The Prince

Bad and good

Machiavelli believes that a prince will have some bad and even some evil qualities. How does the prince balance the bad and the evil qualities?

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As Machiavelli writes a few pages later, a prince “should be ready to enter on evil if he has to,” but he must have to. (At least Machiavelli implies this last point.) In any case, virtues are often difficult to define; they are only virtuous insofar as they help people. Virtue for its own sake can be harmful, and for a prince to possess and exercise all virtues at all times is a mistake. Appearances are a different matter: the masses are impressed by the superficial appearance of things so long as the prince’s ends are achieved. It matters little, therefore, who the prince really is.