Machiavelli wrote this text between 1513 and 1514 after he was persecuted for
conspiracy against the government.
He wrote this to the ruler in Florence, Italy, hoping
to regain some type of position in the government.
He wanted to instruct Medici how to
keep the power and order during his reign.
Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince
is a text,
written to show Lorenzo di Piero de’Medici how to maintain power in Florence, that
acknowledges religious and philosophical values, but believes their morals must not be
practiced if one desires to successfully hold power over a state.
Machiavelli states his
own ideals thorough his writings, what a prince should be, and supports his views
through reasoning about the nature of man.
Machiavelli believes there is a strong relation between vice and virtue, and he
discusses how to balance these.
Harvey C. Mansfield, in his text Machiavelli’s Virtue
states Machiavelli believes, “Virtue needs vice as a constant possibility, and in order to
keep vice possible, virtue must practice vice occasionally” (18).
This means that one
cannot truly recognize the goodness in things without the bad.
One may not see the
positive without the negative.
Practically, a prince may not sustain virtue throughout his
reign and because of this, Machiavelli states, “It is essential, therefore, for a Prince who
desires to maintain his position, to have learned how to be other than good, and to use or
not use his goodness as necessity requires” (40).
He believes that in life, being “good” is
not always a choice, and if it is, it may be a choice that would negatively affect a prince’s
power; therefore, “goodness” is not always correct.
A ruler needs to know how to act
against common morals in order to retain or gain political power.
A common problem
with not upholding a state of morals is the people’s reaction.
After Machiavelli states
that rulers must know how to act badly he says, “He must be discreet enough to know