In the book, “II Principe” (The Prince), Machiavelli gives a detailed analysis of republics’ and principalities’ structures, concentrating on the rulers – the princes.
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When studying this work, one must bear in mind two important things. The first is that Nicolo wrote his work based on the personal experience as a government official. In the 15th chapter of “The Prince”, Nicolo brings to the reader’s attention that he is describing “real principalities,” and hopes to give the reader full understanding of life and politics of a ruler, therefore, he will not disguise the negative side of a ruler either. It is not possible for a prince to be known for his good qualities only; “hence it is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity” (Machiavelli 41).
The second point to keep in mind is that the way people judge the world today is different from the one than existed during the Machiavelli’s time. Certainly, the killing of an innocent man, particularly in cold blood, was and still is considered a crime. But challenging to a duel, or taking up a challenge was a matter of great honor back in that time.
There are many examples of amoral behavior demonstrated by men in “The Prince.” For instance, the question of whether a prince should keep his word is raised. Machiavelli states that experience shows that rulers that have achieved something great have not strived to keep their word, and if there was a need, they were able to wrap anyone around their finger. He gives the sample of Pope Alexander VI, whom he called “the master of art of political deception” (Machiavelli 23-24), his rise to power and his papacy.
Another sample of a successful ruler is Cesare Borgia, who was a worthy heir to his father Alexander VI. Many people considered him to be one of the most cruel and unscrupulous politicians; however, he had a strong personality and admirable qualities. Machiavelli was not justifying Cesare’s crimes; he was admiring him as a capable and wise leader. It is hardly imaginable that Cesare was an agreeable man, but he was ambitious and successful. As Machiavelli points out, man fights with the law as his support, an animal fights using its power and force; and sometimes, when law is weak, force is necessary.
Machiavelli also draws a conclusion that a wise man cannot and must not stay true to his promises if they get in the way of his interests. He gives many examples of rulers who employed that tactic, one of them being King of Spain Ferdinand II. A ruler must have a cunning nature, yet he must be able to hide it well. Therefore, hypocrisy is not a flaw or weakness for a ruler, and I strongly agree with the statement. Even though telling lie is an amoral behavior, a ruler should use it when this will help the country.
The above are a few examples of amoral behavior, considered to be necessary for a ruler for secure hold of the seat of power. Machiavelli shows many examples of strong rulers that were not kind and merciful men, but he argues that establishing strong rule is more important than being agreeable. The principles, Machiavelli explains in his work, came to be known as Machiavellism.
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