The Prince

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The Prince Preface Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Addressing Lorenzo dé Medici, Machiavelli begins, "Men who are anxious to win the favor of a Prince nearly always follow the custom of presenting themselves to him with the possessions they value most." Eager to follow this custom by offering Lorenzo "some token of my devotion to you," Machiavelli thus dedicates this "little book" to the Florentine ruler. Machiavelli explains that the treatise comprises his most valued possession: the understanding of "great men" that he has gained through "long acquaintance with contemporary affairs and a continuous study of the ancient world." The work is a summary and analysis of Machiavelli's hard-won wisdom.
Machiavelli presents himself as a humble yet educated figure, offering Lorenzo a "little gift" that contains great wisdom. Machiavelli establishes the relationship between himself and Lorenzo, taking a deferential tone in his effort to "win the favor" of the new ruler. Despite his humble statements, Machiavelli also seeks here to prove his considerable prowess and skill, citing his knowledge of both antiquity and current affairs.
Themes
Fortune and Prowess Theme Icon
The Masses and The Elite Theme Icon
Machiavelli implores Lorenzo to accept his "unworthy" book, stating that the work is a humble but extremely "valuable gift." Machiavelli explains that he has "not embellished or crammed" this book with "big, impressive words" or flowery language. Rather, the work's value comes from "the variety of its contents and the seriousness of its subject-matter." Machiavelli asks Lorenzo to excuse the fact that he, a man "of low and humble status," has dared to write a manual for princes. He defends his endeavor with a metaphor, describing the way in which artists paint mountains from the vantage point of the lowlands, and vice versa. Similarly, "To comprehend fully the nature of the people, one must be a prince, and to comprehend fully the nature of princes one must be an ordinary citizen."
Once again Machiavelli paradoxically describes his work as an "unworthy" but "valuable" offering. Machiavelli's modest statements are intended as a traditional show of humility and respect before the powerful Medici ruler. Machiavelli endeavors to prove that his book is not a product of arrogance, but rather a symbol of loyalty to the new prince. With his artistic metaphor, Machiavelli highlights the mutual dependence that ties the elite ruling class and the masses together.
Themes
The Masses and The Elite Theme Icon
Machiavelli closes his introductory letter by asking Lorenzo to accept his gift and to ponder its lessons "diligently." In that way, Lorenzo may achieve the greatness that "fortune and your other qualities promise you." Asking Lorenzo to look down from his "lofty peak" to consider the "low-lying regions," Machiavelli urges Lorenzo to recognize the extent to which the unlucky Machiavelli has "undeservedly" suffered "the great and unremitting malice of fortune."
Machiavelli encourages Lorenzo to use the book to enhance his prowess, which in turn (as Machiavelli sees it) will prepare Lorenzo to take advantage of the opportunities provided by fortune. Machiavelli urges Lorenzo to take notice of the troubled masses, including Machiavelli. Machiavelli insists that misfortune, not disloyalty, led to his recent fall from grace.
Themes
Fortune and Prowess Theme Icon
The Masses and The Elite Theme Icon