Points of Machiavelli in The Prince
Part 15 of Machiavelli’s The Prince, entitled Of the Things for WhichMen, and Especially Princes, Are Praised or Blamed, states that, in order for aman to maintain control of a government and better that territory, he mustengage 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 objectiveobserver of human nature.
Not leaving this to chance, Machiavelli plays apsychological game with the reader in order to convince them of his argument. Machiavelli prefaces his thesis with commentary that attempts to placethe reader in a subordinate state-of-mind. He confesses to the reader that hefears sounding presumptuous for writing about a subject covered many timesbefore by others and differing from their opinion in the matter. This statementplaces the author at the mercy of the reader and prepares them to hear an ideathat may not be popular.
Having been asked forgiveness for the pride of theauthor, the reader drops barriers that he may have against arguments driven byego and opens his mind to Machiavelli on a personal, sincere level. By placinghimself at the feet of the reader, Machiavelli puts himself and his argument ina position of power. He wastes no time in using this power to gain more controlover the reader. In the next sentence he states that his intention is to createan outline for behavior in public office ” of use to those who understand”.
Thisstatement compels the reader to agree with the points that the trustworthy,forthright Machiavelli argues, or be relegated the ranks of those ignorantdullards that do not understand. Machiavelli then presents his thesis, that aruler 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 hasbeen given. With the reader in the palm of his hand, Machiavelli needs only tomake 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 eitherpraised or blamed. He lists many examples of good qualities and their opposingattitudes. Instead of labeling them good and evil, however, Machiavelli titlesthem imaginary and real. By calling the good traits and the leader who possessesthem imaginary, he removes the bite that the mention of evil doing may have onthe reader. Removing this emotional punch makes his thesis, that evil behavioris necessary to properly rule, obvious. Machiavelli applies the rules he sets out for successful management of anation 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 orderto quell his emotions and make him more accepting of his opinion. He seems weakwhen he is most powerful and seems powerful when he has no legs to stand on. Heis cautious and polite when his foe’s defenses are up and attacks with all ofhis 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.