In my opinion he wrote this guide to as a way to show future princes that the ways of the past should be adhered to in order for Italy to regain its prior glory. In The Prince Machiavelli uses many examples from history to show that we need to embrace the past in order to gain a prosperous future. Machiavelli's, The Prince serves as a handbook to future rulers with their roles and responsibilities. Machiavelli begins his handbook with his view of princely virtues.
He argues that in order for a person to be a good leader and stay in rule he must not just be a good person but that “he must learn how to not be good” (Lawall et al, 1951) in order to protect himself from anyone trying to overtake his rule. He must always be prepared and not make himself the “good guy” all the time. Machiavelli shows that being a good person all of the time will only allow for the bad people to overpower the good people, “because anyone who determines to act in all circumstances the part of a good man must come to ruin among so many who are not good” (Lawall et al, 1951).
Machiavelli goes on to further his humanistic views on how a prince should be viewed by his people. He discusses the choices a person of power has in being “liberal” (1952) and generous or stingy. He goes on to say that being too liberal will bring a man of power to ruin and that being frugal is important. He explains that as long as a ruler “abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects” he will gain the respect of his people. He goes on to discuss that a ruler will be more respected if he is living and spending other people’s money.
He discusses the examples set by Cyrus, Caesar, and Alexander in which they lived off “plunder, loot and ransom” (1953). These three rulers were spending the “money of others” (1953) and therefore were not hurting themselves by having to spend what was already theirs. Machiavelli goes on to explain that “nothing eats itself up as fast as does liberality” (1953) because when practiced it can lead to poverty and will make a ruler have to raise taxes which will in turn bring hatred on by his people (1953).
Machiavelli also discusses the importance of being feared and loved as well as, being thought of as cruel but compassionate all at the same time. He uses Dido and Borgia as examples. Borgia is used as the example for cruelty. He says that because Borgia was so cruel his cruelness brought prosperity and unity to Romagna and therefore was prosperous because of the fear that he instilled in his people. But because his Senate was too “compassionate” he lost his clout (1954).
Machiavelli also explains that a new prince is going to face several challenges and because of this will be faced to make very hard decisions that may or may not hurt his reputation among his people. Here he uses Virgil’s Dido as an example, “Hard circumstances and the newness of my realm force me to do such things, and to keep watch over all my lands” (1954). From these examples, Machiavelli is telling his reader that as a prince they must be flexible and show cruelty or compassion when needed in any situation.
Machiavelli goes on to state that a prince should “be slow in believing and acting, and should make no one afraid of him”…so that “too much confidence does not make him incautious, and too much suspicion does not make him unbearable” (1954). This is the way to keep support from his people and will not turn their backs on him when the going gets tough. Renaissance Humanism is defined as “a literary and linguistic movement-an attempt to revive classical Latin (and later Greek), as well as the values and sensibilities that came with the language” (Hunt et al, 415).
Machiavelli’s The Prince was essentially a handbook for how a Prince should portray himself but could also be seen as a day to day handbook by the everyday people of his time for they were all faced with the same moral decisions on a daily basis. Machiavelli used The Prince as a gateway to create a moral and philosophical guide for all people in general and uses examples from history to show that the past needs to be embraced in order to gain a prosperous future.