The Prince

The Prince Chapter 26 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In his final chapter, Machiavelli considers the state of present-day Italy. Pondering whether conditions in Italy would favor a "prudent and capable" prince's efforts "to introduce a new order," Machiavelli affirmatively answers, "I cannot imagine there ever was a time more suitable than the present." Citing ancient examples of oppression, Machiavelli writes that Italy "had to be brought to her present extremity" so that its people could "discover the worth of an Italian spirit." Machiavelli states that it was necessary for Italy to endure "every kind of desolation," becoming "leaderless, lawless, crushed, despoiled, torn, [and] overrun."
Machiavelli declares that fortune now favors the introduction of "a new order" in Italy, welcoming the establishment of new legal and military institutions. Machiavelli argues that Italy's present ruin has spurred its people to reclaim "the worth of an Italian spirit." Machiavelli argues that the masses desire change, seeking the birth of a new Italian state. This emphasis on the people's wishes underlines the modern power of the masses.
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Machiavelli cites an unnamed leader [Cesare Borgia] that some believed "was ordained by God to redeem" Italy. Nonetheless, fortune "rejected" Borgia. Thus, "Italy is waiting" for a ruler to "heal her wounds." Machiavelli expresses that Italians are "eager . . . to follow a banner, if only someone will raise it." Machiavelli contends that the country's greatest hope rests in the "illustrious House" of his dedicatee, Lorenzo dé Medici. Machiavelli asserts that the Medici family, "with its fortune and prowess," is "favored by God and by the Church, of which it is now the head." Machiavelli argues that the Medici can easily "lead Italy to her salvation" if they heed his lessons. Machiavelli states, "There is great justice in our cause," explaining that the people's support will render the task easier. While God will perform "wonders" to aid Lorenzo's effort, Machiavelli declares, "The rest is up to you [Lorenzo]."
Machiavelli flatters his dedicatee by suggesting that Lorenzo and the House of Medici hold Italy's "greatest hope" for the establishment of a new and unified state. Machiavelli describes the power of the Medici family, referencing Lorenzo's influential relative who currently serves as pope. With these critical allies, Machiavelli argues that the masses would support Lorenzo's effort towards unification, taking up arms under the Medici banner. These statements highlight the people's influential role in the establishment of new states and new princes. While fortune and God will provide one half of the aid, Lorenzo must use prowess to complete the task.
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Machiavelli explains that earlier Italian leaders failed to bring order to the peninsula due to their reliance on misguided "old military systems." Machiavelli reemphasizes his previous point that "nothing brings a man greater honor than the new laws and new institutions he establishes," which earn him respect and admiration if they are "soundly based." Machiavelli argues that Italians "are superior in strength, in skill, [and] in inventiveness" when compared with other powers, although their armies "do not compare" to others due to "the weakness of the leaders." Citing recent military defeats, Machiavelli writes that all-Italian armies suffer from the lack of a competent leader who can "dominate the others by his prowess and good fortune."
Machiavelli urges Lorenzo to take on the dangerous but honorable work of establishing a new Italian state. With a strong foundation of new laws and arms, a united and prosperous Italy would bring Lorenzo and the Medici unparalleled prestige. Machiavelli highlights the "superior" character of Italian soldiers but laments many leaders' lack of military prowess. Machiavelli emphasizes the critical importance of skilled leadership, which makes use of both fortune and prowess.
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To achieve honor and glory, Machiavelli declares that it is necessary for the Medici, "before all else," to create "a citizen army." Machiavelli emphasizes the importance of basing "our defense against the invaders on Italian strength." While Machiavelli concedes that hostile Swiss and Spanish troops present a "formidable" challenge, he argues that an all-Italian army could "be sure of conquering." Highlighting the faults of Italy's foes, Machiavelli declares, "The Spaniards cannot withstand cavalry, and the Swiss have cause to fear infantrymen who meet them in combat with a determination equal to their own." Learning from "the defects" of these forces, Machiavelli states that Italians can raise new armies and employ novel battle formations. These reforms would bring Lorenzo "greatness and prestige."
Machiavelli reiterates the value of native arms, which serve a ruler with unparalleled loyalty. Machiavelli urges Lorenzo to adopt new military tactics to overcome the scourge of foreign invasions and occupations. Military reforms and subsequent successes, based on the work of Italian soldiers and leaders, would bring Lorenzo great respect and earn him the goodwill of the masses. Machiavelli encourages Lorenzo to lead boldly, using arms and popular support to strengthen and expand his position. The unification of Italy would benefit Lorenzo and the masses equally.
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In conclusion, Machiavelli urges Lorenzo to take advantage of this unique "opportunity" to unify Italy. Machiavelli describes the "resolute loyalty" and "love" with which Italy's "savior" would be rewarded. Referencing the "barbarous tyranny" of Italy's invaders and conquerors, Machiavelli asserts that Italians would greet Lorenzo's success with undying "allegiance" and "obedience." Machiavelli pleads, "Let your illustrious House undertake this task …. so that, under your standard, our country may be ennobled." Machiavelli encourages Lorenzo to fulfill Petrarch's prophecy of Italian resurgence. Machiavelli ends with Petrarch's proclamation: "For th' old Romane valour is not dead, / Nor in th' Italians brests extinguished [sic]."
Machiavelli urges Lorenzo to reclaim the greatness of Italy's past through the reunification of Italy. Machiavelli ennobles this modern effort by invoking the honored example of Roman antiquity, which Renaissance thinkers exalted as an ideal era. It is worth noting that while Italy had been unified under Roman rule nearly a thousand years earlier, Machiavelli's concept to unify Italy in his time was somewhat foreign to his contemporary Italians, who bore the scars of internal wars and divisions between city-states and regional principalities. Machiavelli asks Lorenzo to use goodwill and arms to reshape Italy at this opportune time, to return Italy to its former state of glory under the Romans.
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