Do the Ends Justify the Means?

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Robert Sasson Final Paper ENG 2800 12-09-09

Do the Ends Justify the Means?

Literature is often a vehicle for social commentary. Two works of literature that express criticism of practices in the society in which they were written are Niccolo Machiavelli’s Mandragola and the Gospel According to Saint Matthew. In his satirical comedy, Machiavelli indirectly criticizes the hypocritical practices of the Catholic Church; however, Jesus in the Gospel According to Saint Matthew instead directly condemns all evil deeds, few of which are criticized in Mandragola. The main difference between the two criticisms is that Machiavelli believes if positive ends are the product of corrupt behavior than the means are reasonable; whereas Jesus tries to stop all evil at its source by making no exception for corruption and unjustness, no matter how great of an outcome it might produce. In Mandragola we are introduced to Friar Timoteo, a corrupt priest of the Catholic Church. Timoteo, being a man of faith makes him a more ironic figure to be guilty of fraud; yet Machiavelli makes sure we are not deceived by his title, and even so Timoteo proves to be the guiltiest of all the characters. He gets himself involved in a fraudulent plan to persuade Lucrezia, the wife of Messer Nicia, to sleep with another man so her husband would not suffer the consequences of the mandrake potion, which she and her husband were led to believe would guarantee them a child. Rather than trying to end the deception of Ligurio and Callimaco, Timoteo sees right through their plan and chooses to ignore any moral obligations in return for money. He is well aware that he is pushing Lucrezia to sleep with another man other than her husband, and so, in order to carry out the plan he must rely on Lucrezia’s trust in him, as her confessor, in order to persuade her. Timoteo does so by convincing Lucrezia that “it is the will that sins, not the...
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