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The Prince | Study Guide

Niccolò Machiavelli

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The Prince | Quotes


From this we can deduce a general rule, which need or rarely fails to apply: that whoever is responsible for another's becoming powerful ruins himself.

Machiavelli, Chapter 3

When a prince has the resources and abilities to help others achieve their goals, they will see that he also has the power to resist them. Thus, after he helps them, they will begin thinking about how to eliminate him.


Nonetheless, the less a man has relied on fortune the stronger he has made his position.

Machiavelli, Chapter 6

Those princes who come to power through lucky circumstances have a harder time maintaining their domain than those who come to power through able effort. When luck leads to a prince's success, rather than ability, he will be more vulnerable. Not having overcome adversity to gain power, such a prince will not know how to deal with it when it threatens to undo his achievements.


The first way to lose your state is to neglect the art of war; the first way to win a state is to be skilled in the art of war.

Machiavelli, Chapter 14

It is inevitable that the interests of neighbors will diverge and eventually lead to armed conflict. As such, the prince cannot hope to expand power or protect his interests without knowing how to wage war.


A prince, therefore, must have no other object or thought, nor acquire skill in anything, except war, its organization, and its discipline.

Machiavelli, Chapter 14

In order to maintain his rule, a prince must be occupied with one thing—how to effectively conduct war.


It is far better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both.

Machiavelli, Chapter 17

Subjects who fear their prince are less likely to harm him than subjects who love their prince. So, for the security of his state, a prince must make sure he is at least feared.


The lion cannot guard himself from the toils, nor the fox from wolves. He must therefore be a fox to discern toils, and a lion to drive off wolves.

Machiavelli, Chapter 18

Approaching every situation in the same way will make a prince vulnerable. An effective prince must vary his behavior according to the situations he faces.


I conclude, therefore, that when the prince has the goodwill of the people he must not worry about conspiracies; but when the people are hostile and regard him with hatred he must go in fear of everything and everyone.

Machiavelli, Chapter 19

Because a prince's subjects are so numerous, their attitude toward him affects his security. When they like him, they will not harm him or aid those who would harm him. But when the people hate the prince, there will be danger everywhere.


This is because by arming your subjects you arm yourself; those who were suspect become loyal, and those who were loyal not only remain so but are changed from merely being your subjects to being your partisans.

Machiavelli, Chapter 20

Making sure that the general population is armed both increases a prince's military power and wins the hearts and minds of his subjects. Giving weapons to his subjects will show a prince's trust in them. This will convince those who were wary, and confirm to those who already supported the prince that their interests align with the prince's.


The first opinion that is formed of a ruler's intelligence is based on the quality of the men around him. When they are competent and loyal he can always be considered wise, because he has been able to recognize their competence and keep them loyal.

Machiavelli, Chapter 22

People form judgments about the intelligence of others, especially princes, by those from whom they choose to take advice. If a prince can see intelligence in others and convince them to use it for his purposes, this shows the prince is himself intelligent.


The only way to safeguard yourself against flatterers is by letting people understand that you are not offended by the truth; but if everyone can speak the truth to you then you lose respect.

Machiavelli, Chapter 23

The effective prince cannot allow total freedom of speech. While he does need to hear the truth when it is useful to him, he must also ensure that he is not criticized at will by the people.


Fortune shows her potency where there is no well-regulated power to resist her, and her impetus is felt where she knows there are no embankments and dykes built to restrain her.

Machiavelli, Chapter 25

Events beyond human control do not leave people totally helpless. Those who understand and foresee changes will not be harmed as much as those who fail to look ahead.

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