Niccoló Machiavelli (1469-1527), Italian political thinker and historical figure he is best remembered for his masterpiece, The Prince (written in 1513, but published posthumously in 1532). Main theme is that all means may be used in order to maintain authority. Naturally a superficial mind can conclude from reading the book that maintenance of authority must necessarily base upon pragmatism and in following it to its conclusion would necessarily mean exercise of bad faith or duplicity and cunning hidden away by a veneer of civility. Political realism has a clear mandate based on a geographical entity like Florence or Milan, whereas political idealism can only be consigned to an Utopia, whether it is of More or of VI Lenin. Political realism of Joseph Stalin managed to secure his own survival at the cost of Worker’s Paradise envisaged by Lenin. By delinking the political realism of Machiavelli from his times, and use it as a general principle is as erroneous as judging him by the book. One only needs to read another work of his say Mandrangola (1518) to understand my point.
The Prince was held responsible for French political corruption and for widespread contribution to any number of political and moral vices. Gentillet’s interpretation of The Prince as advocating statecraft by ruthlessness and amoral duplicity was disseminated throughout Britain through the works of such popular, highly influential dramatists as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. In the Prologue to Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta (1589?), Machevilli addresses the audience at length, at one point encapsulating the Elizabethan perception of Machiavelli by saying, “I count religion but a childish toy, / And hold there is no sin but ignorance.” Here and in the works of Marlowe’s contemporaries, Machiavelli was depicted as an agent of all that Protestant England despised in Catholic, High- Renaissance Italy. Ironically The Prince was condemned by the Pope for its clear eyed look at the political jockeying that went on in Florence at that time. Hostile English interpreters so effectively typified Machiavelli as an amalgam of various evils, which they described with the still-used term ” Machiavellian,” that fact and fabrication still coexist today.
Seldom has a single work generated such divergent and fierce commentary from such a wide assortment of writers. Commenting on Machiavelli’s colorful critical heritage, T. S. Eliot has remarked that no great man has been so completely misunderstood.
Niccolo Machiavelli was born on May 3, 1469, in Florence, Italy. His father, Bernardo belonged to an impoverished branch of an influential old Florentine family. Bernardo was a lawyer and he had a small personal library that included books by Greek and Roman philosophers and volumes of Italian history. Bernardo died in 1500, Machiavelli’s mother, Bartolomea de’ Nelli, had died in 1496.
As a thinker Machiavelli belonged to an entire school of Florentine intellectuals concerned with an examination of political and historical problems. His important writings were composed after 1512 when he was accused of conspiracy in 1513. The Medici family had returned to power and had ended the Florentine Republic. Lorenzo de’ Medici fired Machiavelli who had held the office of Secretary under the previous government. He was suspected of plotting against the Medici, jailed, even tortured, and exiled. Machiavelli found himself unemployed after years of patriotic service, and spent most of his remaining years in producing his major works. He achieved some fame as a historian and playwright, but with The Prince he hoped to regain political favor. It tells how to gain, maintain, and centralize power.
In 1519 Machiavelli was partly reconciled with the Medici and he was given various duties, including writing a history of Florence. When the Medici was deposed in 1527 Machiavelli hoped for a new government post. However, now the republican government distrusted him for his previous association with the Medici.
Machiavelli’s political writings became more widely known in the second half of the 16th century. When considered dangerous, they were placed in 1564 on the Church Index of officially banned books. Machiavelli’s best known works are Discorsi Sopra La Prima Deca Di Tito Livio (1531, Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius) The Mandrake(1528) a satirical play and From 1521 to 1525, Machiavelli was employed as a historiographer. Niccolo Machiavelli died in Florence on June 21, 1527.