Thursday, November 13, 2008

85. "The Prince" - Niccolo Machiavelli

Insert evil cackle here - I found a way to connect the dots. In A Thread of Grace, there is a scene where a character is about to be tortured, and he comforts himself with the fact that Machiavelli went through the same torture and lived to write The Prince, though it was through dictation.

What interested me the most was the dedication to the Medici family. Readers of this blog may remember my fascination with the family (and subsequent scouring of books). I did not know that Machiavelli was another one of the family's "pets."

This is not a book about a prince nor is it fiction. It's an examination of the role of a prince in military, history, and personality. Or, as others believe, it is a satire on the same subjects. Published in 1532 after Machiavelli's death, we may never know his true purpose in writing about this subject.

However, it's the root of many beliefs today. For example, it is better to be feared than loved by your subjects. Also, a prince should discern good advice from bad. Throw in some history (Greeks, Romans, British) and it is a recipe for a perfect prince. You have heard of the term, machiavellian, right?

3.0 out of 5.0 Petit Zincs.


79-85 covered. 86 - the next "prince" of the United States (President-elect Barack Obama). I made a promise to read one of his books when he was elected. From there, we'll see where "hope" takes me.


Jason said...

I've always meant to read this one, as it's right up my alley in several ways.

As far as works by President-elect Barack Hussein al-Obama (for whom I voted the fuck out of (that sounds better in my head, but I'll keep it--needless to say, I'm giddy that he won)), I can only recommend Dreams From My Father, as it's the only one I've read. I recommend it as an appealing biography, and I first read it because I was curious about that new senator from Illinois.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you mentioned the possiblity it's a satire. The last time I read it (years ago in college), I felt it screamed satire. I even wrote a paper about the book from that perspective. My professor was initially dubious but eventually agreed I had a point.

Pete said...

Oh, I'm sure there's any number of books you'll be able to link to Obama from. So for right now, consider reading The Dwarf by Par Lagerkvist, which definitely has Machiavellian overtones to it.

Kristin Dodge said...

I'm surprised that you haven't read it, Jason. Between the philosophy and governmental issues, it truly is "your kind-a book."

Anonymous - I wish I could take credit, but as I was reading the book, I had a question about one of its points. Google search gave me that quaint tidbit.

Pete - you are a rock star... it's in my line-up now.

Nathan said...

I don't think Machiavelli intended The Prince as a satire at all. It's really supposed to be a handbook. As I understand it, Machiavelli was concerned that his country was going to fall and wrote the book as a sort of field manual for those in power. Hence, the last section of the book.

While researching Vlad III Dracula for my MFA, at least one of the scholars I read proposed that Machiavelli might have had Dracula in mind when he was writing the book since certain ideas correspond so closely to Dracula's life, especially his rise and fall.

I have my comp students read a selection from it and its one of the pieces that they responded well to.