The Prince

Virtù e Fortuna College

Niccolò Machiavelli, an influential Italian politician, writer, and historian, wrote his political treatise The Prince during a politically unstable time in Italy. When the previously exiled Medici family returned to power in 1512, Machiavelli lost his position in Florentine politics. Although he was innocent, he was implicated in a conspiracy against Medici rule, so he was imprisoned, tortured, then confined to his home. In an attempt to regain a political position, Machiavelli wrote The Prince and dedicated it to the ruling Lorenzo II de' Medici in hopes that Lorenzo would read it and give him employment. Although Machiavelli presented his work as a "mirror of princes," a book meant to instruct and advise a ruler, there are some who see Machiavelli's work as a satire, criticizing the principality as a form of government in favor of the republic. However, as he wrote The Prince intending for a prince to read it, any elements of satire or criticism would have to be cleverly concealed. Machiavelli uses the structure of his book to alter his arguments in order to subtly mock the principality.

Generally, Machiavelli structures the chapters of The Prince by presenting an initial argument about the nature of a prince's power or the...

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