Module A - Intertextual Perspectives
To secure public support and thus a strong hold on power, one must demonstrate ruthless and decisive authoritative practices in leadership. Both written in response to respective fractious political climates and shifting philosophical perspectives; Niccolò Machiavelli’s advisory handbook The Prince (1513) and William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar (1599), reveal through a comparative study how composer’s differing contexts produce similar perspectives on the importance of decisive leadership, however conversely represent the consequences of the Machiavellian leadership model, particularly regarding the success of fear as means of securing public support. Machiavelli, writing to the Medici family in a time of civil and political strife in Renaissance Italy, emphasises the necessity of cruelty in uniting a fundamentally corrupted society, encouraging violent discourse as a means gaining respect through fear. Contrastingly spurred by political uncertainty surrounding the fate of the Elizabethan monarchy and ensuing societal instability, Shakespeare scrutinises the Machiavellian treatment of fear, inferring its contribution to leaders vulnerability and subsequent social instability. Both texts share similar ideas regarding the necessity of decisive leadership in securing public support, however Shakespeare demonstrates the consequences of Machiavellian leadership through contrasting characters that posses tactical prowess, against those who fail to uphold such qualities.
Responding to Italy’s civil conflict and successive military coups, Machiavelli’s advisory handbook The Prince provides a formulaic simplification of governance to the Medici family, advocating the necessity of fearsome and cruel authoritarian regimes in controlling the fickle public. Machiavelli characterises mankind as undignified and easily manipulated through the cynical aphorism ‘Men are a sad lot’, challenging humanist paradigms, and subverting the traditional Christian conventions. Machiavelli’s pessimistic commentary of human nature endorses the necessity of fear as a means of securing loyalty, as men are less likely to transgress against a leader who is capable to exercising violence. Through advocating fear as a means of securing loyalty, Machiavelli uses the binary imagery ‘It’s much safer to be feared than loved’ presenting fear as a constant characteristic of human nature, easily played upon by leaders to secure absolute authority. Machiavelli cements his argument through his classical allusion to Hannibal Barca, who applied cruelty to his troops, so they always looked up at him with ‘respect and terror.’ While Machiavelli subverts humanist and Christian conventions to reinforce the necessity of cruelty amongst leaders to subdue dissent; Shakespeare suggests that fear driven leadership breeds instability within society, demonstrating the precipitation of contrasting ideas of leadership in each text.
Similar to the tangible sense of...