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The Prince Machiavelli

The Prince

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You know you waited til the last minute to read it, you know you did. And if you say "I read it when I was supposed to!" you are lying. Lucky for you, all of you procrastinators can share your misery here! Discuss, ask questions, congregate over The Prince. Have fun!

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The Prince, Main Points

By Clarisa A.

Download: .DOC (MSWORD), .PDF, .RTF

Chapter 1

  • Principalities can be divided into hereditary principalities and new principalities.

  • By fortune or strength, a prince can acquire a new principality with his own army or with the arms of others.

Chapter 2

  • Machiavelli notes that it is easier to govern a hereditary state than a new principality for two main reasons.

  • First, those under the rule of such states are familiar with the prince's family and are therefore accustomed to their rule.

  • Second, the natural disposition of subjects in a hereditary state is to love the ruling family, unless the prince commits some horrible act against his people.

Chapter 3

  • When a prince successfully suppresses a revolt, however, the ruler can easily prevent further revolt by harshly punishing the rebels and decimating his opposition.

  • In the first place, people will willingly trade one recently arrived ruler for another, hoping that a new ruler will be better than the present one.

  • It is much easier to maintain control over a new principality if the people share the same language and customs as the prince's own country.

  • the prince has to do only two things: destroy the family of the former prince, and maintain the principality's laws and taxes.

  • People will live quietly and peacefully so long as their old ways of life are undisturbed.

  • One of the prince's most effective options is to take up residence in the new state. By living there, the prince can address problems quickly and efficiently.

  • It is less expensive to establish colonies than to maintain military occupation, and colonialism only harms inhabitants who pose no threat to the prince because they are scattered and poor.

  • Setting up military bases throughout the new state will not effectively keep order. Instead, it will upset the people, and these people may turn into hostile enemies capable of causing great harm to the prince's regime.

  • A prince who has occupied a state in a foreign country should dominate the neighboring states.

  • The prince must remain master of the whole country to keep control of the state he has conquered.

  • Princes should always act to solve problems before problems fully manifest themselves.

  • When they succeed in acquiring more they are always praised, not condemned. But rulers who lack the ability to acquire, yet still try at the cost of their current state, should be condemned.

Chapter 4

  • The first involves a prince and appointed ministers. While the ministers help govern, everyone remains subservient to the prince.

  • It is much harder to take over a country if a prince uses ministers, because ministers have little incentive to be corrupted by foreign powers or to turn on their prince.

  • The second way involves a prince and nobles. Nobles are not appointed by the prince, but they benefit from their ancient lineage and have subjects of their own.

  • It is easier to conquer a country governed with the cooperation of nobles, because finding a discontented noble eager for change is always possible.

  • Alexander's successful conquest of Asia and the rebellions against the Romans in Spain, France, and Greece.

Chapter 5

  • three ways to hold states that have been accustomed to living freely under their own laws.

  • The first is to devastate them.

  • The second is for the conqueror to occupy them.

  • The third is to allow the state to maintain its own laws, but to charge taxes and establish an oligarchy to keep the state friendly.

  • The third option is advantageous because the newly imposed oligarchy will work hard to secure the authority of the conquering prince within the conquered state because it owes its existence to the prince and cannot survive without his support.

  • Complete destruction is the most certain way of securing a state that has been free in the past

  • No matter how long it has been since the state was acquired, rebellions will always revive the legacy of ancient institutions and notions of former liberty, even if the state has benefited from the prince's rule.

  • This sense of tradition will unify the people against the prince.

  • cities or provinces that are accustomed to being ruled by a prince are easy to take over once the ruling family has been destroyed.

  • People in such states are accustomed to obedience and do not know how to live in freedom without having someone to rule over them.

Chapter 6

  • Princes should strive to imitate the examples set by great rulers of the past, even if that means setting lofty goals.

  • One way that rulers acquire states is through their own prowess, meaning their own abilities,

  • Relying on one's personal prowess is a very difficult method of acquiring a state.

  • A state acquired by a ruler's natural skill will prove easier to maintain control over.

  • Nothing is more dangerous or difficult than introducing a new order.

  • whereas those who stand to benefit from the imposition of a new order will offer only lukewarm support.
    A prince who relies on his ability to persuade others to support him will be unable to succeed against such opposition.

Chapter 7

  • Sometimes private citizens become princes purely by good fortune. Such people buy their way into power, receive favors from someone else in power, or bribe soldiers.

  • Such princes are weak not only because fortune can be capricious and unstable, but also because they do not know how to maintain their position.

  • Princes who succeed due to the sway of fortune or the goodwill of others lack such a foundation from which to rule and will have difficulty building a foundation quickly enough to prevent power from slipping out of their hands.

  • Laying a solid foundation is a crucial prerequisite for maintaining power.

Chapter 8

  • criminal acts or the approval of his fellow citizens can facilitate a man's rise to power.

  • Those who come to power by crime kill fellow citizens and betray friends.

  • Princes who commit criminal acts can achieve power, but never glory.

  • Cruelty, which is itself evil, can be used well if it is applied once at the outset, and thereafter only employed in self-defense and for the greater good of one's subjects.

  • Therefore, when a prince decides to seize a state, he must determine how much injury to inflict.

  • He needs to strike all at once and then refrain from further atrocities. In this way, his subjects will eventually forget the violence and cruelty.

  • Most important, a prince should be consistent in the way he treats his subjects.

Chapter 9

  • a prince can come to power is through the favor of his fellow citizens.

  • Princes who rise through this route are heads of what Machiavelli calls constitutional principalities.

  • every city is populated by two groups of citizens: common people and nobles.

  • The common people are naturally disposed to avoid domination and oppression by the nobles.

  • The nobles are naturally disposed to dominate and oppress the common people.

  • The opposition between the two groups results in the establishment of either a principality, a free city, or anarchy.

  • If the nobles realize they cannot dominate the people, they will try to strengthen their position by making one of the nobles a prince.

  • The people will follow the same course of action; if they realize they cannot withstand the nobles, they will make one of the people a prince and hope to be protected by the prince's authority.

  • A prince placed in power by nobles will find it more difficult to maintain his position because those who surround him will consider themselves his equals and his selection as prince arbitrary.

  • A prince created by the people stands alone at the top

  • Not only are nobles much harder to satisfy than the people, they are less honest in their motives because they seek to oppress the people.

  • The people, on the other hand, only seek to be left alone.

  • A prince created by the people must retain the people's friendship,

  • A prince created by the nobles must still try to win over the people's affection, because they can serve as protection from hostile nobles.

  • Benevolence is the best way to maintain the mandate of the people.

  • To make this transition, a prince can either rule directly or through magistrates. The prince is more vulnerable in the latter case because he is dependent on the will of his magistrates.

  • if the magistrates do revolt, the prince will be unable to assume absolute power, because the people are accustomed to obeying the magistrates rather than the prince.

  • But during times of danger, trusted men become scarce.

Chapter 10

  • a prince should always aim to keep an army of size and strength equaling that of any aggressor,

  • it is important to maintain defenses and fortifications.

  • a prince who has made adequate defensive preparations can actually inspire his subjects during such times.

  • he must convince the people that the hardships are only temporary and, more importantly, create feelings of patriotism and enthusiasm for the city's defense.

  • when the siege is over, the grateful and obliged people will love the prince all the more.

Chapter 11

  • Ecclesiastical principalities, regions under the control of the Catholic Church, are different from other kinds of principalities.

  • Taking control of these principalities is difficult, requiring either unusual good fortune or prowess.

  • principles of religion, rather than governments, rule ecclesiastical principalities, so the prince does not even need to govern.

  • Ecclesiastical principalities do not need to be defended, and their subjects require no administration.

  • It is useful, however, to look at how the Church has obtained its great temporal power. Italy was once divided among the pope and the city-states of Venice, Naples, Milan, and Florence. Each of these powers was wary of the others and prevented the intervention of any foreign power. Papal power was fairly weak during this time, due to disagreement among the Roman barons and the short duration of papacies. But Popes Alexander VI and Julius II greatly increased the power of the Church by using armed force to weaken the other factions, accumulating wealth to strengthen the Church's own position, and nurturing factionalism within any remaining factions.

  • the current Church, under the leadership of Pope Leo X, has been made strong through the force of arms. It is now hoped that Pope Leo will use his goodness and virtue to maintain its power.

Chapter 12

  • The two essential components of a strong state are good laws and good armies.

  • Good laws cannot exist without good armies.

  • The presence of a good army, however, indicates the presence of good laws.

  • There are three types of armies: a prince's own troops, mercenary troops, and auxiliary troops.

  • Mercenary and auxiliary troops are useless and dangerous.

  • Because their only motivation is monetary, they are generally not effective in battle and have low morale.

  • It is far more preferable for a prince to command his own army.

  • Historically, dependence on mercenaries ruined Italy.

Chapter 13

  • Auxiliary troops—armies borrowed from a more powerful state—are as useless as mercenaries.

  • If the auxiliaries fail, he is defenseless, whereas if the auxiliaries are successful, he still owes his victory to the power of another.

  • Auxiliary troops are often skilled and organized, yet their first loyalty is to another ruler. Thus, they pose an even more dangerous threat to the prince than mercenaries.

  • If a prince does not command his own native troops, the principality can never be secure.

Chapter 14

  • The only thing a prince needs to study is the art of war. This is the primary discipline of the ruler.

  • The best way to win a state is to be skilled in the art of war.

  • It would not be reasonable to expect the armed man to obey the unarmed man.

  • Nor would it be reasonable to expect the unarmed man to feel safe and secure if his servants are armed.

  • The unarmed man will be suspicious of the armed man

  • the armed man will feel contempt for the unarmed man

  • cooperation will be impossible.

  • A prince who does not understand warfare attempting to lead an army is like the unarmed man trying to lead the armed.

  • A prince must prepare rigorously during peacetime in order to be well prepared for wartime.

Chapter 15

  • A prince should not concern himself with living virtuously, but rather with acting so as to achieve the most practical benefit.

  • Courage, compassion, faith, craftiness, and generosity number among the qualities that receive praise.

  • Cowardice, cruelty, stubbornness, and miserliness are usually met with condemnation.

  • A prince's first job is to safeguard the state, and harboring “bad” characteristics is sometimes necessary for this end.

Chapter 16

  • if a prince develops a reputation for generosity, he will ruin his state. A reputation for generosity requires outward lavishness, which eventually depletes all of the prince's resources.

  • the prince will be forced to burden his people with excessive taxes in order to raise the money to maintain his reputation for generosity. Eventually the prince's liberality will make the people despise and resent him.

  • A prince who is thrifty and frugal will eventually have enough funds to defend against aggression and fund projects without having to tax the people unduly.

  • In sum, generosity is self-defeating. Generosity uses up resources and prevents further generosity.

Chapter 17

  • If a prince is too compassionate, and does not adequately punish disloyal subjects, he creates an atmosphere of disorder, since his subjects take the liberty to do what they please

  • Some measure of cruelty is necessary to maintain order.

  • a prince should be careful in his exercise of cruelty, tempering it with humanity and prudence.

  • Ideally, a prince should be both loved and feared,

  • It is easy to break a bond of love when the situation arises, but the fear of punishment is always effective, regardless of the situation.

  • must make sure that any executions are properly justified.

  • a prince should never confiscate the property of his subjects or take their women, since these actions are most likely to breed hatred.

  • With one's army, however, there is no such thing as too much cruelty. Keeping an army disciplined and united requires cruelty, even inhuman cruelty.

Chapter 18

  • historical experience demonstrates that princes achieve the most success when they are crafty, cunning, and able to trick others.

  • There are two ways of fighting: by law or by force

  • In order to succeed, the prince must learn how to fight both with laws and with force

  • he must learn, like the fox, how to recognize traps and, like the lion, how to frighten off wolves.

  • In dealing with people, a prince must break his promises when they put him at a disadvantage and when the reasons for which he made the promises no longer exist.

  • promises are never something on which a prince can rely, since men are by nature wretched and deceitful.

  • A prince should be a master of deception.

  • A prince should present the appearance of being a compassionate, trustworthy, kind, guileless, and pious ruler.

  • If the populace believes the prince to be virtuous, it will be easier for him to maintain his state.

  • it doesn't matter to the people that a prince may occasionally employ evil to achieve his goal.

  • So long as a prince appears virtuous and is successful in running the state, he will be regarded as virtuous.

Chapter 19

  • A prince must avoid being hated and despised at all costs

  • A prince must also avoid robbing his subjects of their honor.

  • A prince will be despised if he has a reputation for being fickle, frivolous, effeminate, cowardly, or irresolute.

  • If a prince is regarded highly by his subjects, he will be shielded from conspiracies and open attacks.

  • A prince should worry about two things: internal insurrection from his subjects and external threats from foreign powers.

  • A strong army always leads to good allies.

  • A prince can defend against internal insurrection by making sure he is not hated or scorned by the people

  • Whenever possible, a prince should delegate the administration of unpopular laws to others and keep in his own power the distribution of favors.

  • a prince should not worry too much about satisfying the demands of the troops, especially if it comes at the expense of the people

  • Most present-day princes need not fear their armies and should be attentive to the people.

Chapter 20

  • To defend against internal insurrection, princes have used a variety of strategies.

  • Some have divided towns,

  • some have disarmed the populace,

  • some have tried to woo disloyal subjects,

  • others have built or destroyed fortresses.

  • The effectiveness of each of these policies depends on the individual conditions

  • Arming subjects fosters loyalty among the people and defends the prince.

  • Disarming subjects will breed distrust, which leads to civil animosity.

  • Princes become great by defeating opposition

  • one way they can enhance their stature is to cunningly foster opposition that can be easily overcome.

  • fostering subversion in a new state will help reveal the motives of potential conspirators.

  • a fortress will not be able to protect a prince if he is hated by his subjects.

  • The issue is not whether a prince should build a fortress. Rather, a prince should not put all his trust in a fortress, neglecting the attitudes of his people.

Chapter 21

  • Great enterprises and noble examples are two ways for a prince to earn prestige.

  • Nobility can be achieved by the grand public display of rewards and punishments

  • princes should win a reputation for being men of outstanding ability.

  • A prince can also win prestige by declaring himself an ally of one side of a conflict

  • Neutrality alienates both the victor and the loser.

  • A prince can escape short-term danger through neutrality, but at the cost of long-term grief.

  • Instead, a prince should boldly declare support for one side.

  • If the prince is stronger than either opponent, an alliance essentially means the destruction of one side through the help of another.

  • a prince should avoid siding with an ally whose power is greater than his own.

  • A prince should encourage his citizens to excel in their occupations, and live their lives in peace.

  • a prince should never discourage or excessively tax private acquisition or prosperous commerce

  • a prince should reward those who contribute to the overall prosperity of the state

Chapter 22

  • The selection of ministers is a critical task because ministers give visitors their first impression of the prince.

  • There are three types of intellect that men can possess:

  • the ability to understand things independently, = best

  • the ability to appreciate another person's ability to understand things, = acceptable

  • the ability to do neither. = useless

  • If a minister thinks more of himself than of the prince and does everything for personal profit, then he is a bad minister

  • Good ministers, however, should be rewarded to maintain their loyalty

  • It is crucial for a prince to have a confident relationship with his ministers.

Chapter 23

  • Flatterers present a danger to any ruler because it is natural for -powerful men to become self-absorbed

  • The best way to defend against such people is to convince them that you are not offended by the truth]

  • if everyone can speak to the prince, the prince will lose respect

  • A prince should allow only wise advisers to speak with him, and only when he specifically requests their advice

  • A prince must always seek advice. But he must seek it only when he wants it, not when others thrust it upon him

  • a prince must always be skeptical about the advice he receives, constantly questioning and probing

  • If he ever discovers that someone is concealing the truth from him, he must punish that person severely

  • no matter how intelligent a prince's advisers might be, a prince is doomed if he lacks intelligence of his own.

  • Wise princes should be honored for good actions proceeding from good advice.

Chapter 24

  • any new prince who successfully follows the advice found in The Prince will enjoy the stability of a hereditary prince, since men are more aware of the present than of the past.

  • These princes failed because of their own incompetence and not as a result of a string of bad luck.

  • They took too much comfort in prosperous times, never anticipating danger.

  • When they were conquered, they hoped that the people would revolt and recall them; but it is always folly to depend upon others for security.

  • A prince's best defense is his own valor.

Chapter 25

  • fortune controls only half of one's actions,

  • free will determines the other half

  • Times and circumstances change, so a prince must adjust to them in order to remain successful

  • men tend to stay on the course that has brought them success in the past.

  • Fortune favors energetic youth over cautious age.

Chapter 26

  • For though those men were great, they were still only men, with no greater opportunities or grace than Lorenzo's own

  • Past wars and princes have failed to strengthen Italy because its military system was old and defective.

  • To succeed, Lorenzo must create a national army

  • Should a prince ever succeed in redeeming Italy, he would receive unending glory and be embraced in all the provinces with love.

The Prince, Sample Writing Portion

By: Kiran K

Download: .DOC (MSWORD), .PDF, .RTF

This is a sample, THIS IS NOT FOR YOU TO COPY AND TURN IN. Please don't abuse this website.

1. Have some of your beliefs about people been challenged and if so, in what way? If not, how are your beliefs about people reinforced? In what ways will this influence your behavior?

Some of my beliefs about people in the world have been challenged, but not very many of them. I’ve believed that governments would or should usually follow some code of religious or moral codes, but Machiavelli challenged this, saying that the prince should USE religion to his own advantage, and even if not directly said, just by reading the book Machiavelli subtly asserts that the Prince himself should be a viewed as a god and act as such, saying that it is better to be feared rather than loved, which is very similar to how people viewed god back then, a loving but ruthless being at the same time. Some of the beliefs of people I had that have been reinforced are that you should follow in the footsteps of someone great, rulers that have acquired their territory by carving their own path usually do better than ones who bought their way in or used other people’s good will to obtain a seat, and that people are usually more comfortable following traditional rules that have been there for many years rather than rules that have just been introduced. My behavior will not change much, but my thoughts on the government have already changed to an even more cautious and paranoid view than before.

2. What insights have you gained to better understand how governments operate? Or what insights have you gained to better understand how governments work within an existing structure?

Some insights I gained that helped me understand how a government operates are that governments have to be cruel to certain people in order to keep the greater amount of people happy, and also disperse whoever is not happy with the government so that they cannot revolt. Also I learned how some people in governments worked back then, seeing as Machiavelli suggested killing off the friends and family of the previous conquered ruler so that nobody can exact revenge upon the current ruler. Another insight I learned from the book is that governments usually oppress a certain small group of people and keep them separated so that they cannot join together and overthrow or challenge the government effectively, which keeps the majority of the people living there happy. From reading the book overall, I learned that governments have to operate in a cruel and ruthless manner if they want to maintain a good country or territory with complete obedience from every subject, but they have to appear nice and generous at the same time so that the morale of the country is boosted.

3. How do Machiavelli’s philosophies operate in today’s civil and business world? Do they?

Machiavelli’s philosophies apply and operate within the business world in which they suggest that the people that the prince is around most of the time determine how his citizens and other people see him, which is similar to how people see the owner of a business in a different way depending on how the employees treat them. Another philosophy on how to manage a kingdom, killing off all relations to the previous ruler, still stands today in the business world. Take Wal Mart, for example. Whenever they come into town or build a new store, they wipe out all the small businesses in the area, leaving no competition at all, making them the most convenient business on the area so that the majority of the town’s/city’s residents shop there. Most of his policies and philosophies do not operate in the business world of today however, seeing as people usually do not a view a corporate giant that treats its customers and employees very badly and does whatever it takes to get more money and customers as a very good thing to be buying from. It is almost impossible for many off Machiavelli’s politics to survive in today’s civil world, however, seeing as most people today think of his politics as cruel and unreasonable.

4. What questions would you ask the author if you had the opportunity to speak in person or what are 2-3 “What if” questions you would ask the author?

The most important question I would ask him is how his philosophies would work in the current, U.S government, where the people are in control and not the president, and where the president does not have complete authority over everything in his domain. My second question would be how he suggests dealing with people who break the law, seeing as what people consider the slightest offenses today would be some of the biggest ones you could make back in his lifetime. My third question to ask him would be on how to conquer a territory in today’s world and avoiding the conflict it would cause between you and the rulers of many other countries that are a part of the UN.

5. How does The Prince connect to any of your personal experiences? Or, What are some concerns after having read The Prince?

Some of the concerns I had after reading the prince are how the government views a single person today, and if they government uses Machiavelli’s philosophies to operate today. Another concern is if the government has spread and oppressed a certain group of people in order to keep the greater amount of people happy and keep them from revolting or doing something drastic. My last concern is if the government would rather be feared than loved, which would make me a lot more mistrusting and paranoid of the government.

6. What are 2-3 passages with which you agree and/or disagree? Provide the quotes, page number from the book, and a brief explanation.

One passage I agree with is:

“A prudent man should always enter upon the paths beaten by great men and imitate those who have been most excellent, so that if his own virtue does not reach that far, it is at least in the odor of it.”


Machiavelli is saying that a prince should imitate other great people so that even if the prince fails to reach their greatness, he will still be at least a hint of the great person that he is trying to imitate.

Another passage I agree with is:

“Yet one cannot call it virtue to kill one’s citizens, betray one’s friends, to be without faith, without mercy, without religion; these modes can enable one to acquire empire, but not glory.”

Pg. 35

Machiavelli says that if one does dirty acts in order to become a ruler such as betraying your friends, not trusting anyone, not having mercy or religion, then you will have an empire, but you will not have the glory that comes with it.