"Renaissance humanism was an intellectual movement based on the study of the classical literary works of Greece and Rome" (Spielvogel 344). Based on this comment, what was the influence of the...

"Renaissance humanism was an intellectual movement based on the study of the classical literary works of Greece and Rome" (Spielvogel 344). Based on this comment, what was the influence of the Classical literary tradition in the Renaissance humanism of The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As with much in Machiavelli, there is little which is simple.  On one hand, Machiavelli wishes to distance himself from any previous constructions.  Machiavelli is deliberate in constructing a work that is different from any predecessor, both in language and intent: "I have not embellished or crammed this book with rounded periods or big, impressive words, or with any blandishment or superfluous decoration of the kind which many are in the habit of using to describe or adorn what they have produced."  In addition to this, Machiavelli was deliberately conscious that what he was advocating was a swift repudiation of virtue politics which had been in place for so long, most notably advocated in the works of the Greeks.  However, a strong case can be made in suggesting Machiavelli saw much of his thinking as based off of the Classical period's literary works and intellectual ideas.  Even in their rejection, Machiavelli is influenced through the Classical intellectual development.

One area in which The Prince can be seen in finding root in the Classical tradition is in the embrace of individual action.  Machiavelli recognizes that "fortune favors the bold" and that in order to be an effective ruler, one must act in a decisive way to "win over Fortuna."   There is little equivocation in Machiavelli in how he insists that the ruler act within a sense of confident focus in what they are doing and how they carry it out.  While he outwardly rejected any particular idea of transcendence and something higher than human action, affirming his Humanist stance, the strands of Platonic thought are evident.  There might not be an outward teleology in Machiavelli, but there is an appeal that the ruler operates on a level that others are not able to understand or even approach.  Machiavelli embraces a non- democratic platform, in terms of his insistence that not "just anyone" can be an effective political ruler.  This is reminiscent of the Platonic philosopher- king who must act decisively in the name of the forms.  The insistence upon bold action in the name of something larger than the individual and the idea that ruler is fundamentally distinct from others in the political order are elements where the influence of Classical notions of the good were evident in Machiavelli's The Prince.

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