The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli and The Book of the Courtier by Baldesar Castiglione are two how-to guides for the new political order of Renaissance Italy. The Prince is focused on what qualities a prince should have to gain and maintain their throne. The Book of the Courtier focuses on what qualities a courtier should possess to be ideal. Machiavelli’s The Prince proposes a more realistic set of qualities and values compared to The Book of the Courtier, and in return was a better guide with ruling in the new political order.
Machiavelli begins by discussing the different decisions a prince must make, and how that the public has an opinion on each decision. He states that there are qualities that will either bring praise or blame. “…one a free giver, another rapacious; one cruel, another merciful; one a breaker of his word, another trustworthy; one effeminate and pusillanimous, another fierce and high-spirited; one humane, another haughty; one lascivious, another chaste; one frank, another astute; one hard, another easy; one serious, another frivolous…” (Machiavelli 125). Machiavelli goes on to say that it would be ideal to possess all the qualities that are considered good, but that it is not humanly possible. A prince shouldn’t be afraid to choose qualities that may be viewed bad, but will allow him to maintain his rule over the land. Machiavelli discusses being merciful, and how being too merciful can be as bad as being too cruel. Machiavelli cites a historical rules named Caesar Borgia who “…was considered cruel, but his cruelty had brought order to the Romagna, united it, and reduced it to peace and fealty” (Machiavelli 125). Machiavelli compares Caesar Borgia to another group of people who allowed a whole village to be destroyed to avoid being seen as cruel. The examples of former leaders to support the opinions are what make The Prince a better guide than The Book of the Courtier. Machiavelli questions whether it is better to be loved or to be...
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