated, nothing good or successful would be accomplished. On that account, Machiavelli’s ideas and themes in The Prince are still relevant in modern government and politics.

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Main Themes, Army’s Role And Ruler Characteristics In The Prince. (2021, September 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 30, 2023, from
“Main Themes, Army’s Role And Ruler Characteristics In The Prince.” Edubirdie, 14 Sept. 2021,
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Main Themes, Army’s Role And Ruler Characteristics In The Prince [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 14 [cited 2023 Jan 30]. Available from:
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