machiavelli.jpg (3873 bytes) The Prince
by Niccolo Machiavelli

The weakening of the Church during the Renaissance also threatened the social and political stability of growing cities and newborn kingdoms. Skeptical citizens trusted neither the Church nor their King, though one or the other was necessary in order for society to function. Since any government is dependent upon the loyalty (willing or unwilling) of it's subjects, Machiavelli theorized in his book The Prince what methods of rule would be effective in this time of dramatic change.

    A prince, so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal, ought not to mind the reproach (accusation) of cruelty; because with a few examples he will be more merciful than those who, through too much mercy, allow disorders to arise, from which follow murders or robberies; for these are wont to injure the whole people, whilst those executions which originate with a prince offend the individual only. And of all princes, it is impossible for the new prince to avoid the imputation of cruelty, owing to new states being full of dangers.

    Nevertheless he ought to be slow to believe and to act, nor should he himself show fear, but proceed in a temperate manner with prudence and humanity, so that too much confidence may not make him incautious and too much distrust render him intolerable.

    Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails. When it is necessary for him to proceed against the life of someone, he must do it on proper justification and for manifest cause.

    A prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline; for this is the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force that it not only upholds those who are born princes, but it often enables men to rise from a private station to that rank. He ought never, therefore, to have out of his thoughts this subject of war, and in peace he should addict himself more to its exercise than in war; this he can do in two ways, the one by action, the other by study.


Answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper. Cite the reading where appropriate:
1. Why should a prince (a general name given to a political ruler) not fear being cruel?
What are the consequences of not being feared?
2. What fine line do princes walk? What compromise must they achieve?
3. What does fear do for a prince that love does not?
4. Why, then, could Machiavelli be considered a Man of the Renaissance? Explain with details.