Title: Review of The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
Author: Rich Christie <RichChristie@ChristieComputer.com>
The Prince, By Niccolo Machiavelli is a powerful and insightful look into the mind of a master politician who has an uninhibited sense of honesty and bluntness that leaves the reader staggered with astonishment. Written by Machiavelli after his own political demise, the book takes a sincere and yet cynical position in construeing his ideas. With the translation, editing, and introduction by Daniel Donno, The Prince is a masterpiece of literary work that is a classic without a doubt.
The introduction by Donno provides a solid foundation for the rest of the book to build upon, and the insight into the background of Machiavelli is essential to understand the perspective from which he writes. In addition, and perhaps the most valuable in understanding Machiavelli is the letter to a friend that is included. It is in this introduction that the reader learns of Machiavelli's trials and tribulations, awards and accomplighments, and the letter supplies the reader with direct insight into the psyche of Machivelli. Perhaps one of the simplest sentances in the letter is also the most powerfull, as it states "I am going to waste" (Machiavelli 5).
The writing style has a very authoritive voice to it, but with a conversational tone. It appears as though Machiavelli had great confidence in what he wrote and took for granted that others would agree on his veiw points. There are many examples of the conversational tone such as the use of "I" found in many places, and a few examples are as follows: "...I say that republics have endured for many years.." (111), "I think that some people may be surprised when they see a certain general.." (119), and "I had not intended from recent Italian examples..." (52). Those are just a few example of Machiavelli writing conversationally, and perhaps the reason behind writing in this manner is he feels that the reader would feel more involvement, that is, being spoken to and not spoken at. Calling Machieavelli a master of manipulation would not be far fetched, even if his methods may seem almost trivial. It is also quite possible that the conversational voice is not a manipulative tactice at all, but in fact could be that when he was writing it he was writing it for himself and expressing his internal thoughts on paper. He may have been developing this blueprint to work his way back up the political latter and the original sole intention was for him, and not others. Though less likely, it may have been written conversationally because that was the primary way he knew how to write or that may have been the standard writing procedure in his time. The authoritive voice is demonstrated throughout the book, and need not even be cited because of how prevelent it is.
Another very noticable quality of the book is the elavated language that it uses, it is certainly a book of magnificant eloqunce, which may be in part credited to Donno. Intellectually stimulating, not only is it necessary to use the supplied "notes" in the back of the book for historical purposes, but also a dictionary may also be of some help. The Prince certainly captures Machiavelli's superior intellect, and the wording adds appropriate decoration to his concepts.
In the Introduction, Donno praises The Prince by saying "...there is no bowing to pious cliches, to pretended sensibilities, or hallowed euphamisms" (9). It is easy to strongly agree with that statement as it is said with truth. There are many instances where Machiavelli is extremely blunt. In reponding to whether it is better to be loved or feared, he says feared because man is generally "ungrateful, fickle, dissembling, anxious to flee danger and covetous of gain", and continues on to say "...but above all, he [The Prince] should refrain from the property of others, for men are quicker to forget death of a father than the loss of a patrimony" (60). After reading that, it would be easy to see why many of his contemporaries might have seen him as evil. However, perhaps what feared them the most what that he spoke the truth and that is not exactly what they wanted to hear. If he had used euphamisms to disguise what he had actually been saying then he might have been more loved than feared, which as suggested by the chapter the above quote was taken from, he would have rather be feared. In addition, if The Prince had been saturated with euphamisms then it might not have been such a unique masterpeice, and much of the appeal of the book is based on the outspoken sincerity of it.
To make the opinion that Machiavelli is evil even more apparent, he says himself that "...he must stick to the good so long as he can, but, being compelled by necessity, he must be ready to take the way of evil" (63). Again, this is not exactly what people want to hear from someone that they wish to represent them, although it may be exactly what they wish their leader to do. It may not be that Machiavelli was any more evil than the next man, but he chose to be vocal about it and broke some unspoken laws of politics. In The Prince, he revealved all; more then some wanted to know.
The Prince seems to describe a leader that Machiavelli veiws as ideal, and seems to suggest that he believes he would be the perfect leader. The book may be his own blueprint for siezing power or a guide for another to do so, it may also be revealing of the unspoken rules of politics that separate the leaders from the followers. Machiavelli's pereception may seem distorted by cynicism, especially since at one point he was a highly important and respected offical and now, just as Polonius said, reduced to "be no assistant to the state, but keep a farm and carters" (3). No matter the circumstances The Prince was written under, it is definitely worth the time to read for those intersted in learning about human nature and politial science, the psycholgy of a leader and the qualities that may in fact make a successfull leader. The Prince leaves an enlightened, yet terrified reader.
Donno, Daniel (trans.). The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli. New York: Bantam Books, 1966.
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