The Prince

Cesare Borgia as Machiavelli's Instrument

Using the model of Cesare Borgia in The Prince, Machiavelli proposes a new theory of virtue that is consistent with no moral standard other than what is called for by necessity. To do this, Machiavelli first discusses Cesare's virtue, and then proceeds to suggest how Cesare's virtue falls short. His interpretation of the rise and fall of Cesare's virtue in Chapter VII serves to demonstrate that Machiavellian virtue has a telos - it looks toward the end of not simply acquiring but maintaining the state. Cesare becomes the "instrument" of Machiavelli whose story is used not just to redefine virtue but to show the repercussions of this virtue for Machiavelli's chosen new prince, Lorenzo de' Medici.

Although Machiavelli closes Chapter VII by showing that Cesare's virtues are ultimately incomplete, he does not deny the prince the virtue that is due him. The example of Cesare Borgia is a parable of the prince who acquires his state through, as the chapter title states, "others' arms and fortune" - those of his father, Pope Alexander VI - but whose inheritance is neither sufficient nor complete (7.25). It is the parable of a special breed of "hereditary prince" who must become a...

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