Princely Power Essay

1617 words - 6 pages

Princely Power

Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince contains a very unique section entitled "Princely Virtues" in which Machiavelli takes on a how-to approach in regards to becoming a prince. The instructional qualities of the novel lead its reader to create in themselves an image of not the most virtuous, but in Machiavelli's eyes, the most effective prince. In the selections found in chapters 15-26, Machiavelli teaches his intended princely students the necessary political skills that a prince must possess in order to maintain his position on top. Machiavelli paints the illusionary portrait of the perfect prince. The prince must take great pains to keep up this virtuous front in order to maintain command as well as respect of his people. Even if the prince does not have a desired virtue, Machiavelli reasons that he must only appear to have certain virtues, and more importantly know when it is appropriate to display such virtues to benefit himself. The prince is obligated to put on the necessary front in order to disguise himself as the most effective prince in an effort to maintain control. Machiavelli may on the surface seem to argue that a ruler must focus on the positive end and employ whatever means necessary to achieve his desired result, maintaining power and control; however, he only argues this to a point, there are limitations on a prince’s power.

Machiavelli begins his section on princely virtues by emphasizing why a prince must in actuality depart from being virtuous or good in order to avoid coming to ruin among other men who are evil; seeming to be good is more important than being so. To emphasize this point, he says:

For there is such a difference between the way men live and the way they ought to live, that anybody who abandons what is for what ought to be will learn something that will ruin rather than preserve him, because anyone who determines to act in all circumstances the part of a good man must come to ruin among so many who are not so good. Hence, if a prince wishes to maintain himself, he must learn how to be not good, and to use that ability or not as is required (1491).

The key to achieving success by Machiavelli's reasoning lies in the prince's ability to deceive his people, to be good when it is best to be, and to not be when deemed necessary, but principally to be wise enough to know when to be which.

Machiavelli asserts that a prince must take care to avoid getting a bad name in order to maintain power, however, he mustn't always observe virtuous qualities although they seem to be praiseworthy, observance of vises may sometimes lead to a virtuous appearance. "[I]t will be seen that some things seem to be virtuous, but if they are put into practice will be ruinous to him; other things seem to be vises, yet if put into practice will bring the prince security and well-being" this statement becomes the foundation upon which Machiavelli's reasoning for allowing such vast flexibility in the prince's...

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