Commentary Of The Prince By Niccolo Machiavelli

1177 words - 5 pages

In chapter 17 of The Prince, On Cruelty and Mercy, and Whether It Is Better to Be Loved Than to be Feared or the Contrary, Machiavelli continues his discussion of virtues that the modern reader might not consider as virtues. He considers mercy and cruelty as with generosity and ungenerosity. Machiavelli’s dark view of human nature is displayed in this chapter – a warning about those who tell you they love you in good times but desert you in bad times. He talks about how a prince should rather be feared than loved, if he cannot manage to be both loved and feared, but never hated. The text type is like a guide that he writes to instruct the reader on how to become a better prince. The purpose of this chapter is to convince the reader in a way which depicts how it is no use to be merciful, if by doing so, the prince allows disorder in the state to get out of control. The reader is the person who wants to rule a principality based on Machiavelli’s instructions.

Machiavelli clearly explains how there’s a difference between the misuse of mercy and cruelty. “Every prince must desire to be considered merciful and not cruel; nevertheless, he must take care not to misuse this mercy.” This implies that there’s a fine line between what is considered cruel and the “misuse of mercy” according to Machiavelli. He then gives an example of Cesare Borgia, who was seen as cruel but at the same time “brought order to Romagna, united it, restored it to peace and obedience” – he points out the good things that cruelty brings, even if the modern reader doesn’t parallelize his views. Some measure of cruelty is necessary to maintain order. Men will be scared to be punished if the prince is feared, therefore they will maintain their respects toward the prince as long as he is feared; “fear is sustained by a dread of punishment which will never abandon you.” But a prince should be careful in his exercise of cruelty, “tempered by prudence and humanity”, which means he should be moderate; not too cruel and not too merciful. The overall difference of cruelty and the misuse of mercy is that cruelty harms few individuals and the misuse of mercy, either excessive or lacking, “harms the community at large” and may also lead to hatred, which Machiavelli claims to be not preferable.

In chapter 17, Machiavelli states the benefits that cruelty, in his own terms, can have in a prince. On the third paragraph Machiavelli reinforces his belief that being feared is safer to be loved; “men are less hesitant about harming someone who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared.” Therefore, cruelty brings a benefit for respect and a prince’s dignity. He criticizes men, using asyndeton, by saying they’re “ungrateful, fickle, simulators and deceivers, avoiders of danger, greedy for gain,” because they will favor the prince “when danger is far away” but they’ll turn away in bad times. That’s why, if a prince has too much compassion with his men and relies on what they say, he won’t...

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