The themes of the book include statesmanship and warcraft, goodwill and hatred, free will, virtue, and human nature. Regarding statesmanship and warcraft, Machiavelli relies on the fact that good laws act in accordance with a good military. A famous quote from The Prince where Machiavelli states “the presence of sound military forces indicates the presence of sound laws”. He portrays his understanding of war as a necessity in the development of states.
A big chunk of the book is dedicated to explaining how to conduct a good war. Regarding the theme of goodwill and hatred, Machiavelli depicts that a prince must avoid being hated by his people if he wants to remain in power. It is explained that it is more of an advantage for a prince to be feared instead of loved, but being hated can lead to a prince’s destruction. Machiavelli states that a prince should not be worried about being hated only when he is entirely certain that the people who hate him will not be able to rise against him. Conclusively, acquiring the goodwill of the people does not have much to do with a prince wanting to keep the people happy. Instead, goodwill is a strategy used to protect the security of the prince’s reign. Relating to the theme of free will, Machiavelli uses the words “prowess” and “fortune” many times throughout the book in order to define two specific ways that a prince can gain power. He defines prowess as an individual’s talents, and fortune as chance or luck. A chunk of his goal in this book is to determine the amount of a prince’s success or failure that is a result of his own free will and how much is actually caused naturally. Machiavelli is very certain that human beings are able to have some control over their destinies, but he seems equally as confident that humans don’t have full control over events. In The Prince, Machiavelli defines virtues as qualities that are admired by others. Virtues could include generosity, compassion, and devotion. The last theme of The Prince is human nature. Machiavelli claims that several traits are built-in in human nature. He states that most people are generally content with the status quo and only a few desire an increased status.
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Machiavelli repeatedly accused others of failing to conquer Italy. He talked a lot about how other people were trying to conquer Italy the wrong way and he recognized the perfect, appropriate, exact way to do so. Machiavelli was a very intelligent man and he displays his intelligence many times throughout the book, The Prince. In the last chapter Machiavelli claims that “fortune now prefers the introduction of a new order in Italy, introducing the formation of new legal and military institutions. He claims that “Italy’s present ruin has prompted its people to reclaim the worth of an Italian spirit.’ Machiavelli also argues that the masses want and need change, leading to the birth of a new Italian state. This priority of the people’s wishes indicates the modern power of the masses. Machiavelli strongly encourages Lorenzo to return Italy to its greatness of the past and he really tries to persuade him to do so through the reunification of Italy. He encourages Lorenzo to use goodwill and military arms to reshape Italy and make it great again. He lays out the historical context of Italy and explains the past failures of rulers concludes that he believes Lorenzo is the only one who can bring back Italy’s pride and glory.
His dedication is a letter to Lorenzo de’ Medici, the nephew of Giovanni de’ Medici. Machiavelli desired to return to the good graces of the Medici family. Lorenzo became the duke of Urbino. The dedication gave me, as the reader, an idea of Machiavelli’s intended audience. The Prince is originally aimed to offer recommendation, educate, and influence the minds of rulers. This book was originally intended to be a key or manual for aspiring princes. It was essentially a “how-to” guide to become a prince, or win and keep power. This book was intended to help Lorenzo de’ Medici achieve eminence as a prince. Machiavelli wanted to persuade Lorenzo that he was a friend with experience in politics and knowledge of the ancients. Overall, Machiavelli’s goal was to provide Lorenzo with advice that was useful, efficient, and easy to understand. He concludes at the end of the book that he strongly believes that only Lorenzo is capable of bringing back the pride and glory of Italy. I think the main reason he dedicated the book to Lorenzo was to get back into good graces with the Medici family because the Medici family were some of the most powerful people in Florence. I think Machiavelli wrote this book dedicated to Lorenzo in hopes that his kind advice would pity his unfortunate position, which he describes in the very last paragraph of the book.
Machiavelli refers to several traits that all humans possess. He claims that people are commonly self-centered, while they can either gain or lose fondness of other people too. He says that people will continue to be satisfied and happy as long as they refrain or stay away from things that cause hurt, misery, or hardship. People can be honorable during times that are promising or successful, but they can just as easily turn selfish during times of hardship. Like I mentioned above in the themes, Machiavelli states that people admire generosity, compassion, and devotion in others, but they often do not have these virtues themselves. He makes it very clear that loyalty can be won and lost, and goodwill is never certain. While a lot of Machiavelli’s opinions and beliefs seem legitimate, most of his opinions are just assumptions that he does not provide any evidence for, therefore they can easily be argued. It is possible to argue that Machiavelli’s political theory has too much confidence in his definition of human nature. Overall, most of Machiavelli’s claims in The Prince are merely his own opinions that could easily be argued by scholars.