Il Principe (The Prince) is a political treatise by the Florentine public servant and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli. Originally called De Principatibus (About Principalities), it was written in 1513, but not published until 1532, five years after Machiavelli's death. The treatise is not representative of the work published during his lifetime, but it is the most remembered, and the work responsible for bringing "Machiavellian" into wide usage as a pejorative term. It has also been suggested by some critics that the piece is, in fact, a satire. (From feedbooks.com)
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Based on your reading of the poem, how might the speaker of the poem be considered "Machiavellian" (cunning, scheming or unscrupulous)?
The predacious speaker in Robert Browning's poem 'My Last Duchess' is said to be based on the 5th Duke of Ferrara. Read the poem here. (This annotation contains a link)
What literary element does Machiavelli use here to explain the dual problem of 'diagnosing' and 'curing' maladies of state?
Machiavelli's main point in this chapter is that newer mixed principalities are harder to maintain. Through all of these examples, Machiavelli attempts to show that the only way to maintain power over such principalities is through harsh rule and brutality. Consider how the time and place in which Machiavelli wrote this book influenced his political outlook. (Pictured: Map of Italy's principalities during Machiavelli's time) (This annotation contains an image)
What does Machiavelli assert about principalities that are governed by a prince with a body of servants?
So, Machiavelli claims it is harder to take control of a principality with a body of servants, but it is more difficult to rule with a contingent of nobles. What is a prince to do?
Explain what is problematic about a conquering prince destroying a state in order to secure it. What other options does a prince have if he wants to conquer a state that had been autonomous before?
Machiavelli claims that rulers should aim to imitate the successes of historical leaders. Do you agree? Why might this be difficult to do in the case of Moses? (This annotation contains an image)
Above all, what guarantees the success of the leader of a new regime?
The concept of the 'Wheel of Fortune' (or 'Rota Fortunae') has its origins in medieval philosophy (and the ancient concept of the Fates). In addition to good fortune, Machiavelli asserts that a successful leader must alsonhave 'virtu,' which is, in Machiavelli's estimation, a war-like spirit. (This annotation contains a link)
What do Machiavelli's examples of princes who achieved their power through only good fortune show?
On the whole, Machiavelli's writing style is pretty straightforward and direct. However, he does occasionally include some figurative language. Can you find any examples of figurative language thus far? (This annotation contains a video)
We know that the Duke will lose his state, but why do you think Machiavelli still holds him high in esteem?
Portrait of Cesare Borgia (1475-1507) (This annotation contains an image)
Based on this sentence, what can you infer about Machiavelli's stance on this point?
Pope Alexander VI is name-dropped by Machiavelli a lot because during this time before the Reformation, the pope was arguably the most powerful ruler in Europe. In order for a prince to have power, he must be in the good graces of the pope. (This annotation contains a link)
In your own words, explain Machiavelli's rationale about the frequency of which a ruler should commit acts of violence and of praise. How are these acts of violence not considered 'wickedness'?
Remember that in Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' there is a character that is an Italian prince - Prince Escalus. In the play, he is the one whose responsibility is to keep the peace and punish subjects who do not follow the law. In the Baz Luhrmann film (1996), the prince is given the more modern position of a police chief. (This annotation contains a video)
A prince of a civil principality, whether he be common or noble, must do what in order to maintain power?
This short chapter focuses on the importance of maintaining an army, as well as creating good defense practices and fortifications in order to both fight and prevent war. In 1521, Machiavelli wrote a longer treatise on war titled 'The Art of War.' In the book, he asserts that the ancients should be imitated in war. Why do you think this is? (This annotation contains a link)
To maintain the support of the people during times of conflict, Machiavelli suggests all of the following EXCEPT
This is an interesting tidbit of information. The longest serving pope (not counting Saint Peter) was Pius IX, who served in the office for 31 years (1846 - 1878). John Paul II served for 26 years (1978-2005). What do you think accounted for the short reigns of popes in Machiavelli's time?
What makes governing these ecclesiastical principalities unique?
Here is a quote about mercenaries from 'The Art of War.' What is dangerous about making war a profitable profession? (This annotation contains a link)
Why did Italy rely on mercenary armies?
Explain the paradox here. How can the prince be a captive if he has won?
What literary device does Machiavelli use here to illustrate his main point about auxiliary and mercenary soldiers?
Italian soldiers from the early 16th century (This annotation contains an image)
Why is the study of war the most important aspect of a prince's education?
How would you describe the tone of the book? Does Machiavelli have a distinctive voice or style? (This annotation contains a video)
According to Machiavelli, what is the downside of liberality?
You will find portrayals of misers throughout pop culture. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the downside of being only loved by the people and not feared as a leader?
This chapter is arguably the most famous and most quoted. Machiavelli's advice has been appropriated for all different kinds of leadership and management training. (This annotation contains a video)
To what extent is being a leader an act?
This particular chapter of the book is seen as one of the most shocking. Watch an excerpt of this video clip (to the 7:40 mark) to find out why. (This annotation contains a video)
How is a prince defended by external threats?
In Act IV scene 3 of 'Macbeth,' Malcolm tests Macduff's loyalty by pretending to have a multitude of vices. The character of Malcolm can represent strength and virtue in the promise of a new leadership for Scotland. (This annotation contains a video)
The 'sad end' of Pertinax and Alexander prove that
Praetorian soldiers were a kind of body guards used by Roman emperors. (This annotation contains an image)
What offenses did Maximinus commit? Were some more egregious than others?
Pictured: Palmanova, a Venetian star fort. (This annotation contains an image)
On the surface, this information about fidelity seems
In the tv series 'The Borgias,' Gina McKee played Caterina Sforza, the Countess of Forli. (This annotation contains an image)
What kind of respect does one give a "downright enemy"? Would you rather have respect as a friend or as an enemy?
You can actually play a strategy board game, similar to Risk or Diplomacy, based on the writings of Machiavelli. What do you think the ultimate objective of the game is? (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following adages best illustrates Machiavelli's point here?
Notice here that the advisers would still only be able to remark truthfully only on issues they were asked about. They would still be prohibited from giving their truthful opinions unsolicited.
What is Machiavelli's conclusion about counsel?
Machiavelli says that a failed prince cannot blame his loss of power on fickle fortune. The onus is on his poor choices and ineptitude. (This annotation contains an image)
Do you agree with Machiavelli's take on fortune and free will? What are some of the "great changes" he speaks of?
Do you think a person can make his or her own fate? (This annotation contains an image)
How does Machiavelli personify fortune?
Machiavelli once again addresses the man to whom he dedicated the book, Lorenzo de' Medici. (This annotation contains an image)
What is Machiavelli asking Lorenzo (and his "illustrious house") to do? How is he going about to achieve this?
DESCRIPTION OF THE METHODS ADOPTED BY THE DUKE VALENTINO WHEN MURDERING VITELLOZZO VITELLI, OLIVEROTTO DA FERMO, THE SIGNOR PAGOLO, AND THE DUKE DI GRAVINA ORSINI
Machiavelli has written about Cesare Borgia before. Specifically, we read about him in chapter 7.
In this section, Machiavelli
Oliverotto da Fermo was also mentioned earlier in the book. He was given as an example of a leader who achieved power through criminal means.
What do you think is the purpose of writing this account of events?
THE LIFE OF CASTRUCCIO CASTRACANI OF LUCCA
This biographical piece was written later than most of Machiavelli's works. In 1823, Mary Shelley wrote an historical novel based on the live of Castracani. (This annotation contains an image)
Why did Messer Antonio willingly agree to letting Castruccio go with Messer Francesco?
The Guelphs (also spelled Guelfs) and Ghibellines were two opposing political factions. The Guelphs were sympathetic to the papacy, and the Ghibellines were loyal to the Holy Roman Emperors. (This annotation contains a link)
What allowed Castruccio to swiftly capture new towns after his seize of Serezzana?
You can take a virtual tour of the walled city of Lucca here. (This annotation contains a link)
How do Castruccio's actions as a ruler align with the advice Machiavelli gives in 'The Prince'? In what ways does he exemplify a successful ruler by Machiavelli's standards?
Castruccio illustrated on horseback (from a book in the state library of Lucca) (This annotation contains an image)
What mistake has Castruccio made?
Can someone really die from a "chill"? President William Henry Harrison was famously thought to have died of pneumonia that he contracted after delivering a very long inaugural speech in cold, wet weather. However, now some scientists believe other factors probably contributed to his death. What other factors could have contributed to Castruccio's death? (This annotation contains a link)
Why does Machiavelli include information about Castruccio's appearance here? Is there any significance to his height, hair cut, or hair color?
Why would this be a praiseworthy attribute?
What is Machiavelli's attitude toward Castruccio?