Virtue and Fortune in Machiavelli’s The Prince
Throughout The Prince, Machiavelli outlines the characteristics needed to be a strong and admirable leader. He explains that personal characteristics such as courage and compassion, both being aspects of virtue, will earn him praise. However, he feels that this expectation is unrealistic and a prince’s first job is to protect the state, and having “bad” characteristics is sometimes necessary to reach that goal. That being said, in order to protect the state a prince may have to act unscrupulously at times which he believes will bring good fortune in the long run. Machiavelli believes that no matter how a prince acts, whether moral or not, virtue and fortune are the two most influential forces in politics and he shows how, throughout history, they have affected different people in powerful positions. Using the lessons learned by previous people of great political power, Machiavelli points out virtues and fortunes present in the particular cases, while then explaining his beliefs and solutions to the examples from the past. Virtue and fortune go hand in hand throughout this guide. One must have good fortune to be given the opportunity to show his potentially virtuous qualities, and the virtue that one portrays will, in turn, determine one’s fortune. When discussing acts of virtue, Machiavelli determines self-reliance to be the top priority. A prince who is able to take advantage of good fortune and rely on his own abilities will success at sustaining power over his state because he will have built a strong foundation for being a ruler. He will then gain the trust and loyalty of his army along with respect of those he has overpowered. Then he will therefore be better prepared to deal with issues that arise, without having to rely on others or outside factors. The more independent and self-reliant the prince, the more capable of success he will be. One of the main topics that is expanded upon in this book is the...
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