Essay on Machiavellis The Prince and Mores Utopia

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Vanderbilt University
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The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli presents a detailed analysis of how to acquire political power and maintain it. The author discusses how great men should conduct themselves and the desired principles of a princely government. Utopia by Sir Thomas More illustrates what the character Raphael Hythloday, its narrator, suggested to be the perfect human society found in the island of Utopia. This essay looks at why Machiavelli thinks a prince needs to have virtu in order to rule well, and whether Fortuna can actually foster the princes virtu. It will also look at the extent to which Utopia provides an argument that a leader has to have virtu in order to govern well. The essay will explore if there is any proof in Utopia that Fortuna plays a role in fostering virtu.

According to Samson (2014), virtu is an Italian word used by Machiavelli to denote various terms such as skill, ability, forcefulness, energy, ingenuity, strength, determination, or courage. It is the quality that sets apart successful princes from the others. The author gives examples of well-known founders of great civilizations. When these men came across opportunities, they possessed the virtu required to take full advantage of them. However, Machiavelli points out that virtu is wasted if there is no opportunity to actually use. Also, he is of the opinion that violence and use of force is an essential part of the state; and a ruler must utilize it as a tool of government. Machiavelli points out that, if subjects lose faith in a leaders innovative schemes, he must force it down their throats. Alternatively, the followers must act as if they have faith by obeying the ruler.

In The Prince, Machiavelli explores the relationship between fortuna (Latin for fortune) in determining whether or not a prince succeeds. He uses fortuna is several senses within the book. In some chapters, the author contrasts the term with virtu in the sense of the favor of powerful individuals or luck. Here, the contrast is between what a prince can control i.e. his own deeds and what is beyond his control, i.e. the favor of other people. In other chapters, fortuna seems to refer to more prevailing events and circumstances that the prince does not have direct control over. The author refuses to take the defeatist view that everything is controlled by destiny and that striving towards a specific outcome is useless. Instead, he gives fortuna control over just half of all actions by humans, allowing the rest to be influenced by free will. Should free will fail to operate, all of the virtu belonging to the prince would be for nothing (Petrina, 2016).

A problem arises as to why an individual may succeed while another fails despite both having applied similar methods, or why completely different processes can lead to the same outcome. Machiavelli explains this by proposing that success is achieved when virtu matches with the particular situation a prince is in. he perceives fortuna as a set of circumstances that are always changing whereby certain actions can lead to either success or failure. Although Machiavelli affirms the value of free will, goes on to limit it by assert it. He says that while it may be possible for a person to vary his or her deeds to suit the times, no one does that. The author implies that this is due to the fact that virtu is an inborn quality that a prince cannot change. Individuals act in accordance to their character and are not able to change their nature.

Utopia by Thomas More is concerned with how to maintain an ideal society. While the book does not prove an explicit argument that a ruler has to have virtu in order to look after his subjects well, it does imply how the people can make themselves be governed excellently. Utopia depicts power as something possessed by all individuals; meaning they are empowered. The author offers a suggestion on an alternative way of life for the masses. He does not focus much on what a ruler should be doing in an ideal society; it is the actions of the people that actually matter. It would not be wrong to say that the masses are empowered, but it is the policies that govern the society that are actually empowered. The authors real focus is not even in power, but in searching for the right ideas (Davis, 2017).

The government portrayed in The Prince is either a dictatorship or a theoretical democracy. The author focuses on how leaders rely on manipulation of the people in order to remain in power, and that is why they have to possess virtu. Mores creation in Utopia is quite different. The society he portrays is a communist one that can even be called a democracy. Leaders are chosen by the people, who are free to make their own decisions. Nothing in the society is owned by an individual; not even power. Thus, it can be argued that in Utopia, it is the people who have virtu.

References Brake, B. P. (2016). Political Utopias of the Renaissance: An Analysis of Thomas Mores Utopia, Johann Valentinus Andreaes Christianopolis, and James Harringtons The Commonwealth Of Oceana.

Davis, J. C. (2017). Thomas Mores Utopia: sources, legacy and interpretation. In Alternative Worlds Imagined, 1500-1700 (pp. 173-196). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Parker, B. C. (2017). Utopia in deep heaven: Thomas More and CS Lewis's cosmic trilogy. Mythlore, 35(2), 115-132.

Petrina, A. (2016). Machiavelli in the British Isles: two early modern translations of the Prince. Routledge.

Samson, S. A. (2014). Angelo Codevilla: Introduction to His Translation of Machiavelli's The Prince Study Guide, 2014.

Sullivan, C. (2015). The End of the Means: Using the Arab Spring Revolutions as a Case Study for Machiavellis The Prince.


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