Machiavelli's Gift of Counsel

Albert Russell Ascoli

in A Local Habitation and a Name

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780823234288
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823241231 | DOI:
Machiavelli's Gift of Counsel

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This chapter argues for reading the Prince both rhetorically and historically as the product of multiple desires on the part of its exiled, unemployed author: to obtain employment for him as privy counsellor to the Medici family; to persuade the Medici pope, Leo X, to provide the unifying impetus that Italy needs to fend off French and Spanish invaders, and, finally, to offer more general rules of conduct for the founder of a new state. The key in each case is the reconciliation of two forms of “virtù”—the physical power of autonomous arms and the intellectual foresight (prudence) which dictates when and how to use such arms in order to overcome obstacles presented by “fortuna”. The two categories appear in the famous animal imagery of the fox and the lion (Chapter 15), betraying Machiavelli's literary indebtedness to Dante (and Cicero), as well as dramatizing his (hoped for) relationship to Leo, the pope with an animal's name. The chapter concludes with a reading of the last two chapters of the treatise to suggest Machiavelli's recognition and acknowledgment of the “utopian” character of a politics which claims to adhere strictly to “la verità effettuale delle cose” (the effectual truth of things).

Keywords: Niccolò Machiavelli; The Prince; prudence; animal imagery; rhetorical reading; virtue; fortune; medici family; Machiavelli and Dante; counselor and prince

Chapter.  19681 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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