In 1532, one of the literary masterpieces of all time was published under the authorship of a Florentine philosopher and writer Niccolo Machiavelli . The novel bore a Latin title Il Principe, translated to English as, The Prince. The book contains political treatise and advice to a certain political leader, believed to be Cesare Borgia, an Italian ruler whom Machiavelli served as an adviser . The book contains several political analyses particularly relating to leadership and the kind of leader that is necessary to lead a country to victory. In today’s contemporary political system, leaders are being badly criticized for failing to deliver what is demanded of their position. Accusations of corruption, deception and betrayal of public trust hound the most influential personalities in almost every country. In Machiavelli’s novel there is the sense of urgency to re-evaluate the concept of leadership from the context of Machiavelli’s The Prince to warrant a recommendation whether a democratic leader is to be preferred over a dictator. Machiavelli theorizes that that the most effective kind of leadership is based on the analysis that a “feared” leader is to be preferred. This is giving sufficient considerations on the elements of the state, the concept of love and hate, the principle of free will and virtue and finally, the understanding of human nature. This paper allows for the useful methodology of drawing inferences that helps determine the effectiveness of Machiavelli’s approach was at trying to convey his theory. This purpose is achieved by running an evaluation of the author’s writing styles and his approach to delivering his message.
The socio-political ambiance when Niccolo Machiavelli wrote the book which he called Il Principe was largely governed by social and political upheaval . Italy was then facing intense political conflict. In fact, Machiavelli witnessed the political transition and immense religious involvement to political affairs. Considering the political environment of that time Machiavelli wrote a series of correspondence which was supposed to be addressed to Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici who was deposed to power by Girolamo Savanorola, a Dominican religious believer . Machiavelli decided to venture into an analysis of the kind of leadership that Italy needed at that time versus the leadership that was offered by Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici. In Machiavelli’s analysis he posed a very intriguing question which was critical to his entire discourse. Machiavelli asked, “Which is best for a ruler, to be feared or to be loved?”(Benner 124).
Machievelli had no other character his novel except for the narrator who seemed to be delivering a form of correspondence to a certain political personality. In many critical analysis of Machiavelli’s The Prince the narrator has consistently been analyzed as the author himself speaking his advise to Cesare Borgia, whom the author also served as an adviser. While there were numerous names mentioned in the novel, they were all merely cited by the narrator and were not in dynamic discourse or active encounter with then at the time the narrator was delivering his message to the recipient of the correspondence.
In the correspondence the narrator appeared fully knowledgeable and confident of his assertions that it exhibits a certain degree of command and confidence in his words. In addition, the conviction of the narrator in the way he presents his arguments in support of his claims implied a degree of authority that is typically observed among specialists and authorities of a given profession. This command makes the narrator, i.e., the author especially appealing to the readers and even more convincing that the readers would automatically take the narrator’s words in serious consideration. In the article entitled Rhetoric—Old and New, author Kenneth Burke mentioned how Machiavelli have been able to effectively communicate his message to his readers through effective use of rhetoric (Burke 205).
Point of View
While the world witnesses all kinds and forms of leadership, scholars continue to be fascinated by how a leader is able to execute his role effectively regardless of the circumstances. The society has witnessed all kinds of leaders—a dictator, a monarch, a diplomat and a democrat. Each kind of leader have succeeded and failed over the course of time leaving society in awe of what actually constitute to its success or failure. Machiavelli was trying to establish that while many adhere to democracy, it is usually ineffective at enforcing the law, more so at commanding the people to follow. The author’s point of view was contradictory to what is being endorsed and supported during the time the novel was written.
Machiavelli approaches the correspondence with tactful yet authoritative delivery of message. The author did not fail to realize that the correspondence was meant for someone in high power and should is deserving of the proper accord and respected necessary at least even for the purpose of his position . Similarly, Hampton narrated that over the course of time, literary presentation of historical events would significantly take advantage of using rhetoric to make the discussion more inviting and interesting for the readers.
The setting of Machiavelli’s The Prince was during the Renaissance. Taking into consideration the ambiance and the social condition during this time one could immediately know that the overall setting was politically motivated. There was the overthrow of the reigning leadership under Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici who was eventually deposed to power by Girolamo Savanorola, a Dominican religious believer. In addition, it can also be note that it was a period when religion has slowly, but immensely made an impact to every aspect of the people’s lives including politics. Connections were drawn largely by one’s affiliation to the religious order. This affected the popularity of Machiavelli’s work especially in reference to access and availability of the novel.
The theme of Machiavelli’s The Prince was centered on the qualities of ruler and the other factors that apply to leadership. The author capitalizes on establishing the qualities of an effective leader. In addition, Machiavelli also centered the discussion on the virtues of a true leader and which every leader should rightfully possess. Machiavelli was trying to advise the leader that it is not necessary that a leader is to be loved by his constituents because such can be abused which could cost the leader his position. Machiavelli furthered establish that unless a leader is feared and decisive, it will be easy for his constituents to take advantage and abuse his kindness and generosity. Whereas, Machiavelli asserts that if a leader is feared any threat to his position will immediately be controlled thereby securing his leadership. The narrator also establish in the novel that it is innate as part of human nature to aspire for power. Given this realization, Machiavelli strongly recommends to put an end to the threat that might grab the power from the leader.
It was evident in Machiavelli’s The Prince how the author implored the use of metaphors to symbolize many concepts that he wants to convey . For example, Machiavelli uses the methaphor “the fox and the lion” to represent the qualities of the prince or the leader as being cunning and having to possess strength to retain his control of the state. Machiavelli notes that in order to survive leading the state, a leader needs to possess the qualities half beast and half man. Hence, in chapter 18 and 19 of the book Machiavelli was caught saying, that a lion who can be
“defenseless against trapsbut can easily frighten off wolves”
Meanwhile, Machiavelli also said, a fox might be
“defenseless against wolvesbut recognize traps”.
The use of these animals gives due emphasis to the strengths and weaknesses in the qualities that should be possessed by the prince.
Machiavelli also mentioned infirmities in his novel. In fact, Machiavelli was quoted for using tuberculosis and cancer in depicting the ills of society. The author compared the plight of the nation to a body being troubled by tuberculosis. The illness was used to represent a very slow process of corruption that would not reveal itself until such time that it is already too late to recover from the illness.
“If you think of the state as a body, then political trouble is just like tuberculosis—or, say, cancer.”
Machiavelli’s work in The Prince mastered his use of several different types of symbolisms through metaphors, imagery and allegory.
Niccolo Machiavelli employed a creative approach in presenting and writing one of his greatest masterpieces. The use of a correspondence to accentuate his message was a unique way of delivering a message with less characters being in the way of presenting a long narrative of intellectual discourse and establishment of proof . In addition, the use of imagery, metaphors and allegory also allowed for an interesting read. While the novel was political and historical in nature, it was not a boring read because of the artistic presentation that was utilized by the author.
Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince facilitates for a useful and artistic presentation that allowed the drawing of insights in a historical and political material using rhetoric, symbolism and metaphor. In addition, the unique style of writing which employed the use of a correspondence also facilitated for a more creative and well-structured presentation of discussion that allows for ease in reading. Overall, Machiavelli has been able to successfully embody in his novel the adequate blend of historical, political and literary adaptation of eloquent delivery of words.
Benner, Erica. Machiavelli's Prince: A New Reading. London: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.
Burke, Kenneth. "Rhetoric--Old and New." The Journal of General Education (1951): 202-209. Print.
Hampton, Timothy. Writing from History: The Rhetoric of Exemplarity in Renaissance Literature. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1990. Print.
Lynos, John. Exemplum: The Rhetoric of Example in Early Modern France and Italy. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2014. Print.
Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. Seattle, Washington: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012. Print.
Voegelin, Eric. "Machiavelli's Prince: Background and Formation." The Review of Politics (1951): 142-168.