Machiavelli's The Prince

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“The Prince” by Niccolò Machiavelli is not only an insightful leadership treatise but also a controversial text that serves as a timeless expose in the discipline of high stake politics. The author, one Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527); was a seasoned and sophisticated individual in areas like renaissance philosophy, poetry, playwright, history, and politics, and thus he remains to be a revered voice of relevance posthumously (Niccolò Machiavelli, 2016b). Through “The Prince,” Machiavelli has a free platform to outline the intriguing yet contentious concepts of human priorities, the exercise of reason in decision-making processes in the political arena, and the central motif that guides human conscience while pursuing actions that bring immense change in society. On the one hand, Machiavelli`s “The Prince” is an involving text that gives intrusive information about the behavior of those in leadership and the characteristics of the subjects. On the other, “The Prince” is not only ironical but also skeptical about what the Prince should do to gain power as well as what should be embraced in leadership culture for the Prince to maintain control over his subjects.  This paper is in defense of “The Prince,” and thus it discusses why Machiavelli is justified in his arguments; through the analysis of the themes of statesmanship and warcraft, goodwill and hatred, free will, virtue, and human nature in the novel.


Since the inception of “The Prince” in the sixteenth century, Machiavelli has received much criticism even posthumously, because of what is thought by his critics as a satirical book he authored. At the time the book was published, the audience of the day failed to differentiate between appearance and reality in the discipline of politics, hence the incredulous reaction that characterised the reception of “The Prince” (Niccolò Machiavelli, 2016b) . on the contrary, across centuries “The Prince” has emerged to be a novel which was not only designed for generations but one that would spawn centuries without losing relevance in the subjects of philosophy and intriguing politics. Therefore, Machiavelli's “The Prince” is a book that had more significance than what it appeared to be from the start. The book was not all that bad as most critics claim (Machiavelli, 2013). The novel was a dedication to a witty and knowledgeable audience, despite it being overly controversial. Hence it does not cause sociopolitical harm; rather, it serves to fortify and make healthy human practice in high stake in global politics. Indeed, “The Prince” has received extreme judgment because Machiavelli had elites in focus as his primary audience, hence judging the book harshly is an erroneous experience that has failed to stand the test of time.

Literature Review

Statesmanship and Warcraft are themes that Machiavelli discusses extensively in “The Prince.” The author argues that “the presence of sound military forces indicates the presence of sound laws” meaning; a moral armed force would always be the backgrounds from which good governance emanates (Machiavelli, 2013, P. 23).  Furthermore, the statement serves to outline the confrontation between war and peace in upcoming states that the arguments of Machiavelli focus most. On the one hand, Machiavelli is in support of the war, because until states conquer the enemy, there is no peaceful ground to encourage development, nor can there be an atmosphere of goodwill because the enemy has been deterred in his atrocities. On the other hand, the balance between war and the ability to take advantage of diplomacy is essential for the prosperity of a countries sociopolitical short and long-term interests (Niccolò Machiavelli, 2016b).  In essence, “The Prince” discusses how a successful war should be carried out. The state has obligations to design a suitable framework of how to handle the subjects to avert insurrection, how to treat the citizens in the conquered countries, or territory, how to put under control the conjured cities, and how to balance the forces of peace and war on the battlefield. The insightful approach of Machiavelli does not limit war to the use of brutal force and mass killings. Rather, war is a process, which entails diplomatic establishments at the local and the international stakes, historical analysis, tactical strategy, domestic mastery, and mastery of the geography within the vicinity of the battlefield (Niccolò Machiavelli, 2016b).  The political thinking of Machiavelli is, therefore, a timely discovery in the philosophy of war, considering that at the time “The Prince” was written Italian cities were under constant threats from the neighboring principals.

Machiavelli discusses goodwill and hatred in equal measure in “The Prince.” For power to be preserved and be protected, those in leadership should at all cost avoid the hatred from those being ruled.  On the contrary, the prince should not rejoice in being loved by his subjects, since being feared is a better option instead (Machiavelli, 2013). However, once a Prince is hated, downfall from the throne is often inevitable.  While the need to be feared rather than to be hated or be loved is statements in controversy with what Machiavelli says about cruelty in leadership, “The Prince” indicates categorically that moderation is essential in all facets of leadership. For instance, the author maintains that as much as cruelty does not escalate to extreme levels, then it is suitable to be meted upon one's enemies to contain the throne (Domandi, Machiavelli, & Atkinson, 1978).  Moderation ensures that both short term and long term goodwill is not compromised by the leadership system in place. Because the goodwill from across the population is essential to deter external aggression and domestic insurrection, Machiavelli warns that those in leadership should never encourage hatred through acts like the dissolution of cultural institutions or the confiscation of individual property across the country. The military should also be handled with care to eliminate any grounds of resistance against the prince. Once the leader is confident of no inevitable uprisings to take away power, then can he act without worry for confrontations from within or without. While goodwill is fostered among the people, Machiavelli advocates the prince that making all people happy is not the objective, instead, using political might or social propaganda to achieve similar ends of protecting the throne would be credible.

The theme of free will is evidenced in “The Prince” for the prince to take the throne of power, Machiavelli insists that the terms “fortune” and “prowess” ought to be taken advantage of in all dimensions (Niccolò Machiavelli, Skinner, & Price, 1988).  While luck and chance explain the aspect of fortune, Machiavelli argues that the talents and unique abilities the prince has are what amounts to his prowess. On the one hand, Machiavelli writes “The Prince” to explain how the external environment could work against efforts to make the prince reign. On the other, Machiavelli writes to explain how individual behavior could hinder the ability of the prince to get hold of power. Therefore, fortune and luck are essential determinants of human life.  Nevertheless, Machiavelli contents that while half of human life and hence success or failure is controlled by chance and luck, the rest is government by individual determination to achieve what is desired in life (Machiavelli, 2016). Therefore, free will is a related component to the destiny of the prince; whether he will reign or will be toppled.  On the contrary, Machiavelli advocates for the need to taking advantage of foresight, because it acts to enable a person to overcome the impending danger. Consequently, Machiavelli addresses the prince to note that human power is not absolute in shaping one's future. On the contrary, individual persons have some degree of influence over their lives, such that one can develop or destroy his destiny in life, in this case, the political fortunes.

The aspect of virtue is a critical component of “The Prince.”  Elements like piety, compassion, and generosity are always praised by others in society, and it is these factors that Machiavelli defines as virtues. While the price has to uphold virtuous life, acting in such a way just for the sake of expressing moral lifestyle could be adverse for the reign of the prince  (Machiavelli, 2016). On the contrary, if the prince finds it necessary to be dishonest or to embrace cruelty for the sake of the benefits of the state, then he should practice the same.  However, just as a good lifestyle should not be adopted for its sake, also cruelty should not be abused. Consequently, the vices and virtues the prince engages should be exclusively used as a means to an end and not the end in itself (Domandi et al., 1978).  In essence, the actions of the leader should be reflective of the state, rather than the need to measure the natural moral uprightness of the prince.

Machiavelli exhaustively discusses the theme of human nature in “the Prince.”  On the one hand, human beings dread fear because daring fear would naturally bring about the resultant pain. On the other hand, Machiavelli argues that friendship can easily be abused once an individual finds that doing so can work to his or her advantage (Niccolò Machiavelli, 2016b).  The human nature is such that affection to others can be won on some days or seasons, and lost in other times. However, for people to be content, they should never be enslaved to any particular habit in society. In times of adversity, people would often embrace deceit, selfishness, and profit-driven characteristics. However, in times of happiness and fulfillment, people will always be loyal and trustworthy. While individuals do not exhibit piety, generosity, honor, and courage in their lives, it is inevitable that everyone admires these virtues in once spotted in other persons (Machiavelli, 2013).  On the contrary, people who have realized some form of ambition in life have passion and hope for more in the future. However, those who are poor or less gifted would always tend to be satisfied and embrace the status quo.  Furthermore, goodwill can never be a state of absolute control, in as much as people can become affectionate because of favors, and though the bond cannot be easily broken, it is not permanent.  Therefore, Machiavelli advises the prince on how to deal with his subjects, because human nature is complex and is affected by circumstances mostly.

Analysis; Why “The Prince” is Right

“The Prince” meets controversy in its reception because Machiavelli does not compromise facts and opinions; rather, he tells it openly that the political environment is often risky, murky, deadly, and untrustworthy. Moral uprightness is not pertinent to the cruel political atmosphere, as Machiavelli argues, “There is no other way to guard yourself against flattery than by making men understand that telling you the truth will not offend you” (Niccolò Machiavelli et al., 1988, P. 121). Therefore, Machiavelli makes genuine arguments to advise his audience, the elites of power, but the sentiment of the reader can easily obstruct the intention of the author to mean something else because of arbitrary understanding. Achieving political might as the end and not the means to the end is what Machiavelli says of the princes, and this stance justifies his diction and extreme ideas because that is what has to be done for political power to be contained in the actual sense.

The other factor that confirms Machiavelli was justified in his arguments, however cynical they appear to be, is because his information has spawned centuries and hence overcome the test of time, and similar principles have manifested in many countries at the helm of political power struggles.  Machiavelli`s “The Prince” has proved sensible and empirical in times beyond the life of the author (Machiavelli, 2013). Machiavelli is hence an enduring political theorist, a controversial yet realistic author who foresaw the political landscape of human nature. What the disciplines of philosophy and political science are theory, but what Machiavelli says is the terrible truth that characterizes the political atmosphere in practical circumstances (Domandi et al., 1978). Therefore, “The Prince” does not appeal to what is perceived as conventional”, rather, the book outlines the bitter reality of what leadership and political power feels like, especially in upcoming democracies across the world, for instance; the middle east, continental Africa, and Latin America (Machiavelli, 2013) .  The balanced or unbalanced application of Machiavelli`s principles in “The Prince” has led to the creation and destruction of countries respectively. Based on the wisdom of the prince or lack thereof, citizens can lose their property and lives, or a country can be fortified in terms of sociopolitical and economic segments, “Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves” (Machiavelli, 2016, P. 92) .  Consequently, the distinction of politics and morality is what makes Machiavelli a realist who tells the truth in the uncivilized and brutal world of politics. Finally, Machiavelli is right because he advises the political class to be real but flexible, to achieve excellence in leadership “Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception”  (Niccolò Machiavelli et al., 1988, P. 21). Hence the universal power of truth in “The Prince.”

By distinguishing “The Prince” from a modest or a virtuous approach of telling political lies, Machiavelli has set this novel as a peerless political text whose context risks extremes of social confrontation to expose the rot in the politics of the world.  Machiavelli has been mistaken by his audience, and a skeptical judgment would normally occur because people o does not understand how he balances the forces of peace, civilization, moderation, and extremism for the prince to finally access the throne by all means (Benner, 2009). Indeed, because the political atmosphere is not favorable, and the prince has to get hold of power anyway, then Machiavelli is truthful to suggest that using mercy or cruelty, diplomacy or force; has no an exception to achieve the goal.  Machiavelli says that the prince should balance four aspects to achieve political power; use of criminal mechanisms, one's abilities, talent, and fortunes or inherited assets, as well as the use of the electoral support (Domandi et al., 1978).  The balance of cruelty with kindness is what Machiavelli appeals for, as extremism could lead to lost trustworthy or goodwill among subjects and attract both external and internal insurrection.  The ancient Sicilian leader, one Agathocles; has been condemned by “The Prince” because he used extreme force to kill fellow leaders and subjects; meaning Machiavelli abhors animosity (Niccolò Machiavelli et al., 1988). Machiavelli advises the prince to choose a lesser evil and achieve a virtuous end, rather than avoiding atrocity and creating a buffer zone for the political misfortunes to continue in a country. The prince has to use force and cruelty and topple the abusive powers that be in the nation. After the prince archives the objective of overcoming his enemy and by extension then imposter on people, he can now employ modest and moral governance techniques “Wisdom consists of knowing how to distinguish the nature of the trouble, and in choosing the lesser evil”  (Machiavelli, 2013, P. 27).  Consequently, Machiavelli is justified in his arguments throughout the text, because he substantiates why force and cruelty are critical in some circumstances to reclaim the glory, political stability, and harmony of a country.


Machiavelli`s “The Prince” is a text meant for generation across centuries, because of the realist approach the author embraces to expose the hidden extremism in the political arena the world over. Machiavelli is right in his arguments because he makes it known in “The Prince” that politics and moral uprights are distinct and opposed to each other. Hence people should not expect peace, harmony, and comfort amidst heated political landscapes. Rather, people should be prepared for anything, because the prince has to get hold of the throne as an end in itself, and peace, diplomacy, credulity, and political goodwill are possible means.  Machiavelli is right and should not be condemned for making such a controversial argument that in some circumstances, use of force is inevitable for leadership proper to be achieved as a matter of principle, and for the wicked regimes to be taken off the throne.  The leadership has choices to make, either to stay in power or to lose political stability and mess up the peace of the country.  Machiavelli does not confound his arguments, and he chooses to deliver a clear message to his audience about how power is gained, kept, and lost if not well guarded. The economy, ideological issues, and virtuous livelihood are important for the prince to consider, but such should be ignored if it has to come at the expense of political power. Indeed, the right audience of Machiavelli is an elite group extreme political position, and the situation could get worse for the whole country if legal and tactical decisions are not made just in time. Going by what has been witnessed in young democracies like Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, Machiavelli was justified in the controversial but insightful arguments he makes in “The Prince.” 



Benner, E. (2009). Machiavelli’s Ethics- The Prince - Erica Benner - Google Books. Princeton University Press, 2009 ISBN 1400831849, 9781400831845. Retrieved from

Domandi, M., Machiavelli, N., & Atkinson, J. B. (1978). The Prince. Italica, 55(3), 370.

Machiavelli, N. (2013). The prince and the discourses. In Third World Urbanization (pp. 19–21).

Machiavelli, N. (2016a). The Prince - Niccolò Machiavelli - 8 Books - 8. Xist Publishing, 2016 ISBN 1681959038, 9781681959030. Retrieved from

Machiavelli, N. (2016b). The Qualities of the Prince. In A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers (pp. 84–98).

Machiavelli, N., Skinner, Q., & Price, R. (1988). The prince. Cambridge texts in the history of political thought.

November 24, 2023
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