Machiavelli’s View of Human Nature and Leadership in ‘The Prince’

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Updated: Aug 29, 2023
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Machiavelli’s Emphasis on Military Might:

Machiavelli believed in the act of the military. He was very into warcraft. Warcraft was Machiavelli’s number one priority. He directed his whole position to the act of a strong military force. In the Prince’s eyes, he wants to be feared by his people, but you do not want to be hated by your people. You have to be careful of being hated because it can lead to your downfall. The main theme in The Prince that compares to Thomas More and The Republic is the arguing ideals about how society works.

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Clashing Ideals: Utopia vs. The Prince:

Thomas More’s Utopia and Machiavelli’s The Prince both argue about the ideals of how society works. In Utopia, they want to maintain an ideal society, and the goal of The Prince is to maintain being a ruler with high power. In the Prince, power is a necessity. At all costs, power must be maintained and the goal in any situation. Utopia is more like a fantasy.

Power and Realism in Political Rule:

A perfect society is always the goal in both issues. The Prince wants to be someone who can fear his empire yet please his empire at the same time. Thomas More’s Utopia creates an ideal civilization that will live without problems. Both books try to resolve problems by creating their own solutions. With the economy rising in the 15th century, people began to create order and structure, realizing this was going to be ideal. As cities began to grow, new ideas started to come about. Machiavelli established a form of political theory in The Prince. He knew power was the key to a strong government. He states, ‘Governments set up overnight, like everything in nature whose growth is forced, lack strong roots and ramifications.’ You need to take your time when deciding how to rule a society in order for it to be successful.

Machiavelli’s Perspective on Human Nature and Leadership:

Many people talk about how to maintain a strong state. The most talked about are Machiavelli’s The Prince and Plato’s The Republic. Machiavelli lived at a time when Italy suffered greatly. The Prince’s main reason it was written was to talk about how he maintained power. In Plato’s The Republic, he talks about justice. His state was set up to understand the meaning of justice overall. Machiavelli’s criticism of Plato’s The Republic was the complete opposite of how he ruled. He believed if you only treat your people well, then you will not get anything out of your ruling, and your people will rise against your power. Machiavelli believes that it is unrealistic to be only a good leader. That type of manner does not exist in reality and a functioning society. He believes that the knowledge of some type of good can create the ultimate state. However, the word “good” cannot be realistic, and your only goal when creating and ruling an empire is despite the education of the good.

Ultimately, your empire will fail or collapse if that is your only goal. If the rulers are only thinking of the overall good of the state, their happiness and needs will not be met, and this will eventually lead to a downfall. Machiavelli states the ruler’s needs must be obtained in order to create a stable state. You must trust yourself in order to remain true to yourself. If you are not honest with yourself when looking at the big picture, you will be paying the ultimate price by lying to yourself and the way you chose to rule. Without being true to yourself and your people, your empire will not be successful and stay afloat. The Prince believes that harmful actions must be done at once and fast. After any harmful actions are committed, the Prince will reward you, so his actions will be forgotten. Machiavelli states, ‘For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by little so that the flavor of them last longer.’

The goal of this way of life is so the cruelty will wear off, and you know you will always be given benefits. Plato’s idea of what a ruler should do is the opposite of Machiavelli’s. Plato wants everyone to understand the meaning of justice. He believes you must understand the state you are living in to grasp the ideal of a fair justice system. Plato tries to demonstrate to his people that there is a way to live a peaceful life no matter your circumstances as long as you are a good person. However, through Machiavelli’s realistic view of human nature, this idea is disproved. A whole entire empire cannot remain in a good state forever because human nature will always come through. Man will always need his basic needs and desires, which would end the whole ideal culture of Plato’s views and beliefs. Machiavelli’s view on how to rule a state leads him to be more realistic, which will set him up for greatness in the future when running a government. Machiavelli’s focus is mainly on the appearance of all his people as a ruler. Machiavelli does believe you need to be a good ruler to your people, but you need to put some type of fear in them. You will forever possess power if you are driven by respect, which ultimately will lead to a successful and stable kingdom.

The changing nature of Western civilization in the world in which Machiavelli lived resembles our own. City-states have been restored with nation-states. Empires have crumbled and have never been rebuilt. Modern warfare and weapons are far more than anyone could have imagined. Similarities still remain the same compared to today’s world. Although Machiavelli died almost 500 years ago, he was able to find his way through politics as he did because the main guidelines of government still remained the same. Machiavelli created a whole new field of study that we now call political science. He and his best friend Francesco Guicciardini wrote the first outline of political action that turned into a scientific study. This attempt was made so we could try to study the political field in a more relaxing way. The goal was to enclose their proposition from anyone on the outside. No person has ever done this or even thought of doing this; this was going to be the new normal. This time period was in the middle of complete chaos and corruption, and Machiavelli lived it in the Italian city-states. The Italian city-states were constantly being invaded by France and even Spain.

The princes of Italy did nothing productive to stop this chaos. They only focused on forming alliances and the constant urge to fight. Machiavelli’s ideas in The Prince exemplified his ideal for unity throughout Italy. He wanted the people to still have hope and knew one day, Italy would be strong and united again. Machiavelli did not want any outsiders, so he suggested making no alliances or using any other troops. He knew they only needed to use his very own troops. Any ruler needs to make sure his people fear him and need to use violence as an act to make them fear. ‘It is better to be feared than loved if one must choose,’ Machiavelli himself said. Machiavelli would do anything, even unite man against evil. Any promise could be made as long as the Prince knew how to get out of it later down the road if needed. Men are always in charge of their own fates and outcomes. These ideas were brought upon by Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under Nixon. He worked day and night to prevent the spread of communism; that was his number one priority. His main goal was to make Americans happy at all costs. He did not care if they would lose as long as he fought and got some type of change in the outcome. Being feared instead of loved is what made the Prince most famous. The Prince was the most powerful man in the world.


  1. Machiavelli, N. (2017). The Prince. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

  2. More, T. (2009). Utopia. Oxford University Press.

  3. Plato. (2007). The Republic. Oxford University Press.

  4. Adams, D. M. (1997). The Quest for the Sublime. Studies in the Novel, 29(1), 39-54.

  5. Frye, N. (1957). Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. Princeton University Press.

  6. Leeming, D. (2018). Mythology: The Voyage of the Hero. Oxford University Press.

  7. Kissinger, H. A. (2011). On China. Penguin Books.

  8. Machiavelli, N. (2016). The Essential Writings of Machiavelli. Vintage.

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Machiavelli's View of Human Nature and Leadership in 'The Prince'. (2023, Aug 29). Retrieved from