Synopsis: The Prince is a 16th-century guide on how to be an autocratic leader of a country. It explains why ends like glory and power always justify even brutal means for princes. Thanks to this book, the word “Machiavellian” came to mean using deceit and cunning to one’s advantage. Set against the backdrop of Italian Renaissance (a period of intense activity in ac, science and literature).
Summary of the 11 Ideas:
- Principalities can either be easy to conquer but hard to rule, or hard to conquer but easy to rule.
- Acquiring new principalities depends on both fortune and virtue.
- Both wickedness and popular support are ways to become a prince.
- Every prince must master the art of war.
- To protect your principality, you need your own army, not mercenaries or auxiliary troops.
- A prince must balance generosity with miserliness.
- A successful prince can use cruelty to his advantage but should avoid being hated.
- A successful prince knows when to use deceit and how to cover it up.
- A prince must assemble good advisors and know how to seek their advice.
- Take action – never leave your fate in the hands of fortune alone.
Written in 1513 (published in 1532), 83 years before King Henry IV Part 1, Machaveillian’s tract on foreign policy and leadership provides a deeper understanding of Shakespeare’s representation of leadership. By the seventeenth century, the name Machiavelli had become synonymous with diabolical cunning, a meaning that it still carries today ie the qualities lead to personal success and goals often by manipulating and taking advantage of others.
Shakespeare uses the Prince and the machiavellian ideals to shape some of his characters and their actions. We see this is the play, Othello, through the character Iago, using his cunning and wicked nature to his advantage. In Shakespeare’s plays, we see much of his authorial intentions through his creation of characters as well as Shakespeare’s opinions on issues within society such as the future of the monarch. Specifically, in King Henry IV, the play makes the statement that the best possible ruler must be both annointed and politically shrewd.
Specifically, in King Henry IV, the play makes the statement that the best possible ruler must be both anointed and politically shrewd. King Henry is the archetypal Machaveillian ruler whose political pragmatism and machiavellian qualities define his character. Henry, because of his desire to maintain power, will perform any action. It does not matter if he is insincere as long as he conveys the right sentiment to the people directly mirroring the qualities “merciful, trustworthy, upright, humane, and devout” from Machiavelli, p.63.What’s most interesting to you about this?Machaveillian’s The Prince introduced some particularly innovative and new ideas regarding the qualities of a successful leader. Interestingly, these were broken down into rational / pragmatic ways of thinking. Yet the book’s ability to create a simple and logical approach towards leadership creates easily understandable advice which underscores the Machaveillian principles. As such, the term “Machaveillian” has remained relevant even in modern day societies, commonly used in politics in Western countries.