The Prince Questions and Answers
by Niccolo Machiavelli

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What were the three major themes of The Prince by Machiavelli?

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The first main theme is politics. The Prince was written as a manual for new rulers who desired complete control. Machiavelli argued that the prince must maintain sovereignty over his subjects. Virtuous qualities are not required for effective leadership, as being feared is more important than being known for admirable traits. To maintain political power, the prince must utilize force when necessary and keep his motives hidden from the public. 

The second main theme is fate and chance. The prince can't assume that everything will go his way. So he must be prepared for what is beyond his control. Machiavelli encouraged caution and preparation, rather than simply falling victim to fate. It's imperative that the prince must use his free will in order to change his methods and adjust to various situations. 

The third main theme is deception. While public perception is key to gaining loyalty from commoners, Machiavelli argued that lying is necessary to maintaining control. The prince needs...

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emgourley | Student

There are three central themes in The Prince. The themes can each be identified by breaking the novella into roughly three sections, but each theme runs throughout the novel.

The theme of conquest and power is explored in chapters I-XIV. Machiavelli believes that the only legitimate way to gain power is through conquest, saying “all armed prophets conquer and unarmed ones are ruined.” To this end, he criticizes leaders who inherit their power and notes that they are quickly ousted by those willing to use force to meet their ends.

Next, Machiavelli writes about the virtues and vices in chapters XV-XXIII. Traditionally, virtues represent morally good traits (such as generosity and kindness) while vices represent morally wrong practices (such as cruelty and violence). Machiavelli does not agree with this 'black and white' view of the world. He sees virtues and vices as part of the same category of tools which a Prince can use to gain power and keep it for the benefit of the state. 

Chapters XXVI-XXV reveal Machiavelli's concern with free will and fate. He believes in fortune, but not in complete determinism. To a certain extent, he asserts that people can control their fortunes with action. However, he acknowledges that some events are beyond human control. In a famous line, he says that “it is better to be impetuous than cautious, for fortune is a woman, and if one wishes to keep her down, it is necessary to beat her and knock her down.”