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The Prince | Study Guide

Niccolò Machiavelli

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Chapter 22

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 22 of Niccolò Machiavelli's philosophical text The Prince.

The Prince | Chapter 22 : A Prince's Personal Staff | Summary



Machiavelli argues that not everything can be effectively achieved by one person. In order to be effective, a prince needs to select his ministers carefully. The first quality of a good minister is loyalty to the prince. A prince cannot trust any minister who is ambitious—that is, a minister who is more concerned with his own interests than with the prince's.

Ministers have value to the prince both for their ability to help him carry out plans and because people will see the intelligence of the prince manifested in his good choice of advisors. Well-chosen ministers win honor and respect for the prince.

Machiavelli discusses the different sorts of intelligence a prince may manifest, as well as their values. A prince may be intelligent in a way that: (a) allows him to understand things on his own and know when others understand things; (b) does not allow him to understand things on his own but does allow him to know when others understand things; or (c) neither allows him to understand things on his own nor allows him to know when others understand things. Machiavelli states that (a) is excellent, (b) is good, and (c) is bad.


Machiavelli's evaluation of the different types of intelligence can be explained in terms of success through fortune versus success through prowess. A prince who cannot understand things on his own but can tell when others do is in danger of being manipulated by his ministers. Because he relies on their understanding rather than his own, his successes will be due to fortune rather than prowess. However, a prince who can understand things on his own will succeed more often due to prowess than he will due to fortune. A prince who can neither understand things on his own nor know when others understand things will be successful only through good luck. Machiavelli's rating of types of intelligence is much like his method for measuring the strength of a principality: the more self-sufficient it is, the stronger it is.

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