This semester in Mr. Sellers’ History class, we were asked to read a history novel and write a book review on it. I chose to read The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, and it sure did not disappoint. For a book on history, it was not so bad. The two parts to this review include a summary and a critical analysis. This paper will discuss the major points Machiavelli made in his book and analyze his tone and writing style, with an overall critique.
The Prince is a novel written in 1513 by Niccolo Machiavelli. This book contains 26 chapters, focusing on acquiring and maintaining political power. In other words, it could be seen as the “do’s and don’ts” of the political world. In Chapters One through Eleven, the author discusses the different types of states or principalities. In Chapters Twelve through Fourteen, the different armies and how the prince would act as a military leader are covered while Chapters fifteen through twenty three discuss his behavior and character expectations. Lastly, Chapters twenty four through twenty six discuss Italy’s horrendous political situation.
The four principalities mentioned in the first eleven chapters are: hereditary, mixed, new, and ecclesiastical (religious). Hereditary principalities are inherited by the ruler of the land. Mixed principalities are additional territories added to the ruler’s land. New principalities are attainable in multiple ways. They can be obtained by one’s own power or the power of others. However, criminal acts or extreme cruelty can also end up in the acquisition of a new principality. In some cases, new principalities are civic principalities, which are given by the will of the people. Ecclesiastical principalities, however, belong to the Catholic Church. They are known as the Papal States. Machiavelli goes on to explain how rulers from each principality can make the best of it and obtain their power.
The next few chapters talk about four different types of armies: mercenaries, auxiliaries, native troops, and mixed troops. Mercenaries are hired, dangerous, and useless soldiers, according to Machiavelli. Auxiliaries are just as unreliable and dangerous as the mercenaries, but they are loaned to a ruler from others. The most desirable troops are the natives, the citizens and subjects. Mixed troops are less desirable than fully native troops because they are a mixture of natives and mercenaries or auxiliaries. These descriptions are accompanied by examples to help the reader better understand the roles different types of troops served and how effective each type was for the rulers mentioned.
Machiavelli goes on in Chapters Fifteen through Twenty Three to discuss his advice to the reader in the ideal behavior and characteristics of a prince. He mentions that doing good would only lead to the ruin of a prince’s kingdom. He claims that a prince should be stingy and cruel as opposed to generous and merciful. He then, of course, adds in examples of successful rulers who...