The Prince

by

Niccolò Machiavelli

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Prince can help.

The Masses and The Elite Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Laws and Arms Theme Icon
Fortune and Prowess Theme Icon
Goodwill and Hatred Theme Icon
Virtue vs. Vice Theme Icon
The Masses and The Elite Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Prince, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
The Masses and The Elite Theme Icon

Machiavelli regularly juxtaposes the masses, or "common people," against the ruling elite in The Prince. To justify his decision to write the book, Machiavelli invokes this class-based contrast, stating, "To comprehend fully the nature of princes one must be an ordinary citizen." As with other opposing pairs described in The Prince, Machiavelli argues that the two entities, while vastly different, rely on each other for mutual survival and understanding. The "friendship" of the people forms a central component of the prince's power, since the goodwill of the people guards the prince against conspiracies and allows the prince to raise formidable citizen armies. In return, the prudent prince protects the property and honor of his subjects, which also ensures his own survival. The people and the prince share a symbiotic relationship, although the masses hold the unique ability to crown and dethrone princes in certain circumstances.

Related Themes from Other Texts
Compare and contrast themes from other texts to this theme…
Get the entire The Prince LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Prince PDF

The Masses and The Elite Quotes in The Prince

Below you will find the important quotes in The Prince related to the theme of The Masses and The Elite.
Preface Quotes

Nor I hope will it be considered presumptuous for a man of low and humble status to dare discuss and lay down the law about how princes should rule; because, just as men who are sketching the landscape put themselves down in the plain to study the nature of the mountains and the highlands, and to study the low-lying land they put themselves high on the mountain, so, to comprehend fully the nature of people, one must be a prince, and to comprehend fully the nature of princes one must be an ordinary citizen.

Related Characters: Niccolò Machiavelli (speaker)
Page Number: 3-4
Explanation and Analysis:

And if, from your lofty peak, Your Magnificence will sometimes glance down to these low-lying regions, you will realize the extent to which, undeservedly, I have to endure the great and unremitting malice of fortune.

Related Characters: Niccolò Machiavelli (speaker), Lorenzo dé Medici
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

For always, no matter how powerful one's armies, in order to enter a country one needs the goodwill of the inhabitants.

Related Characters: Niccolò Machiavelli (speaker)
Page Number: 8-9
Explanation and Analysis:

If the ruler wants to keep hold of his new possessions, he must bear two things in mind: first, that the family of the old prince must be destroyed; next, that he must change neither their laws nor their taxes.

Related Characters: Niccolò Machiavelli (speaker)
Page Number: 9-10
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

So it should be noted that when he seizes a state the new ruler must determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict. He must inflict them once for all . . . and in that way . . . win them [his subjects] over to him when he confers benefits. Whoever acts otherwise . . . can never depend on his subjects because they . . . can never feel secure with regard to him. Violence must be inflicted once for all; people will then forget what it tastes like and so be less resentful. Benefits must be conferred gradually; and in that way they will taste better.

Related Characters: Niccolò Machiavelli (speaker)
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

I shall only conclude that it is necessary for a prince to have the friendship of the people; otherwise he has no remedy in times of adversity.

Related Characters: Niccolò Machiavelli (speaker)
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

The prince must none the less make himself feared in such a way that, if he is not loved, at least he escapes being hated. For fear is quite compatible with an absence of hatred; and the prince can always avoid hatred if he abstains from the property of his subjects and citizens and from their women.

Related Characters: Niccolò Machiavelli (speaker)
Page Number: 54-55
Explanation and Analysis:

But above all a prince must abstain from the property of others; because men sooner forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.

Related Characters: Niccolò Machiavelli (speaker)
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

Princes cannot help arousing hatred in some quarters; so first they must strive not to be hated by all and every class of subject; and when this proves impossible, they should strive assiduously to escape the hated of the most powerful classes.

Related Characters: Niccolò Machiavelli (speaker)
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis: