Machiavelli's Prince

Machiavelli's Prince : A New Reading

4.38 (13 ratings by Goodreads)
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Why did Machiavelli write the Prince - and why did religious and political authorities find it so threatening? Five hundred years on, this book tries to answer these questions.

In the first detailed, chapter-by-chapter reading of the Prince in any language, Erica Benner shows that the book is a masterpiece of ironic writing. Machiavelli's style is deliberately ambiguous: he often seems to say one thing, but gives readers clues that point toward a very different message. Beyond its 'Machiavellian' surface, the Prince has a surprisingly moral purpose. It teaches readers how to recognize hidden dangers in political conduct that merely appears great or
praiseworthy - and to mistrust promises of easy solutions to political problems.

This highly engaging new interpretation helps readers to see beyond the Prince's deceptive first appearances. Benner sets out Machiavelli's main ironic techniques at the outset, especially his coded use of words to signal praise or blame. Once readers become familiar with these codes, they will find it easier to grasp the Prince's surreptitiously pro-republican message - and its powerful critique of charismatic one-man rule and imperial politics.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 400 pages
  • 162 x 237 x 30mm | 744g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0199653631
  • 9780199653638
  • 1,499,676

Table of contents

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Review quote

Every student of Machiavelli will benefit from reading this book. * Choice * Benner's book provides a great service to Machiavelli scholars . . . Because of her close reading and erudition, Benner points out much that is questionable in The Prince that could otherwise be missed (and which many scholars have missed). This is no small achievement. Benner's greatest interpretive innovation, however, does not stem from this close reading alone, but from having identified certain normatively laden code words that color Machiavelli's . . .
seemingly neutral depiction of events and counsel. * Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews * The depth in which [Benner] pursues her interpretation . . . sets this book apart from previous studies . . . Benner's familiarity with the work of Tacitus, Livy and Plutarch enables her to identify dissonances that may have been more evident to Machiavelli and his classically educated contemporaries than they are to modern readers. Benner's book convincingly demonstrates the multi-layered complexity of Machiavelli's text, which she argues should be approached as a
profoundly ambiguous piece of writing. * Renaissance Studies * A welcome arrival, [this book] is a carefully considered examination that sheds much light on Machiavellis text and rhetoric . . . Benners excavation of Machiavellis subtle critique of empire and account of Cesare Borgias failures are particularly strong. * Perspectives on Politics * In this powerful and provocative re-reading, Erica Benner, the author of Machiavellis Ethics (2009), boldly challenges conventional wisdom concerning Machiavelli's purposes in the Prince by revealing his artful and subtle use of irony and dissimulation, informed by ancient philosophical techniques. Benner's stimulating reinterpretation is a "must read" that will compel you to rethink everything you thought you knew about the Prince. * John M. Najemy, Professor of History, Cornell University * This is a carefully constructed analysis of Machiavelli's Prince will be the interpretation to beat for the next generation of scholars. Where criticism customarily distinguishes what Machiavelli is doing in the Prince from his Discourses, Benner's appreciation of Machiavelli's mastery of irony allows her to present them as woven wholly from the same cloth. The result is a deeply informed, innovative, and thoroughly republican reading of
Machiavelli's notorious handbook for tyrants. * Mark Philp, Professor of History and Politics, Department of History, University of Warwick * Erica Benner's Machiavelli's Prince: A New Reading thoroughly lives up to its title. No other work before has so comprehensively interrogated the structure, rhetoric and sources of Machiavelli's infamous "little book." Benner draws upon the individual figures invoked by the Florentine to shine new light on the ultimate purposes of Machiavelli's lessons. Moreover, Benner rigorously interrogates Machiavelli's use of irony to highlight his argumentative
strategy in a novel way. This book serves as a must-read during this 500th anniversary of the composition of Il Principe, and will continue to be required reading for many years to come. * John McCormick, Professor, Political Science Department, University of Chicago * The depth in which she pursues her interpretation, through detailed analysis of chapter after chapter from The Prince, also sets this book apart from previous studies ... a useful and thought-provoking contribution to the ongoing scholarly debate about this famous and controversial work. * Chloe Kathleen Preedy, Renaissance Studies *
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About Erica Benner

Erica Benner is Fellow in Ethics and Political philosophy at Yale University. She previously taught at Oxford University and the London School of Economics. She is the author of Really Existing Nationalisms (OUP 1995), Machiavelli's Ethics (PUP 2009), and many publications in the ethics of nationalism and self-determination.
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Rating details

13 ratings
4.38 out of 5 stars
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4 46% (6)
3 8% (1)
2 0% (0)
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