The Prince


To quote Bireley (1990:14):-

...there were in circulation approximately fifteen editions of the Prince and nineteen of the Discourses and French translations of each before they were placed on the Index of Paul IV in 1559, a measure which nearly stopped publication in Catholic areas except in France. Three principal writers took the field against Machiavelli between the publication of his works and their condemnation in 1559 and again by the Tridentine Index in 1564. These were the English cardinal Reginald Pole and the Portuguese bishop Jeronymo Osorio, both of whom lived for many years in Italy, and the Italian humanist and later bishop, Ambrogio Caterino Politi.

Machiavelli's ideas on how to accrue honor and power as a leader had a profound impact on political leaders throughout the modern west, helped by the new technology of the printing press. Pole reported that it was spoken of highly by Thomas Cromwell in England and had influenced Henry VIII in his turn towards Protestantism, and in his tactics, for example during the Pilgrimage of Grace.[36] A copy was also possessed by the Catholic king and emperor Charles V.[37] In France, after an initially mixed reaction, Machiavelli came to be associated with Catherine de Medici and the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre. As Bireley (1990:17) reports, in the 16th century, Catholic writers "associated Machiavelli with the Protestants, whereas Protestant authors saw him as Italian and Catholic". In fact, he was apparently influencing both Catholic and Protestant kings.[38]

One of the most important early works dedicated to criticism of Machiavelli, especially The Prince, was that of the Huguenot, Innocent Gentillet, Discourse against Machiavelli, commonly also referred to as Anti Machiavel, published in Geneva in 1576. He accused Machiavelli of being an atheist and accused politicians of his time by saying that they treated his works as the "Koran of the courtiers".[39] Another theme of Gentillet was more in the spirit of Machiavelli himself: he questioned the effectiveness of immoral strategies (just as Machiavelli had himself done, despite also explaining how they could sometimes work). This became the theme of much future political discourse in Europe during the 17th century. This includes the Catholic Counter Reformation writers summarised by Bireley: Giovanni Botero, Justus Lipsius, Carlo Scribani, Adam Contzen, Pedro de Ribadeneira, and Diego Saavedra Fajardo.[40] These authors criticized Machiavelli, but also followed him in many ways. They accepted the need for a prince to be concerned with reputation, and even a need for cunning and deceit, but compared to Machiavelli, and like later modernist writers, they emphasized economic progress much more than the riskier ventures of war. These authors tended to cite Tacitus as their source for realist political advice, rather than Machiavelli, and this pretense came to be known as "Tacitism".[41]

Modern materialist philosophy developed in the 16th, 17th and 18th century, starting in the generations after Machiavelli. The importance of Machiavelli's realism was noted by many important figures in this endeavor, for example Bodin,[42] Francis Bacon,[43] Harrington, John Milton,[44] Spinoza,[45] Rousseau, Hume,[46] Edward Gibbon, and Adam Smith. Although he was not always mentioned by name as an inspiration, due to his controversy, he is also thought to have been an influence for other major philosophers, such as Montaigne,[47] Descartes,[48] Hobbes, Locke[49] and Montesquieu.[50]

In literature:-

  • Machiavelli is featured as a character in the prologue of Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta.
  • In William Shakespeare's tragedy, Othello, the antagonist Iago has been noted by some literary critics as being archetypal in adhering to Machiavelli's ideals by advancing himself through machination and duplicity with the consequence of causing the demise of both Othello and Desdemona.[51]

Amongst later political leaders:-

  • The republicanism in seventeenth century England which led to the English civil war, Glorious Revolution and subsequent development of the English Constitution was strongly influenced by Machiavelli's political thought.[52]
  • Most of the founding fathers of the American Revolution are known or often proposed to have been strongly influenced by Machiavelli's political works, including Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and John Adams.[53][54][55][1]
  • Under the guidance of Voltaire, Frederick the Great of Prussia criticised Machiavelli's conclusions in his "Anti-Machiavel", published in 1740.
  • At different stages in his life, Napoleon I of France wrote extensive comments to The Prince. After his defeat at Waterloo, these comments were found in the emperor's coach and taken by Prussian military.[56]
  • Italian dictator Benito Mussolini wrote a discourse on The Prince.[57]
  • Soviet leader Joseph Stalin read The Prince and annotated his own copy.[58]

20th century Italian-American mobsters were influenced by The Prince. John Gotti and Roy DeMeo would regularly quote The Prince and consider it to be the "Mafia Bible".[59][60]

In the episode Ewings Unite! of the television series Dallas, legendary oil baron J.R. Ewing wills his copy of The Prince to his adopted nephew Christopher Ewing telling him to "use it, because being smart and sneaky is an unbeatable combination".

In the Ubisoft game Assassin's Creed Brotherhood it is said that Machievelli's 'The Prince' is influenced by Ezio Auditorie, the protagonist of the game, when Machievelli says to Ezio 'I am thinking of writing a book about you' the Ezio replies with 'If you do make it short' referencing Machievelli's brief book 'The Prince' if you need proof check the Assassin's Creed Easter eggs wiki it is under the Brotherhood section.

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