Machiavelli\'s "The Prince": By Any Means Necessary


Part 15 of Machiavelli\'s The Prince, entitled Of the Things for Which
Men, and Especially Princes, Are Praised or Blamed, states that, in order for a
man to maintain control of a government and better that territory, he must
engage in certain actions that may be deemed immoral by the public he serves.
Machiavelli argues a valid point, that the nature of man is twofold,
encompassing good and evil, right and wrong. The effectiveness of his argument,
however, relies on the fact that the person reading his essay is an objective
observer of human nature. Not leaving this to chance, Machiavelli plays a
psychological game with the reader in order to convince them of his argument.
Machiavelli prefaces his thesis with commentary that attempts to place
the reader in a subordinate state-of-mind. He confesses to the reader that he
fears sounding presumptuous for writing about a subject covered many times
before by others and differing from their opinion in the matter. This statement
places the author at the mercy of the reader and prepares them to hear an idea
that may not be popular. Having been asked forgiveness for the pride of the
author, the reader drops barriers that he may have against arguments driven by
ego and opens his mind to Machiavelli on a personal, sincere level. By placing
himself at the feet of the reader, Machiavelli puts himself and his argument in
a position of power. He wastes no time in using this power to gain more control
over the reader. In the next sentence he states that his intention is to create
an outline for behavior in public office “ of use to those who understand”. This
statement compels the reader to agree with the points that the trustworthy,
forthright Machiavelli argues, or be relegated the ranks of those ignorant
dullards that do not understand. Machiavelli then presents his thesis, that a
ruler must use both good and evil in order to maintain his power over the state.
The reader has almost no choice but to accept this idea before any proof has
been given. With the reader in the palm of his hand, Machiavelli needs only to
make a very general argument of his point to convince the reader of its validity.

The author states that there are actions for which a prince is either
praised or blamed. He lists many examples of good qualities and their opposing
attitudes. Instead of labeling them good and evil, however, Machiavelli titles
them imaginary and real. By calling the good traits and the leader who possesses
them imaginary, he removes the bite that the mention of evil doing may have on
the reader. Removing this emotional punch makes his thesis, that evil behavior
is necessary to properly rule, obvious.
Machiavelli applies the rules he sets out for successful management of a
nation to his own writing. He is cautious not to offend the reader with a
statement that is too specific. He manipulates the mind of the reader in order
to quell his emotions and make him more accepting of his opinion. He seems weak
when he is most powerful and seems powerful when he has no legs to stand on. He
is cautious and polite when his foe\'s defenses are up and attacks with all of
his resources at his foe\'s weaknesses. Machiavelli writes a strongly convincing
essay. The proof for his opinion lies not only in the words he speaks but in the
flow and believability of the work itself through the utilization of the very
techniques he exhorts.

Category: English