Published by Crackers Books,

24 June 2024

Machiavelli’s The Prince:

A Concise Overview

Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince is a seminal work in political philosophy and realpolitik. Written in the ​early 16th century, it offers pragmatic advice to new princes and rulers on how to maintain power and ​control over their states. The treatise is renowned for its candid and, at times, ruthless ​recommendations, diverging from the idealistic notions of governance prevalent in earlier political ​thought. Here are five key points from The Prince based on recent scholarly research:

1. The Role of Virtue and Fortune: Machiavelli argues that a successful ruler must skillfully balance ​virtue (virtù) and fortune (fortuna). Virtù represents the prince’s ability to shape his destiny through ​wisdom, strength, and cunning, while fortuna signifies the unpredictable forces that can affect human ​affairs. A prince must be adaptable, knowing when to act decisively and when to yield to circumstance ​(Mizumoto-Gitter, 2018).

2. The Ends Justify the Means: One of the most controversial aspects of The Prince is Machiavelli’s ​assertion that the ends justify the means. He contends that a ruler must be willing to act immorally if ​necessary to maintain power and ensure the stability of the state. This includes deceit, manipulation, ​and even cruelty, if such actions are for the greater good of the state (Shammas, 2019).

3. Military Strategy and Statecraft: Machiavelli emphasizes the importance of a strong military as the ​backbone of a stable state. He advises princes to focus on military prowess and strategic planning to ​defend their territories and expand their influence. This practical approach to governance underscores ​the necessity of preparedness and strength in leadership (Skinner, 2019).

4. Perception and Reality: A recurring theme in The Prince is the distinction between how things ​appear and how they actually are. Machiavelli advises rulers to manage their public image meticulously, ​as perception often holds more power than reality. He suggests that a successful prince must appear ​merciful, faithful, humane, and religious, while being ready to act contrary to these virtues when ​necessary (Stoškus, 2023).

5. Historical Context and Modern Relevance: While Machiavelli wrote The Prince in a specific ​historical context of Italian city-states, its lessons have been interpreted as timeless principles of ​power dynamics. The work remains relevant as it explores the practicalities of leadership, governance, ​and political survival in any era. Modern scholars continue to find parallels between Machiavelli’s ​insights and contemporary political practices (Ringwood, 2019).


Machiavelli’s The Prince remains a cornerstone of political philosophy, offering a realistic and often ​cynical view of power and statecraft. Its emphasis on pragmatism, adaptability, and the strategic use of ​virtue and fortune provides enduring lessons for political leaders.


• Mizumoto-Gitter, A. (2018). Narrativizing the Self: Niccolò Machiavelli’s use of Cesare Borgia in The ​Prince. UCLA Historical Journal, 29. Link.

• Ringwood, F. M. (2019). Shakespeare’s Mavericks and the Machiavellian Moment. Shakespeare in ​Southern Africa, 32, 38-48. Link.

• Shammas, M. (2019). In Defense of ‘The Prince’: Thoughts On Machiavelli’s Misread Handbook for ​Peace & Italian Unity. SSRN Electronic Journal. Link.

• Skinner, Q. (2019). Machiavelli: The Prince. Cambridge University Press. Link.

• Stoškus, M. (2023). Machiavelli’s The Prince: How to Refute Virtue Ethics in Three Steps. Studia ​Philosophiae Christianae. Link.

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