Lessons in Strategy from Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’

Lessons in Strategy from Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’

 

Niccolò Machiavelli was an eminent philosopher and diplomat in the Florentine Republic, between the late 1400’s and the early 1500’s. His renowned writing on strategy and politics led to the creation of the term Machiavellianism, which refers to the use of cunning and duplicity in statecraft and in general conduct. Furthermore, because of his notable contributions to these fields, he is sometimes referred to as the founder of modern political science.

Machiavelli’s best-known work is The Prince, which is considered to be one of the premier books about political philosophy. The book is intended as a how-to guide for rulers, but many of the lessons there apply to everyday people too. In the following article, you will see a selection of some of the most valuable quotes and lessons from The Prince, which you might be able to apply yourself in various areas of life.

 

The lessons

“… A wise man ought always to follow the paths beaten by great men, and to imitate those who have been the best, so that if his ability does not equal theirs, at least it will have some traces of it. He should act like those who are skilled at shooting with a bow and arrow who, designing to hit the mark which yet appears too far distant, and knowing the limits to which the strength of their bow attains, take aim much higher than the mark. This is not done in order to reach a great height, but to be able with the aid of so high an aim to hit the mark they wish to reach.”

— Chapter VI

 

“… a prince who is not wise himself will never take good advice, unless by chance he has yielded his affairs entirely to one person who happens to be a very prudent man. In this case indeed he may be well governed, but it would not be for long, because such a governor would in a short time take away his state from him.”

— Chapter XXIII

 

“If a prince who is not wise takes advice from more than one person he will always get different bits of advice, and he will not know how to accommodate them. Each of the advisors will think of his own interests and the prince will not know how to control them or to see through them. This is typical, because men will always deceive you, unless they are kept honest by constraint.”

— Chapter XXIII

 

The first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his capability, is by observing the people he has around him. When they are capable and faithful, he may always be considered wise because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise, one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.”

— Chapter XXII

 

For there is no other way to guard oneself from flattery unless men understand that they do not offend you in telling you the truth; but when everyone can tell you the truth, they lack reverence for you. Therefore, a prudent prince must hold to a third mode, choosing wise men in his state; and only to these should he give freedom to speak the truth to him, and of those things only that he asks about and nothing else. But he should ask them about everything and listen to their opinions; then he should decide by himself, in his own mode; and with these councils and with each member of them he should behave in such a mode that everyone knows that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be accepted. Aside from these, he should not want to hear anyone; he should move directly to the thing that was decided and be obstinate in his decisions. Whoever does otherwise either falls headlong because of flatterers or changes often because of the variability of views, from which a low estimation of him arises.”

— Chapter XXIII

 

“A prince, therefore, always ought to take advice, but only when he wishes and not when others wish. He ought to make it clear that he does not want advice unless he asks for it. However, he ought to constantly inquire, and afterwards be a patient listener concerning the things he asked about. Also, on learning that anyone, on any matter, has not told him the truth, he should let his anger be felt.”

— Chapter XXIII

 

“… to enable a prince to form an opinion of his staff, there is one test which never fails. When you see someone thinking more of his own interests than of yours, and seeking inwardly his own profit in everything, such a man will never make a good servant. Nor will you ever be able to trust him, because he who has the state of another in his hands ought never to think of himself. He should always think of his prince and never pay any attention to matters in which the prince is not concerned.

On the other hand, to keep his servant honest the prince ought to reward him, honouring him, enriching him, doing him kindnesses, sharing the honours and concerns with him. At the same time let him see that he cannot stand alone, so that many honours may not make him desire more, many riches make him wish for more, and that many problems may make him afraid to take chances. When, therefore, servants, and princes towards servants, are thus disposed, they can trust each other. But when it is otherwise, the end will always be bad for either one or the other.”

— Chapter XXII

 

“…there are three classes of intellects: one which comprehends by itself; another which appreciates what others comprehended; and a third which neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others; the first is the most excellent, the second is good, the third is useless.”

— Chapter XXII

 

“A prince is despised if he is considered changeable, foolish, weak, mean, and uncertain. A prince should avoid these characteristics. In his actions he should try to show greatness, courage, seriousness, and strength. In his private dealings with his subjects he should show that his judgments must be followed, and he should maintain himself with such a reputation that no one can hope either to deceive him or to get round him.”

— Chapter XXII

 

“Without doubt princes become great when they overcome the difficulties that face them, and a new prince has a greater necessity to earn a reputation than an hereditary one. Therefore fortune, especially when she desires to make a new prince great, causes enemies to arise and conspire against him, in order that he may have the opportunity of overcoming them, and thus climb higher as if by a ladder which his enemies have raised. For this reason many consider that a wise prince, when he has the opportunity, ought to create some enemies against himself, so that, having crushed them, his reputation may rise higher.”

— Chapter XX

 

“A prince ought, above all things, to always try in every action to develop the reputation of being a great and remarkable man.”

— Chapter XXI

 

“He who has not first laid his foundations may be able with great ability to lay them afterwards, but they will be laid with trouble to the designer and danger to the building.”

— Chapter XXII

 

“Most people, on beginning a task which looks fine at first, cannot see the poison that is hidden in it. Therefore, if a prince cannot recognize evils until they are upon him, he is not truly wise; and this insight is given to few.”

— Chapter XIII

 

“Many people have had, and still have, the opinion that the affairs of the world are governed by fortune and by God and humans with their wisdom cannot direct them and no one can even help them. Because of this they would have us believe that it is not necessary to labour much in affairs, but to let chance govern them. This opinion has gained more credit in our times because of the great changes in affairs which have been seen, and may still be seen, every day, beyond all human prediction. Sometimes thinking over this, I am in some degree inclined to their opinion. Nevertheless, in order not to destroy our free will, I believe that fortune decides half of our actions, but that she still leaves the other half, or perhaps a little less, for us to direct.

I compare fortune to one of those great rivers, which when in flood covers the plains, sweeping away trees and buildings, bearing away the soil from place to place. Everything flies before it, all yield to its violence, without being able in any way to resist it. But although its nature is like that, it does not follow therefore that people, when the weather becomes fine, should not make preparations, both with canals and defences, so that in the future the rising waters are directed away, and their force is not so unrestrained and dangerous. It is the same with fortune, who shows her power where courage has not made preparations to resist her. She turns her forces where she knows that walls have not been raised to constrain her.”

— Chapter XXV

 

“… a prince may be seen to be happy today and ruined tomorrow without having shown any change of attitude or character. This, I believe, arises firstly from causes that have already been discussed at length, namely, that the prince who relies entirely on fortune is lost when it changes. I also believe that he will be successful if he directs his actions according to the spirit of the times, and that if his actions do not accord with the times, he will not be successful. Men achieve glory and riches by various methods: one with caution, another with haste; one by force, another by skill; one by patience, another by its opposite; and each one succeeds in reaching the goal by a different method. One can also see of two cautious men that one attains his end, and the other fails. Similarly, two men seem to be equally successful, one by being cautious, the other by taking risks. All these differences arise from nothing else except whether or not they conform in their methods to the spirit of the times. This follows from what I have said, that two men working differently bring about the same effect, and of two working similarly, one attains his object and the other does not.”

— Chapter XXV

 

“If someone governs himself with caution and patience, and times and affairs come together in the right way, then his administration is successful and his fortune is made. But if times and affairs change, he is ruined if he does not change his course of action. But a man is not often found sufficiently clever to know how to accommodate himself to the change. This is because he cannot deviate from what nature inclines him to do, and also because, having always been successful by acting in one way, he cannot be persuaded that it is well to leave it. Therefore, the cautious man, when it is time to turn adventurous, does not know how to do it, hence he is ruined. If he had changed his conduct with the times, fortune would not have changed.”

— Chapter XXV

 

“No Government should imagine that it can choose perfectly safe courses. It should expect to have to take very doubtful ones because in ordinary affairs one never seeks to avoid one trouble without running into another. Wisdom consists of knowing how to distinguish the character of troubles, and how to choose the lesser evil.

— Chapter XXI

 

“… it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more dangerous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. This because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and not very active defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of those against it, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the doubts of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are against it have the opportunity to attack, they do it with great energy, while the others defend without commitment, in such a way that the prince is threatened along with them.”

— Chapter VI

 

“He who believes that new benefits will cause great persons to forget old injuries is deceived.”

— Chapter VII

 

“Thus the Romans did in these instances what all careful princes ought to do, who have to regard not for only present troubles, but also for future ones. When problems are noted before they occur, it is easy to remedy them. But if you wait until they approach, the medicine is too late because the illness has become incurable. Thus doctors say that the beginning of a severe fever is easy to cure but difficult to detect. In the course of time not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure. This also happens in affairs of state, for when the evils that arise have been predicted (which only wise men can do), they can be quickly dealt with. But when, through not having been predicted, they have been permitted to grow in a way that every one can see them, there is no longer a remedy. Therefore, the Romans, predicting troubles, dealt with them at once, and, even to avoid a war, would not let them come to a head. They knew that war cannot be avoided, but can only be delayed to the advantage of others.”

— Chapter III

 

“… he who is the cause of another becoming powerful is ruined. This is because that success has been brought about either by cleverness or by force, and both are distrusted by the person who has been raised to power.”

— Chapter III

 

“One can easily enter there [countries with many lords] by gaining the cooperation of some baron of the kingdom for one always finds dissatisfied barons who desire a change. Such men, for the reasons given, can open the way into the state and make the victory easy. But if you wish to hold the kingdom afterwards, you meet with infinite difficulties, both from those who have assisted you and from those you have crushed. Nor is it enough for you to have destroyed the family of the prince, because the lords that remain make themselves the heads of fresh movements against you. Because you are unable either to satisfy or destroy them, that state is lost whenever time brings the opportunity.”

— Chapter IV

 

A prince is also respected when he is either a true friend or an absolute enemy, that is to say, when, without any reservation, he declares himself in favour of one party against the other. This course will always be more advantageous than standing neutral. If two of your powerful neighbours come to blows, you have either to fear the winner or not. In either case it will always be more advantageous for you to support one of them and to actively make war. If you do not declare yourself, you will invariably be attacked by the conqueror, to the pleasure and satisfaction of the loser, and you will have no reasons to offer, nor anything to protect or to shelter you. The conqueror does not want doubtful friends who will not aid him in the time of difficulty, and the loser will not protect you because you did not willingly, sword in hand, follow his fate.”

— Chapter XXI

 

“Thus it will always happen that the one who is not your friend will demand your neutrality, while the one who is your friend will beg you to declare yourself with arms.”

— Chapter XXI

 

“… men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.”

— Chapter III

 

“Whenever those states which have been acquired have been accustomed to live under their own laws and in freedom, there are three courses for those who wish to hold them. The first is to ruin them, the next is to reside there in person, the third is to permit them to live under their own laws, drawing a regular payment from the state, and establishing within it a governing group which will keep it friendly to you. Because such a government, being created by the prince, knows that it cannot stand without his friendship and interest, it tries hard to support him. Therefore he who would keep a city accustomed to freedom will hold it more easily by the means of its own citizens than in any other way.”

— Chapter V

 

“… he who becomes master of a city accustomed to freedom and does not destroy it, may expect to be destroyed by it, because it always has liberty and its ancient rights as a way of uniting a rebellion. Neither time nor benefits will ever cause it to forget these. Whatever you may do to protect against rebellion, the people never forget freedom or their old rights unless they are scattered.

But when cities or countries are accustomed to living under a prince and that prince’s family is destroyed, they, being on the one hand accustomed to obey and on the other hand not having the old prince, cannot agree in making one from amongst themselves, and they do not know how to govern themselves. For this reason they are very slow to rebel. A new prince can become accepted as their leader and secure them much more easily.”

— Chapter V

 

“A principality is created either by the people or by the nobles depending on who has the opportunity. The nobles, seeing they cannot overcome the people, begin to push one of their own people forward, and they make him a prince, so that under his shadow they can achieve their ambitions. The people finding they cannot resist the nobles, also cry up the reputation of one of themselves, and make him a prince so as to be defended by his authority. He who obtains the principality by the assistance of the nobles maintains himself with more difficulty than he who comes to it by the aid of the people. This is because the former finds himself with many around him who consider themselves his equals. Because of this, he can neither rule nor manage them to his liking. But he who gains the principality by popular favour finds himself alone, and has none around him, or few, who are not prepared to obey him.

Besides this, one cannot by fair dealing, and without injury to others, satisfy the nobles, but you can satisfy the people, for their goals are more proper than those of the nobles. The nobles wish to oppress, while the people only desire not to be oppressed. A prince can never secure himself against a hostile people, because they are too many. On the other hand, he can secure himself from the nobles, as they are few in number.”

— Chapter IX

 

“… nobles ought to be looked at mainly in two ways: that is to say, they either shape their course in such a way as binds them entirely to your fortune, or they do not. Those who so bind themselves, and are not greedy ought to be respected and loved. Those who do not bind themselves may be dealt with in two ways. They may fail to do this through cowardice and a natural lack of courage. In this case you ought to make use of them, especially those who give good advice. Thus, while in good times you honour them, in difficult times you do not have to fear them. But when for their own ambitious ends they avoid binding themselves, it is a sign that they are giving more thought to themselves than to you. A prince ought to guard himself against such people, and ought to fear them as if they were open enemies, because in difficult times they always help to ruin him.”

— Chapter IX

 

“… one who becomes a prince through the favour of the people ought to keep them friendly. He can easily do this because they only ask not to be oppressed by him. But one who, without the support of the people, becomes a prince by the favour of the nobles, ought, above everything, to seek to win the people over to himself. He may easily do this if he takes them under his protection. Because men, when they receive good from him of whom they were expecting evil, are bound more closely to their protector.”

— Chapter IX

 

“A man who wishes to act entirely in a virtuous way is soon destroyed, [since there is] so much that is evil in the world”

— Chapter XV

 

“… a prince who wishes to survive must know how to do wrong, and how to do or not do wrong according to necessity.”

— Chapter XV

 

“… a prince should not to turn away from the good if he can avoid doing so, but, if it is truly necessary, then he should know how to set about it.”

— Chapter XVIII

 

“… every prince ought to desire to be considered kind and not cruel. Nevertheless he ought to take care not to misuse this kindness. Cesare Borgia was considered cruel, but notwithstanding, his cruelty calmed the Romagna, unified it, and restored it to peace and loyalty. And if this is carefully considered, he will be seen to have been much more merciful than the Florentine people, who, to avoid a reputation for cruelty, permitted Pistoia to be destroyed. Therefore a prince, so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal, ought not to mind the criticism of cruelty.

— Chapter XVII

 

“… it is impossible for the new prince to avoid the reputation for cruelty. This is because new states are full of dangers.”

— Chapter XVII

 

“Related to 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 it is much safer to be feared than loved, when only one is possible. The reason for this is that in general men are ungrateful, inconstant, false, cowardly, and greedy. As long as you succeed, they are yours entirely – they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, when the need is far distant. But when the need approaches, they turn against you. A prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other ways of protecting himself, will be ruined. 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. Men are less worried about offending one who is loved than one who is feared. Love is preserved by the link of gratefulness which, owing to the weak nature of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a fear of punishment which never fails.”

— Chapter XVII

 

“… a prince ought to encourage fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred. He can carry on very well being feared while he is not hated, which will always be as long as he keeps away from the property of his citizens and subjects… But when it is necessary for him to proceed against the life of someone, he must do it with proper justification and for obvious reasons. But above all things he must keep his hands off the property of others, because men more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their inheritance. Besides, it is always easy to create reasons for taking away property. Anyone who has once begun to live by robbery will always find reasons for seizing what belongs to others. But reasons for taking life, on the other hand, are more difficult to find and are hard to keep justifying.”

— Chapter XVII

 

“… when neither their property nor their honour is threatened, the majority of men live happily, and the prince has only to deal with the ambition of a few, whom he can easily control in many ways.”

— Chapter XIX

 

“… you must know that there are two kinds of combat: one with laws, the other with force. The first proper to man, the second to beasts; but because the first is often not enough, one must have recourse to the second. Therefore it is necessary for a prince to know well how to use the beast and the man… Thus, since a prince is compelled of necessity to know well how to use the beast, he should pick the fox and the lion, because the lion does not defend itself from snares and the fox does not defend itself from wolves. So one needs to be a fox to recognize snares and a lion to frighten wolves.”

— Chapter XVIII

 

“There is a big difference between being armed and being unarmed, and it is not reasonable that an armed person should willingly obey an unarmed person. An unarmed man will not be secure among armed servants, because by being unarmed he will be suspicious of them and they will despise him. So, it is not possible for them to work well together. Therefore a prince who does not understand the art of war, over and above the other disadvantages already mentioned, cannot be respected by his soldiers, nor can he rely on them.”

— Chapter XIV

 

“[The prince] ought never, therefore, to have this subject of war out of his thoughts, and in peace he should devote himself more to its exercise than in times of war. He can do this in two ways, by action, and by study.

As regards action, he ought above all things to keep his men well trained and organized, and to carry out extended exercises in the field, by which he accustoms his body to hardships, and learns something of the nature of the land…

But to exercise his mind, the prince should read histories, and study there the actions of great men, to see how they have conducted themselves in war, to examine the causes of their victories and defeats, so as to avoid the latter and imitate the former. Above all a prince should do as great men did, to take as a model one who had been praised and famous before them, and whose achievements and deeds they always kept in mind.”

— Chapter XIV

 

“… in seizing a state, the attacker ought to examine closely all those injuries which are necessary, and to do them all at one stroke so as not to have to repeat them daily. Thus by not continually upsetting the people, he will be able to make them feel more secure, and win them over by benefits. He who does otherwise, either from reluctance or evil advice, is always forced to keep the knife in his hand. He cannot rely on his subjects, and they cannot attach themselves to him, because of the continued and repeated wrongs. Injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less. Benefits ought to be given little by little, so that their flavour may last longer.

— Chapter VIII

 

“… above all things, a prince ought to live amongst his people in such a way that no unexpected circumstances, whether of good or evil, shall make him change; because if the necessity for this comes in troubled times, you are too late for harsh measures; and mild ones will not help you, for they will be considered as forced from you, and no one will be under any obligation to you for them.”

— Chapter VIII

 

“In addition, a prince ought to amuse the people with entertainments and ceremonies at appropriate times of the year. And as every city is divided into tradesmen’s organisations or into societies, he ought to respect such groups, and associate with them sometimes. He should show himself to be an example of good behaviour and generosity, but nevertheless, always maintain the awareness of his high rank.”

— Chapter XXI

 

“…a prince ought to have two fears, one from within, on account of his subjects, the other from without, on account of external powers. From the latter he is defended by being well armed and having good allies, and if he is well armed he will have good friends, and affairs will always remain quiet within when they are quiet without, unless they should have been already disturbed by conspiracy…”

— Chapter XIX

 

“… the best fortress there is, is not to be hated by the people, because although you may have fortresses, if the people hold you in hatred, fortresses do not save you…”

— Chapter XX

 

“… whoever protects his town well, and has managed the other concerns of his subjects in the way stated above, will never be attacked without great caution. Men are not eager for actions where the difficulties can be clearly seen, and it will be seen to not be an easy thing to attack one who has his town well protected, and who is not hated by his people.”

— Chapter X

 

“… a prince who has a strong city, and who has not made himself hated, will not be attacked. If any one does attack, he will only be driven off in defeat. Because the affairs of this world are so changeable, it is almost impossible to keep an army for a whole year in the field without being interfered with. And whoever should reply: ‘If the people have property outside the city, and see it burnt, they will not remain patient, and the long attack and self-interest will make them forget their prince’. To this I answer that a powerful and courageous prince will overcome all such difficulties by giving at one time hope to his subjects that the evil will not be for long, and at another time encouraging fear of the cruelty of the enemy. At the same time he should deal appropriately with those subjects who seem to him to speak out too much.

Furthermore, the enemy would naturally immediately on their arrival burn and ruin the country at the time when the spirits of the people are still hot and ready for the defence. Therefore, so much the less should the prince hesitate; because after a time, when spirits have cooled, the damage is already done, and there is no longer any remedy. Thus the people are at that time much more ready to unite with their prince, because he appears to owe them a favour now that their houses have been burnt and their possessions ruined in his defence. This is because it is in the nature of men to be bound by the benefits they confer as much as by those they receive.”

— Chapter X

 

“… a prince ought not to worry about conspiracies when his people have love and respect him. But when the people are hostile to him, and bear hatred towards him, he ought to fear everything and everybody. Well ordered states and wise princes have taken every care to keep the nobles happy, and to keep the people satisfied and contented, for this is one of the most important goals a prince can have.”

— Chapter XIX

 

“… princes ought to leave affairs which may upset some people to the management of others, and keep those which will make people happy in their own hands.”

— Chapter XIX

 

“The chief foundations of all states, new as well as old or mixed, are good laws and good arms.”

— Chapter XII

 

“The arms with which a prince defends his state are either his own, or they are mercenaries, auxiliaries, or mixed. Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous. If a prince holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe, because they are ambitious, not united, without discipline, unfaithful, brave in front of friends and cowardly before enemies. They have neither fear of God nor loyalty to men. Destruction caused by them is put off only as long as the attack lasts. In peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. The fact is, they have no other attraction or reason for staying in battle than a small amount of pay which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you. They are ready enough to be your soldiers while you do not make war, but if war comes they disappear or run from the enemy.”

— Chapter XII

 

“The mercenary captains are either capable men or they are not. If they are, you cannot trust them, because they always want to become more powerful, either by oppressing you, who are their master, or others contrary to your intentions. If the mercenary captain is not skilful, you are ruined in the usual way.”

— Chapter XII

 

“Auxiliaries, which are the other kind of most useless soldiers, are employed when a prince calls in other forces to aid and defend him… These soldiers may be useful and good in themselves, but for the person who calls them in they are always disadvantageous, because by losing, a prince is thoroughly defeated, and by winning, a prince becomes under their control.”

— Chapter XIII

 

“… the nature of peoples is variable, and it is easy to persuade them of something, but difficult to keep them in that persuasion.”

— Chapter VI

 

“People are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that anyone who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.”

— Chapter XVIII

 

“Men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, because everybody can see you, but few come in touch with you. Everyone sees what you appear to be, but few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose the opinion of the many…”

— Chapter XVIII

 

“In the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not wise to challenge, one judges by the result.”

— Chapter XVIII

 

“… I know that everyone will confess that it would be most worthy in a prince to exhibit all the above qualities that are considered good. But, because they can neither be entirely possessed nor observed in any one person, for human conditions do not permit it, it is necessary for him to be sufficiently careful so that he may know how to avoid the criticism of those things considered bad which would lose him his state. Also, he should avoid, if it is possible, bad behaviour which would not lose him his state, but, if this is not possible, he may with less hesitation do it. Moreover, he need not feel uneasy about being criticised for that bad behaviour which is necessary to maintain the state, because if everything is considered carefully, it will be found that something which looks like virtue, if followed would be his ruin; while something else, which looks wrong, may bring him security and wealth.

— Chapter XV

 

“… it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have described, but it is very necessary to appear to have them. And I shall dare to say this also, that to have these qualities and always to observe them is dangerous, and that to appear to have them is useful. A prince should appear merciful, faithful, kind, religious, upright, but should be flexible enough to make use of the opposite qualities when it is necessary.”

— Chapter XVIII

 

“… a prince ought to be slow to believe and to act, and should not show fear. He should proceed in a calm manner with care and concern for others, so that too much confidence does not make him careless and too much distrust does not make him always suspicious.”

— Chapter XVII

 

Summary and conclusions

  • Niccolò Machiavelli was an eminent philosopher and diplomat in the Florentine Republic, and is sometimes referred to as the founder of modern political science.
  • Machiavelli wrote The Prince, which is considered to be one of the premier books about political philosophy. The book is intended as a how-to guide for rulers, but many of its lessons apply to everyday people too.
  • These lessons encompass a variety of topics, from accounting for the fickleness of a crowd, to understanding how you will be judged by others.
  • One of the main lessons in The Prince is that a person should know how to be strong-handed, and be willing to use a forceful approach when necessary.
  • Of all the lessons however, the most important one is that a wise person should always seek the advice of other knowledgeable people, and listen to them in a way that encourages them to share their advice again in the future.