Why does Machiavelli liken Fortune to a woman in The Prince?

Niccolò Machiavelli compares Fortune to women in "The Prince" due to sexist reasons. He calls fortune "changeful," which plays into stereotypes about how women are unreliable, undependable, and are always changing their minds. He also tells us how fortune "allows herself to be mastered by the adventurous." That reinforces toxic beliefs that women liked to be mistreated, abused, and dominated.

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In The Prince, we could argue that Niccolò Machiavelli compares fortune to women for sexist reasons. In his comparison, Machiavelli brings in many toxic tropes about women, including the belief that they are unsteady or "changeful."

The purported unreliability of women is seen throughout history. We see the "changeful" notion in the 1690’s Salem witchcraft trials when women and young girls were accused of changing into witches. We also see this "changeful" notion in the tendency to not heed rape reports from women.

The purported inconstancy of fortune/woman contrasts with the purported reliability of mankind/man. Machiavelli calls mankind "steadfast in their ways." That idea plays into notions that men are somehow invariably reliable, firm, and dependable. Yet look at some of the most visible men in politics and culture -- do they seem steady to you? Would you characterize Donald Trump, Joseph Biden, Kanye West, or Tucker Carlson as stable and balanced?

The sexist parallel continues when...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 1037 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 21, 2020