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A type of stage villain found in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and named after the Florentine political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli, whose notorious book Il Principe (The Prince, 1513) justified the use of dishonest means to retain state power. Exaggerated accounts of Machiavelli's views led to the use of his name—sometimes directly referred to in speeches—for a broad category of ruthless schemers, atheists, and poisoners. Shakespeare's Iago and Richard III are the most famous examples of the type.

Subjects: Literature.

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