MNC Book Report: The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli

Technically this book doesn’t have much to do with the Elizabethan period, as it was written in early sixteenth century Italy, not late sixteenth century England. But I figured, y’know, I keep referring to Invidiana as Machiavellian (in descriptions of the novel, not within the novel itself), and I’d never read this book, so I figured I should.

Not a lot to say about it, except that it’s, um, less Machiavellian than I expected. Yeah, there’s the whole “ends justify the means” approach, and he does say it’s safer (not “better,” at least in my translation) to be feared rather than loved, but he also points out that you shouldn’t make your subjects hate you. (Which would be where Invidiana has gone wrong.) It’s a short book, and a quick read, especially if (like me) you skim over the examples he chooses from recent Italian politics.

The other major reason I picked it up is that I may put brief epigraphs at the beginning of each section, and I suspected this might provide me with some good ones. I have a couple of strong possibilities marked down now. Unfortunately, the other two things I want to read through in search of quotable quotes are The Book of the Courtier and The Faerie Queene, neither of which will be half so quick to get through.

0 Responses to “MNC Book Report: The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli”

  1. hhertzof

    I haven’t commented regarding The Game of Kings because my work schedule went crazy and I couldn’t start it on time. I should finally be caught up this weekend.

    I think I read The Prince about 4-5 times during college (Medieval and Renaissance Studies major). I haven’t read it since…I had enough of academia to realize I wanted a different career path.

    I don’t remember if it was a professor who suggested this, or something I came up with for a paper, but somewhere I came across the theory that Machiavelli wasn’t writing a serious work but a satire.

    Anyway, don’t quote me…it was twenty years ago, and I really don’t remember the context for the theory.

    • azorielios

      I had heard the satire bit as well – The Prince was a work he was told to do (in order to get in the good with the Medici), and so wrote it very tongue in cheek. According to said rumor, his true personal views show up much more in Discorsi.

      Again, this is only what I’ve heard, but it would explain a great deal as to how the two works are written very differently when compared side by side.

      • hhertzof

        That may have been the context, as I know I read the Discorsi too, at least once. That would have been the same class I read The Courtier in. I remember finding both books fascinating. Perhaps I should dig them out for a reread this summer.

      • Marie Brennan

        My train of thought upon reading these comments went something like this.

        Huh, I didn’t know that. Interesting. Or problematic. I might have to go read the Discorsi for contrast, so I’ll know how to properly —

        — hang on a sec. I’m not writing a paper about Machiavelli. I’m not even writing a novel about Machiavelli. The major reason I read The Prince was so I could find a good quote.

        Which means I don’t have to care whether it’s a satire.

        Oh good. I don’t have to do more work.

        <g> So, that’s interesting to know, and I’m glad you guys brought it up, but I’m even more glad that I don’t actually have to care.

    • Marie Brennan

      Eh, I’m behind on posting for TGoK anyway. Stuff and things.

  2. sartorias

    Castiglione (and his mimics) are kinda fun, but I have t admit I’ve never made it all the way thru Spencer. Good luck.

    • hhertzof

      I’d agree with the first statement, though I think I did manage to get through Spenser once. Certainly not more than that.

    • Marie Brennan

      Fortunately, I only have to get through the first three books (they were the only ones published in 1590), and if I start skimming, oh well. Again, I’m looking mostly for quotable quotes.

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