The Prince has been described as a handbook for princes (rulers), in the tradition of such books written in the Late Middle Ages. These books were sometimes called 'Mirrors of Virtues', in that they list and explain the good qualities a ruler is supposed to have in order to rule as an effective king and to defend Christianity.
The whole book centers around what principalities are, what are the different types of them, how to acquire and maintain them and why they are lost. The first three chapters set the scope of the whole book and provide a preview of the main concerns in the book. Then Chapter VI and Chapter V are used to present several practical methods to dealing with different matters for rulers. These matters include the acquiring and maintaining of a new state, forming alliance, internal insurrections and so on. In the following two chapters, the book turns to the topic of different qualities of good rulers. Machiavelli puts forward the discussion about virtue and good will in this section. He maintains that sometimes rulers should have vicious actions without the accordance with real virtue for the good of the states and ruling. In the last chapter, the book focuses specifically on the disunity of Italy. In this chapter, Machiavelli gives his own understanding and explanation for the failure of past Italian rulers and pleas for an eligible ruler in the future. He asserts that only Lorenzo de’ Medici, can restore Italy’s honor and pride. This chapter somehow reveals Machiavelli’s intention and purpose of writing The Prince.
Among all the discussions in the book, several key concepts are brought up, such as power, goodwill, statesmanship, the evil human nature, free will and virtue. While I was reading and reflection on the concepts of the book, the theories and ideas of realism came into my mind automatically. The arguments provided by Machiavelli have evident realist features.
Realism is a crucial stream in International Relations. The theory of Realism could be traced back to ancient times when Thucydides expressed his concept of power in the Peloponnesian War. He put forward his understanding of power and states by personal experiences and studying various cases in history. He contended that it is power but not ethic that serves as the standards of state behavior. Machiavelli, however, further developed the realist theory in The Prince. He proved the importance of power with rich historical evidence, and illustrated the art of maintaining and governing a country. He proposed that army was the base of a country while this idea originated from the concept of the evil nature of human being.
This paper focuses on the factors and ideas of realism in The Prince. In the following parts I divide the evidence into three main parts. In other words, I’m going to study realism in The Prince in Machiavelli’s empirical methods, the theory of power and the theory of human nature.
Empiricism is widely seen in all works and...