A reading club with a view to the future

142 Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince

Machiavelli’s guide to governance, where power and self-preservation are prioritized over ethics and morality.

Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince


"The Prince" is a political treatise written by Niccolò Machiavelli in the early 16th century, providing advice to rulers on how to gain and maintain power. It offers practical guidance on governance, emphasizing the importance of acting ruthlessly and decisively to achieve one's goals, regardless of ethical considerations. The book is famous for its cynical approach to politics and is considered a classic of political theory.


Title: The Prince

Author: Niccolò Machiavelli

Publishing year: 2013

Publisher: Giunti

Length in hours: 4 hours and 47 minutes 

5 main ideas

  1. A ruler's primary concern should be the preservation of their power and the state, even if it means resorting to ruthless and morally questionable tactics.
  2. The ruler must be willing to adapt their actions to the circumstances, as circumstances change rapidly and require different approaches.
  3. It is better to be feared than loved, as fear is a more reliable motivator for obedience than love.
  4. The ruler must maintain the support of the people to avoid rebellion or opposition, but must also be willing to use force if necessary to maintain control.
  5. It is better for the ruler to be decisive and take action, even if it means making mistakes, than to be indecisive and allow the situation to worsen.
Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince

5 funny quotes

  1. "War is just when it is necessary; arms are permissible when there is no hope except in arms."
  2. "All armed prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed prophets have been destroyed."
  3. "If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared."
  4. "It is necessary for him who lays out a state and arranges laws for it to presuppose that all men are evil and that they are always going to act according to the wickedness of their spirits whenever they have free scope."
  5. "One change always leaves the way open for the establishment of others."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both."
  2. "The end justifies the means."
  3. "Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception."
  4. "Men are so simple and so much inclined to obey immediate needs that a deceiver will never lack victims for his deceptions."
  5. "Politics have no relation to morals."

5 dilemmas

  1. Should a ruler prioritize the well-being of their people, or their own self-preservation?
  2. Is it better for a ruler to be loved or feared?
  3. When should a ruler use force to maintain control, and when should they rely on diplomacy and negotiation?
  4. How can a ruler balance the need to adapt to changing circumstances with the need for consistency and stability in governance?
  5. Is it ethical for a ruler to use deception and manipulation to achieve their goals, or is there a moral obligation to be transparent and honest with the people?

5 examples

  1. Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI, who is considered an example of a prince who successfully applied Machiavellian principles to gain and maintain power.
  2. Julius II, the Pope who commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel and who is also known for his military campaigns and political machinations.
  3. The Medici family, rulers of Florence and patrons of the arts, who are referenced throughout the book as examples of rulers who used a combination of force and cunning to maintain their power.
  4. Ferdinand II of Aragon, who is mentioned as an example of a ruler who successfully navigated the changing political landscape of Renaissance Italy.
  5. The Borgias, a powerful and influential family in Renaissance Italy, who are mentioned as examples of rulers who used violence and deception to achieve their goals.

Referenced books

  1. "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu
  2. "The Republic" by Plato
  3. "Politics" by Aristotle
  4. "The Divine Comedy" by Dante Alighieri
  5. "The Histories" by Herodotus

Share a quote

"Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception."

Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince
Become a NextBook Insider

Join our community to access exclusive content, comment on stories, participate in giveaways, and more.