THE PRINCE: Themes and Ideas
During Machiavelli’s time, society was much different than it had been for previous philosophers. Instead of storing up good works, so as to enjoy paradise, as the medieval man did, the Renaissance man was interested in all things, enjoyed life, strove for worldly acclaim and wealth, and had a deep interest in classical civilizations. He was born at a time of conflict within Florence, Italy, between the republican leaders and the family of the Medici’s, of which the Machiavelli’s, especially, had a history of opposition towards. After years of conflict between powers, Machiavelli was exiled from his country.
It was during this exile that he wrote his most famous work, The Prince, a piece about political power. Growing up, and through his time in political office, Machiavelli studied the men and/or groups in power, specifically noting their successes and failures. Using this information from his observations, Machiavelli wrote The Prince in order to try to re-enter politics by “assisting” the man whom had exiled him, Lorenzo de Medici, in his ruling. Though this was more of a plot to try to gain the favor of Lorenzo, he does note in his book that in order to gain the favor of a prince, you must present him with a gift; that was the purpose of his novel. In it, Machiavelli analysis’s the various types of monarchies, analysis’s of the different types of states, how they may be obtained, and how they should be ruled. He also describes how power is seized and retained, how to rule the military forces and, the essence of his work, how a prince should act in all circumstances in order to accomplish these tasks.
The first philosopher who did not try to lecture or preach on how to reach the ‘ideal state’ was Machiavelli. He saw society differently: Since it is my intention to write something of use..., I deem it best to stick to the practical truth of things...
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