Understanding and Discussion Questions for Machiavelli’s The Prince
Directions - After reading each section of the “Niccolo Machiavelli: The Prince (excerpts)” handout, discuss the following points with your assigned group. One person in your group should act as recorder so that you can share your ideas during the class discussion to follow.
That Which Concerns a Prince on the Subject of the Art of War
• What should be the primary concern of a prince?
• What is the consequence of ignoring this primary concern?
• What can be gained by focusing on this area?
Concerning Things for Which Men, and Especially Princes, are Blamed
• What does Machiavelli refer to as “imaginary things”?
• Why does Machiavelli feel a prince should “know how to do wrong”?
• Why should a prince not be concerned with how he appears?
Concerning Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether it is Better to be Loved than Feared
• According to Machiavelli, is it better to be feared than loved?
• Why is it not enough for a leader to be loved?
• What restrictions did Machiavelli place on evil actions by a leader?
General Discussion Questions
• What kind of government would be most likely to have a leader follow Machiavellian principles?
• Are there historical examples that might have followed Machiavelli’s advice?
• From what you read, would Machiavelli agree that "the ends justify the means"?
• Considering its content, what was Machiavelli’s goal in writing The Prince?
• As a group, do you agree with the main points made in The Prince? Why or why not?