From his work, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli conveys his thoughts on the exercise of power through his allegiance with the people. He has chosen to discuss the different approaches to power from the perspective of the nobles and from the public. Machiavelli manipulates the public to respond well to his writing through his various references to the public’s ability to be more noble and trustworthy than the nobleman. He does this through making such statements as “The people are more honest in their intentions than the nobles are, because the latter want to oppress the people, whereas they want only not to be oppressed.” (Machiavelli 65). By aligning himself with the people, Machiavelli is declaring his target audience to be the public as opposed to those in a strong position of power, such as the noblemen. Given his chequered history with the Italian royalty (Webb 340), Machiavelli is clearly attempting to incite public unrest by demonstrating how unfairly the nobles behave and presenting his bias quite rampantly by suggesting that the public are rarely at fault and have only honourable intentions.
Machiavelli’s authority is presented as being plentiful due to his political associations with the Borgia family and his own brushes with the dismissive hand of the Medici family (Webb 340). This lends itself to his writing as the reader is encouraged to put faith in his words because he has experienced the untrustworthy nature of noblemen himself. He is keen to present the nobles in a less than favourable light in order to further establish himself as a ‘man of the people’ type voice: “I say that there are two main considerations to be remembered in regard to the nobles: either they conduct themselves in such a way that they come to depend entirely on your fortunes, or they do not.” (Machiavelli 67). In making such defined statements, Machiavelli is increasing his credibility by stating facts, rather than opinions. He writes confidently and in a finite style which does not allow for his audience to question what he is saying. The added implication that the audience may well be looking for guidance in how best to rebel against the all-encompassing Medici family (although they are never referred to directly) means that Machiavelli is writing for an audience who have an invested interest in the subject matter which also undoubtedly spurs him on in his writing. Machiavelli ‘sells’ his idea to great success since he repeatedly demonstrates how his argument is correct – plus, the added emphasis placed on the audience’s interest and devotion to the idea of a public defence means that he has his audience hooked before he has even begun to convey his ideas.
Throughout the piece, Machiavelli chooses his words and phrases carefully – each is designed to incite a feeling of public strength in his reader and to build the reader’s confidence in Machiavelli’s authority. He uses powerful words to describe the noblemen’s power over the people: words such as “dominance” and “oppressed” are used with the intention of fanning the flames of rebellion in his reader – their pride not allowing them to submit to such conditions. He also uses anecdotal evidence to demonstrate his point – citing the example of Nabis, prince of the Spartans who “withstood the whole of Greece and a triumphant Roman army, and successfully defended his country and his own authority against them.” (Machiavelli 66-67). By using this anecdote, Machiavelli is highlighting the significance of the individual in terms of the power that they can wield – it is designed to demonstrate to every reader that they are as equally capable of making such a stand. Everything about this text is designed to persuade the reader to their own capability as an individual facing the adversity of a mightier power. Machiavelli maintains his thesis throughout the piece: he is determined to consistently convey the message that the people can be as powerful as the nobles, given the right mind set.
Machiavelli’s entire purpose is to incite pride in his reader’s civil liberties and their ability to alter the course of their destiny. He uses his social standing to demonstrate that the noblemen do not always hold all the power simply because they have the majority of the wealth. His use of language is designed to persuade and inspire his audience – the common man. From the very beginning, Machiavelli aligns himself with his audience, rather than with the powerful noblemen with the effect of speaking directly to his reader which helps to inspire confidence in his words as well as lending kudos to his credibility. The tone is constant throughout: it is one of rebellion with undertones of anarchy that are designed to encourage the reader to think more highly of their own individual capabilities, rather than simply accepting their fate. The entire piece is built around pathos – that connection with his audience and he does this for the sole purpose of intending to convey his message of strength and to inspire the power of the every-man over that of the nobleman.
Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. Boston: Dante University Press, 2003. Print.
Webb, Igor. Ideas Across Time. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007. Print.