Is Machiavelli Writing for Royalty or the People?

Essay by Nelly25mattCollege, UndergraduateB+, March 2007

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Nicollo Machiavelli wrote The Prince in 1513 but it didn't get published until after his death in 1527. The Prince is a "ruler's handbook" in the way that it explains certain problems that every ruler experiences. It is quite possible that it is the most popular book about politics ever written. Machiavelli was able to develop this "how-to" book by observing past rulers who were successful. The Prince is directed towards royalty since Machiavelli wrote it in such a way that he is teaching leaders how they should handle certain subjects while in power.

Machiavelli states that rulers can't be too easy-going but they can't be too harsh either. He writes, " would be desirable to be considered generous; nonetheless, if generosity is practised in such a way that you will be considered generous, it will harm you (p. 56)." Machiavelli is directing this towards present and future leaders by letting them know that if they are too generous, it can come back to haunt them.

In such cases leaders are forced to raise taxes to make up for everything they gave away, making the people angry. Machiavelli also believes that leaders have to be somewhere in between being merciful and being cruel. There are circumstances that a leader should not worry about being considered harsh, such as being a ruler of a large army force (p. 60).

Machiavelli then goes on to teach the leaders that they do not always have to be truthful. He explains, "...a prudent ruler cannot keep his word, nor should he, when such fidelity would damage him, and when the reasons that made his promise are no longer relevant (pg. 61)."

His statement argues that there are acceptable instances for a leader to break a promise if it is for the benefit of the...