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Literature / The Prince

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Title page of a 1550 edition.

"And here comes in the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved."
What everyone remembers from The Prince

"Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated."
What he says right afterward, but nobody remembers

Written by Italian statesman Niccolò Machiavelli in 1513, The Prince (Il Principe) is the single most famous political treatise and the first entirely secular work of The Renaissance. At the time it was first published, The Prince was seen as extremely scandalous for its endorsement of ruthlessness and amorality. Nevertheless, it quickly became popular with politicians and remains highly influential in Western politics today. If there's any Manipulative Bastard in anything set after the Renaissance, it's very probable he's taken cues from this book.note 

Most people are familiar with Machiavelli as the man who said, "it is better to be feared than loved". Over the years Machiavelli's name has become associated with dishonesty, deceit, and ruthlessness, so much that they even made his name an adjective most often used for unsavoury characters. However, Machiavelli repeats that while it is better for one to inspire fear, one should also try to inspire love, and must also remember not to inspire hatred. A very common mistake people make is to conflate "be pragmatic" with "be an asshole". Everything a leader says and does need not automatically be a duplicitous front. A leader is perfectly free to have ideals, and be kind, generous, and just with their subjects. The main point is that if achieving one's goals means the leader must commit unsavoury acts, then they must do it. Going down in flames with your ideals intact is a fine and noble thing to do — some may say it is a moral obligation — but that is not the point of this book. The Prince should be regarded as a guidebook to maintaining power for the good of the prince and ultimately the state, not how to kick puppies left and right.

Also, he wrote this book when Italy was in a very chaotic state: for him, the prince had to rule with an iron fist to ensure order. Finally, one must remember that Machiavelli was attempting to ingratiate himself with the Medici, who had just taken over Florence (and promptly ignored his advice: they chose to be universally loved, and ended up massively in debt for it), and that most of his work was about supporting (smaller) republican regimes with an emphasis on freedom (although the means he recommended for operating and preserving them were rather, well, Machiavellian); more educated political theorists tend to regard him as something of a Deep Cover Agent for what eventually became modern liberal democracy. Though if so, that would ironically be a Machiavellian plan in itself. As later historians noted, Machiavelli wrote the book in vernacular and in plain language which means that it's a book that has had a wider audience than earlier works of political sciences.

As of note, 'Prince' (or principe in the original Italian) at the time just meant "ruler", more or less (from Latin princeps = "first one"). It didn't mean "the son of a king". If there was only one person in the state who really mattered, it was called a monarchy. Even a democratically elected president would have still been called a Principe.

An English translation, now in the public domain, is available here.

Compare The Book of Lord Shang, whose traditional author actually was that big a prick. See also Discourses on Livy, Machiavelli's other book, and Hobbes Was Right. Also compare Kautilya's Arthashastra, which is a much more humane but ancient by many hundreds of years to the Prince.

(It's worth noting that the English translation of The Prince came out several years after the English rebuttal book was published. Good news travels fast, it seems.)

This work provides examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Something a prince must avoid at all costs or else the serfs will revolt.
  • Above Good and Evil: The common misreading of the message is that "The ends justify the means". In reality, the lesson is that one must be willing to Shoot the Dog if the situation calls upon it as the leader.
  • Armies Are Evil: Once you wise up, stop using mercenaries or other nations' armies and create your own army. It's very important that you don't make your soldiers or officers too greedy or too ambitious, and that you don't get too soft on the discipline part. On the other hand, a balance between courage, rewards for their loyalty and A Father to His Men attitude, and hard discipline and harsh punishments if they don't listen to you (i.e. the use of the carrot and the whip), will make them a Badass Army.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: You shouldn't put too much trust in the social elite. There's a chance if they don't like your governing, they'll either rebel against you, try to overthrow you, try to assassinate you, or ally themselves with your enemies. And allowing them to commit corruption sure is gonna awaken the people's wrath, and that is something a wise prince must not allow to happen. If they would commit treason against you then you must depose them immediately. That shouldn't be too difficult if you have the people's support and the army's loyalty, and if you don't have it then executing the traitors will help your popularity rise amongst the average people. If the prince is able to Take a Third Option and create a social and economic society that both the aristocrats and the people are satisfied with, he may not need to use violence (at least internally) to rule the country.
  • Author Usurpation: The Prince has forever ensured that "Machiavellian" will always be a synonym for amoral behavior in the pursuit of absolute power. Ironically, his other works are so pro-republican that many believe The Prince to be a Stealth Parody.
  • Bad Boss: Machiavelli advises you to use both this trope and Benevolent Boss. You should be harsh enough to keep your subordinates in order and fear, but you also must be benevolent enough to them that they will be loyal to you. In short, Machiavelli advises you to be a pragmatic boss who's able to master both the whip and the carrot when the situation demands which for him to use and when.
  • Badass Bookworm: The prince should be this, or a Genius Bruiser. "The prince needs to be both a fox to avoid the snares and a lion to scare away the wolves".
  • Batman Gambit: One of these, every once in a while, is instructive for your subjects. During times of peace, when you can afford it, relax your grip a bit, let the realm fall into a little bit of easily-repairable chaos. It reminds the people why they need you in charge.
  • Beneath the Mask: He speaks about social masks in detail in chapter XVIII
  • Better to Kill Than Frighten: Discussed. Machiavelli recommends killing political enemies rather than trying to intimidate or blackmail them, as that may just give them enough motivation and/or ammunition to use it against you.
  • Bread and Circuses: This trope can help a ruler keep the masses on side, but it's not necessarily a requisite.
  • Cassandra Truth: Machiavelli spends a lot of time talking about how patriotic soldiers with genuine loyalty to the prince and the state are going to be more reliable than mercenaries who only care about payment. The Medicis ignored his advice, continued to rely on mercenaries and utterly failed to unite Italy. About three and a half centuries later, the Wars of Italian Independence finally united all of Italy, in no small part due to the efforts of Italian patriots.
  • The Chessmaster: Machiavelli acknowledges Pope Alexander VI as an expert manipulator of the political game, and indeed he was almost unbeatable in this regard.
  • Church Militant: Machiavelli notes that the Church, and religion in general, only comes to power through the strength of arms. He notes about Girolamo Savonarola, who briefly made Florence a theocracy, that while he was able to rule with piety and religious fervor for a while, he had no army to back him up.
    "Hence it comes that all armed prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed prophets have been destroyed. For, besides the things that have been said, the nature of peoples is variable; and it is easy to persuade them of something, but difficult to keep them in that persuasion. And thus things must be ordered in such a mode that when they no longer believe, one can make them believe by force."
  • Combat Pragmatist: one of the main points of the book.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Machiavelli advises the reader that during times of peace and prosperity, he dosen't become complacent and that he uses that time to prepare himself and his principality for events of war or catastrophes so that they won't be caught off-guard when they inevitably happens.
  • Crushing the Populace: One of the two advices Machiavelli gives about how to deal with a recently conquered, former republics - the other advice being that the conqueror actively settles in on his newly conquered lands - as the native population most likely wont forget their former freedom and will continue to rebel against their new masters. Concerning newly conquered, non-republican kingdoms he gives out a more lenient advice of saving that crushing only to the ruling dynasty; afterward you should immediately replace yourself as the new king of the lands and allow the natives to continue live out their lives as before, with a few changes of policies.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Imitiating the lion alone is foolish.
    A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves. Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves. Those who rely simply on the lion do not understand what they are about.
  • The Cynic: The advice on statecraft is made on the assumption that virtues are easily taken advantage of, people are self-interested, and it's always better for the reliable option than the noble one (hence, better feared than loved).
  • Decadent Court: Machiavelli warns not to trust aristocrats and to avoid lavishness, as it would force the prince to raise taxes in order to support the court. And everyone knows that higher taxes lead to revolutions.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: If you want to make a good impression after you've conquered an enemy, pardon them and allow them to swear loyalty to you in exchange for their lives. If that doesn't work, you can always dispose of them anyway. Also if you're able to convince political rivals to join you and become loyal to you then it's a big plus for you. He also says that the supporters of a just-conquered state will be better friends to you than those who supported you from the beginning, since they feel like they need to prove themselves to you to earn your trust.
  • Devil's Advocate: Useful to have as an advisor, since he can sometimes find legitimate and serious flaws in your plans that you will need to address.
  • Dirty Coward: Easy to force to join your side. If they are actually competent in military warfare or any other area, then you should force them to join you so that their abilities don't end up in the enemies' hands. It's really important that the prince himself isn't this, or even rumored to be this, or his popularity will fall.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: "Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge." (The Prince trans. W. K. Marriott, chp. III)
    • The book does point out that you should only reserve such treatment for people who are actually guilty of something though. Heaping a Fate Worse than Death on someone who wronged you will teach others not to be so foolish. Doing it to an innocent bystander will just foster hatred of your despotism. Cruelty to your enemies is a good way to terrify them, but random acts of cruelty are right out.
  • The Dog Bites Back: This sure is gonna happen if you act like a monster for too long. In keeping with the theme of being pragmatic, Machiavelli stresses how far one should go when it comes to fear:
    Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Sooner or later, you're going to be in a position where you're going to have to do something awful. That's not a criticism; that's just a reality of politics. Machiavelli offers advice on how to do this awful thing with the least amount of collateral damage.
  • The Dreaded: The book famously claims that a ruler is safer in his position feared than loved, if he cannot be both. Being an object of fear, therefore, is a good way of preserving power. However, a ruler must nevertheless ensure that he is not hated, because hatred can overcome fear.
  • Droit du Seigneur: Argued against. Machiavelli notes that a ruler's subjects will not put up with their wives and daughters being "used", and trying to do so will cause massive unrest.
  • Follow the Leader: invoked Machiavelli advises the reader to read the histories of great leaders, such as Cyrus the Great or Hiero II of Syracuse, and learn the ways they used to gain and retain power, as well learn the mistakes they might have made so that the reader won't makes them as well.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: Notes the tendency of people to expect better things after overthrowing their old ruler, then finding their new ruler to be not so different after all (or even worse).
  • Genre Deconstruction: The Prince belongs to a genre of literature known as the "mirrors for princes," essentially self-help books written by courtiers to provide useful advice to newly-installed rulers (and often also to flatter them so that said courtier would have a better shot at getting an actual assignment to a government post).
    • While these books traditionally emphasized the importance of being a wise, valiant, and virtuous ruler, Machiavelli was one of the first to point out that holding the moral high ground over your subjects is useless if you don't also have actual power to back up your rule.
    • Advocates who feel that the book is a parody of the genre point out, that rather than offering a simple one-stop solution, Machiavelli by discussing how politics work, is actually telling the Prince that he's never going to have a moment's rest, a true Prince/King/Ruler would be an absolute paranoid wreck who is Slave to PR, and always worrying if he's Loved/Feared/Hated. In effect, the advice and picture given in the book is impossible to actually follow.
  • Genre Savvy: A ruler must learn from the examples of history. Any questions?
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: If your friends/allies are in trouble, the first thing you shall do is to help them, not to stand outside and declare "neutral". It just makes you look weak in the eyes of the enemy, and unreliable in the eyes of your allies.
  • Great White Hunter: Hunting is an excellent way for the prince to exercise himself in his free time. It also will teach him the ways of nature and basic tactics on how to take down competitors.
  • Hired Guns: The prince is advised to avoid these as often as possible, as the ones of the day were usually difficult to control.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: By the common pop-cultural idea of the book, you'd think it was a guide on being the biggest monster you could be.
  • Hobbes Was Right: One of the most familiar examples ever. This book made the name "Niccolo Machiavelli" basically a synonym to "Thomas Hobbes", although in real life, Machiavelli might have also criticized Hobbes' theories if he had read about them. Indeed, during The Enlightenment, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (whose ideas were totally opposed to Hobbes) did a lot to reconstruct Machiavelli as a republican, as opposed to an advocate for a King (like Hobbes).
  • Honest Advisor: To be preferred over the Yes-Man for advice. However, they should only give advice when they are solicited to, and be properly respectful of the prince himself. After all, it just wouldn't do for a subject to insult his prince to his face or speak out of turn.
  • Hot-Blooded: Machiavelli makes note that Pope Julius II was incredibly quick-tempered, which was both his greatest asset and his greatest flaw.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The prince is advised to assume this from the start, and govern accordingly. Your subjects are fickle, greedy cowards, who will profess their love and loyalty as long as they have full bellies and peaceful lives. But they will turn on you the second the status quo changes for the worse, and you have to be prepared to deal with that. Yeah, maybe they'll surprise you, and stand by you in times of crisis, but you can't run a country on "maybes". It's a safer bet to make sure that they know that the punishment for disloyalty outweighs any temporary hardships loyalty brings.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: The prince's morals should not get in the way of governing his state. After all, don't expect that the other nations will be ruled by paragons of virtue.
  • Idiot Ball: Cited as something not to hold onto. Louis XII of France is cited as a prime example of how to not screw with another country effectively, and in Chapter 3 Machiavelli calls out Louis on his idiocy, and shows how his treatment of the lesser powerful states would lead to them pushing the French back out of Italy, and tells us that for all the force used to take down Naples, he would lose it as quickly as he'd gained it. Machiavelli says that had Louis taken a pragmatic approach in Italy, not shared power with the Spanish, and aided those less powerful than he, he may well have held onto Italy for quite some time.
  • It's All About Me: Subjects and rivals only care about their own self-interests, and a good prince should know how to exploit this trope.
  • Jerk Justifications: Machiavelli justifies the sometimes brutal measures he advocates by claiming that rulers have to be ruthless in order to maintain their power. That being said, however, he states that a ruler should be a pragmatist willing to cross lines if doing so would be in his own interest, rather than a puppy-kicking psycho who commits atrocities because he enjoys it.
  • Join or Die: An efficent tool to tame and control those of your enemies who are of a lesser threat to you; the more threatening ones you should only use the Die option.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: Just like Sun Tzu once said in his book The Art of War, deception is a very useful tool in both the military and the political game.
  • King of Beasts: Not the only thing to emulate.
  • Kingpin in His Gym: Keeping your body physically fit is just as important as keeping your mind sharp and your army strong. Hunting is Machiavelli's personal recommendation of physical activity, because it not only trains the senses, but you will also gain an understanding of how the terrain around you works which is especially useful when fighting a war on your turf.
  • Let No Crisis Go to Waste: Crises brings opportunities for men who want to become a prince. Use them, it's a great first step in your way to power. With them, you can gather the support of the people for whatever action you plan to do to end the crisis, and then it's hard work, strength, intelligence and determination which determine the results. If you succeed, you'll be seen as a great leader by the people.
  • Machiavelli Was Wrong: Ironically, the work that codified the trope was also the one that deconstructed it; the book says that, yes, it is safer to be feared than loved, but the book also goes out of their way to tell that this should only be chosen if it is impossible to be both, and in any event one must also avoid being hated.
  • Moral Event Horizon: invoked Actually, you're supposed to avoid this one. At least, if you're going to Kick the Dog, do it in a way that makes people too afraid to do anything about it.
  • Necessarily Evil: The reason why someone should be willing to do something cruel. Machaivelli doesn't speak for cruelty for it's own sake or deny that something is a cruel act. He only says that it's sometimes necessary to not be nice to others.
  • Neutrality Backlash: Machiavelli explicitly advises the would-be ruler against taking the neutral position in a conflict between states: you'll only end up as a prize for the winner. Better to be winners together, or even losers together (you'll support each other) than someone's dessert.
  • Nostalgia Filter: Machiavelli acknowledges that old ideals or rules usually have more followers who are more fierce and loyal to them. It's why it's important for the leader of new ideals or rules to have a greater sense of discipline, or soon all his followers will be dead or turned traitors in less than a year.
  • Playing Both Sides: Subverted. It's effective during peace times, when the Prince has some time to weaken his conquered subjects will to fight him and instead strengthen their will to fight each other, but it's a risky tactic during war times, because the weaker faction will likely ally with the enemy.
  • Poe's Law: It's still an unresolved question whether Machivaelli was even being entirely serious. After all, it espouses a very different set of ideals from his regular work and is dedicated to the ruling family who arrested, tortured, and banished him.
  • The Power of Hate: The book advises the prince that if the prince should rule his kingdom through fear, the prince should avoid this trope, as ruling the kingdom with hatred will give your subjects enough justification of overthrowing the prince.
  • Power of Trust: Newly conquered people should be left their weapons. They will, after all, need to defend themselves, and while disarming them will slow rebellion, it will not stop it since they will be able to get arms somehow, and the good will generated by this trust is better against rebellion than the delay.
  • Pragmatic Hero: What being a prince ultimately should be. Though Machiavelli suggests ruthless things, all of it is to the end of protecting one's people and ensuring their prosperity instead of being a self-centered tyrant.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: "The prince can always avoid hatred if he abstains from the property of his subjects and citizens and from their women." He also warns against taking away the guns, too.
  • Private Military Contractors: Machiavelli blamed Italy's dominance by foreign powers on the fact that the Italian states all tended to rely on hired mercenaries in war, which were far less disciplined in that day and age; he devoted an entire chapter to why one should not rely on mercenaries, and put reminders in the other two chapters on warfare. And Discourses is rather critical of them as well. He pointed out that a soldier's purpose is to protect; a mercenary's is to damage at the least risk to themselves, which made them most dangerous to their allies and civilians, and least dangerous to the enemy. In battle they tended to get slaughtered, in the unlikely event they turned up at all. Armies with more direct loyalty to their prince or their state tended to do much better.
  • The Purge: If you must do this then you should only do this during your first years as a ruler, and only toward your political enemies. If you do this on the civilians, or continue with purges all too often then you'll lose popularity points.
  • Reality Subtext: His bit expounding on how to overthrow religious-based states, nominally about the Ottomans, was intended as a how-to guide on overthrowing the Pope.
  • Realpolitik: Trope Codifier. Machiavelli himself affirms in the opening that where most books on politics have chronicled some imagined ideal state and imagined ideal ruler, he wanted to show how politics worked based on his first-hand experience and knowledge showing what people actually do to maintain power, popularity and make things happen. This in some senses made him a prototypical Enlightenment man.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Machiavelli warns against being excessively cruel for prolonged periods of time so that the prince doesn't provoke his subjects into following this trope. The most dangerous enemies are the ones who feel like they have nothing left to lose because they've already been wronged so much.
  • Revenge by Proxy: To avoid this, when taking over a new country, the prince must kill off the deposed prince's family as well.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Machiavelli explains why:
    It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Subverted. If someone decides to betray their king and country for you, then you should reward them with exactly what they wants in return; whatever it's money, power, influence, etc.
  • Screw Destiny: "I certainly think it is better to be impetuous than cautious, for fortune is a woman and it is necessary, if you wish to master her, to take her by force."
  • The Scrooge: While it's good for the wise prince to be seen as generous, he shouldn't make his name from overwhelming generosity. Instead, he should spend as little money as possible, and not worry too much about being seen as a miser - because if things go to hell, he'll have enough money to set things right again, which would've been impossible if the prince was overwhelmingly generous.
    • You are also encouraged to avoid a lavish lifestyle, especially in times of financial crisis or turmoil, because we all know that being The Caligula might be fun, but it will lead to a sticky end.
  • Self-Made Man: If you plan to take power through your own guts, skills and will alone, and with minimal to no help from stronger factions, than you might have to fight longer and harder to claim it, but if you do succeed with it, than you'll have it much easier to rule, since your hard-earned efforts will inspire true and sincere loyalty and respect from your followers and subjects. If you'd that power handed to you on a silver plate, you'll find it easier to gain but harder to keep, since that easier way won't inspire any true loyalty or respect from your subjects, and there's a chance that those who gave it to you will take it back if they think you don't do well enough in their taste. This problem might be avoided if you're born from a long etablished dynasty, but that the end of the day, people respects the fighter or the scrapper the most.
  • Shoot the Dog: The book's advice is that if you have to choose between doing the "right" thing and doing the "smart" thing, choose the intelligent option.
  • Shoot the Messenger: The term "Machiavellian" is often used to describe dirty or corrupt politics, but Machiavelli wasn't a bad guy. All he did was write a history book identifying which leaders did certain things and stayed in power, and which leaders did other things and lost power.
  • Slave to PR: You should take great interest in public relations and strive not to have bad PR. Subverted in that you should never put public relations before pragmatism.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: As noted previously, it itself was one to earlier literature on the subject, deconstructing the idea that an ideal prince had to be bound by the laws of morality. Frederick the Great was later inspired to write his own refutation, Anti-Machiavel, to reconstruct the earlier conception by bringing it in line with Enlightenment thought.
  • The Starscream: These guys are something a ruler should be careful of, since they're more dangerous than foreign enemies. If you find out that someone is a Starscream, then you should dispose of him in order to teach the other Starscreams a lesson.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: Should be used with caution, because if you as a prince of a smaller principality summons the aid of a much more powerful one in the time of need; especially during times of war, then they can use your debt to them afterward as a pretext to reduce you as their dependent vassal. Therefore, the prince should learn to keep his principality as self-reliant as possible and only ask for the aid of the much bigger nation as a last resort.
  • Take That!: Machiavelli mocks the political philosophers that came before him for their refusal to look reality in the eye.
  • Team Switzerland: Machiavelli discourages this. Choosing one side will make the side you side with, once they have won, indebted to you. Remaining neutral, however, would only serve to alienate both sides who would see you as weak for refusing to partake in their war.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Similar to The Starscream, these guys are something a prince should be careful of. A backstabbing adviser is much more dangerous since they have more influence in the court, and if they grow too ambitious, they will gladly use this influence for their own needs. If a prince finds out that his adviser is much more concerned about himself than about the prince or the state, he should fire him at once.
  • The Unfettered: The prince should be ready to use lethal, even outright immoral, force when the situation demands it. Because in the field of politics, one with too much of a merciful heart won't last long on the throne; even less so if he's unarmed.
  • Universally Beloved Leader: Machiavelli says that being universally loved would be ideal for a ruler, but it isn't a very realistic goal because of limited resources and human nature. You should earn a reputation for being strict but fair instead of bankrupting yourself in vain by trying to please everybody.
  • Vetinari Job Security: Suggested as the best possible position to be in. It's no coincidence that Lord Vetinari, the trope namer, is modelled heavily on a mixture of the theoretical Prince and Machiavelli himself.
  • Villain Ball Magnet: "A new prince, of all rulers, finds it impossible to avoid a reputation of cruelty, because of the abundant dangers inherent in a newly won state."
  • Villains Never Lie: Machiavelli advises that a prince should maintain his word as honesty would earn him respect. However, he shouldn't be above breaking promises if necessary. The most pragmatic decision however is to not make any promises at all.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Good public relations are good, but not necessary.
  • Warrior Prince: Fighting on the front lines alongside with your troops is a great way to boost positive PR, especially amongst the soldiers, who're the one social group whose loyalty and allegiance is the most important to earn and keep for your guaranteed stay in power.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The last few chapters of the book blame many of Italy's woes on this trope. He concludes by asking the Medicis to seize Italy and conquer it with Italian armies, thereby averting the problems that had cropped up with using mercenaries. His pleas would eventually be answered... 350 years later by the House of Savoy.
  • We Can Rule Together: Zigzagged; this can be a useful tool to get the weaker elements of society or weaker players to ally with the prince. However, the prince need to make sure that their power is based entirely on his favour and that he keeps them dependent on him so that they won't break off and try to subvert his power and influence. And he shouldn't use this trope to earn the allegiance from those of equal or, worse, greater power since they'll definitely subvert your own power and influence.
  • What Would X Do?: Chapter XIV: To ensure his success, a prince must choose a model that he admires and follow his actions to be like him (but obviously, don’t follow his errors).
    But to exercise the intellect the prince should read histories, and study there the actions of illustrious men, to see how they have borne themselves in war, to examine the causes of their victories and defeat, so as to avoid the latter and imitate the former; and above all do as an illustrious man did, who took as an exemplar one who had been praised and famous before him, and whose achievements and deeds he always kept in his mind, as it is said Alexander the Great imitated Achilles, Caesar Alexander, Scipio Cyrus. And whoever reads the life of Cyrus, written by Xenophon, will recognize afterwards in the life of Scipio how that imitation was his glory, and how in chastity, affability, humanity, and liberality Scipio conformed to those things which have been written of Cyrus by Xenophon.
  • Wicked Cultured: Good publicity, again. And it doesn't hurt to know a bit of history, for when you feel like imitating Alexander the Great.
  • The Wise Prince: What this book wants you to be, though by wisdom, Machiavelli means Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!.
  • With Us or Against Us: This is trope, along with Neutrality Backlash, is one of the reasons why the prince should avoid a "neutral" position. In times to conflicts between warring states, the Prince should at least form an alliance with a faction to gain trust from them and even if the prince loses, the prince at least lose together with an ally.
  • The Women Are Safe with Us: Rulers are encouraged to restrain themselves from taking any woman they want so as to build rapport with their subjects.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: A Prince who has won a war and wants to avoid being perceived as cruel will let the opposition live. (Machiavelli cites historic examples.) This inevitably concludes in later war, disorders, and a lot of people dead. So, the paradox is that Prince who truly wants to win the peace must crush the opposition (but not the general populace) fast even when the war has already been won, so all their subjects cannot see any hope in opposing their new ruler, don’t waste time and effort trying it, and instead truly accept the new peace.
  • Yes-Man: Advised against, since they would spend more time flattering the prince in order to improve their status than actually giving good advice.