Written almost five centuries ago during Italy’s era of fractious chaos, Niccolo Machiavelli’s, The Prince became the “How-To” book for the effective acquisition, governance, and retainment of power over principalities. Within the pages of this political treatise, Machiavelli duly explains the qualities of a successful prince. However, he also explains how the importance of these very qualities affect the prince’s public image and reputation and how these play a vital role in the retention of power while keeping others from conspiring and rising against him.
The ideal prince should be virtuous in that in that he should be “merciful, faithful, humane, religious and upright” (Machiavelli, Chapter XVIII, 2012). However, it is impossible for a prince to have all of the aforementioned qualities making it more important to create the perception of having those good qualities. Nevertheless, he should also be willing to abandon those virtues if the prince wants to hold his own, to know how to do wrong and make use of it according to necessity. It is also necessary for the prince to be sufficiently prudent and know how to avoid the “reproach of those vices which would lose him his state; and also to keep himself, if it be possible, from those which would not lose him it” (Machiavelli, Chapter XV, 2012).
This perception is the reality Machiavelli believes to be critical to the effectiveness of the prince. The slightest perceived weakness or unethical behavior can lead to the prince’s downfall and the loss of his state making it imperative to display capabilities and conduct beyond admonition. “Therefore it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them. And I shall dare to say this also, that to have them and always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them is useful …but with a mind so framed that should you...