What kinds of historical examples does Machiavelli use to demonstrate his ideas in The Prince? How does his choice of examples reflect cultural ideas of the Renaissance?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Machiavelli places his most famous work, The Prince, well in the tradition of other humanist works which were very popular during the Renaissance. Humanism draws heavily on using examples of actual people to showcase the potential and worth of individuals. In order to show what the quintessential ruler is capable of, Machiavelli had to show his readers what others had done before as both positive and negative examples. This separates his work from the previous medieval period's writings, which focused almost exclusively on biblical and saintly characters as models for how humans should behave.

Some examples that Machiavelli includes to illustrate his political theory harken back to the Classical period of Greece and Rome. Since the Renaissance was a resurgence of Classical thought, this was a natural direction for him to take. In Chapter XIX, Machiavelli describes the reigns of many Roman emperors. Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Pertinax, and Alexander are shown as examples of rulers who lived...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 846 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team