At Issue

(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

The ideas of Niccolò Machiavelli have been associated with the darker side of politics. To be Machiavellian has for centuries meant to be willing to do anything in the quest for power. Machiavelli has been viewed as a political devil, advising leaders to embrace the arts of treachery, force, and cruelty in order to be successful. These notions derive almost wholly from his work The Prince (1513), and although they have persisted, they are exaggerations of the substance of Machiavelli’s ideas. Machiavelli also wrote plays, poetry, and histories. His most expansive work was Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius (1636). In it, the breadth of Machiavelli’s political thinking may be seen, and especially his high regard for republican government.