Machiavelli Answers: Main ideas

This page refers to the reading exercise on Machiavelli.

[1] In a civil principality, a prince needs to be both clever and fortunate to acquire power. The conflicting interests of the nobility and the common people serve to make a prince necessary for both parties. however, a prince will find it easier to retain power if he is raised by the populace.

[2] The prince needs to treat nobles differently according to how they are disposed toward him. He should try to tie their fortunes to his own. However, those that remain independent may be of two kinds. Either their independence stems from a lack of courage to unite themselves to the prince’s purpose, in which case they may be used and honoured for their contribution; or they are independent because they have their own ends and amibitions in mind. In this case, the prince must be wary of them as potential enemies.

[3] The prince must gain the favour of the people, regardless of how he acquried power, as he must rely on them in times of adversity.

[4] A prince, though not an ordinary citizen, can rest on the favour of the people if he has shown certain qualities of leadership and courage with them.

[5] The greatest danger lies when the prince rules with absolute power. When his power is devolved through magistrates, they may disobey him or refuse to carry out his orders. It will be difficult to then control the people. Therefore, the prince should endeavour to make sure the people will always need him.

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