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Ferdinand of Aragon in "The Prince"
Ferdinand of Aragon is represented both directly and indirectly in the text. Ferdinand of Aragon is one of the few characters whom Machiavelli openly compliments. However, as the following research will demonstrate, Ferdinand of Aragon is indirectly mentioned in several instances that contradict the praises openly bestowed upon him. Ferdinand of Aragon is often referred to as Ferdinand the Catholic. The following research will support the thesis that when Machiavelli speaks of Ferdinand of Aragon, he his actually expressing his political views about he Catholic Church as a whole. Furthermore, the research will demonstrate how Machiavelli uses Ferdinand of Aragon and passages about other prominent figures in the Catholic Church to express ideals regarding the separation of church and state that will eventually lay the ground work for many modern political ideas.
Prior to the time of Machiavelli, Italy had lived in a period of stability and peace. To many the Catholic Church symbolized this peace. The Catholic Church was the governing force in the area. During the time of Machiavelli, many people began to see the corruption and greed the enveloped the supposedly pious leaders of the time. During the time of Machiavelli, the people began to view the Church as a symbol of greed and corrupt power. However, at that time the Church held so much power that it was dangerous to speak out against the Church. To do so could be dangerous and the person ran the risk of persecution or excommunication.
Many writers of the time wished to express their opinions and the opinions of those who disagreed with the Church. Dante's Inferno is a classic example of this technique. In this work the characters on the road to Hell embodied principles, rather than the actual persons represented. The ideals were hidden metaphorically in the characteristics and lives of the characters. Machiavelli used this technique also and Ferdinand of Aragon is one of the primary examples of the use of metaphor to describe the Catholic Church.
Machiavelli emphasized the needs of the state and material gain over the moral principles of the Catholic Church. Machiavelli praised the Popes, but not for their moral character and ethical standards. He instead praised them for their ability to gain and keep power, even in the face of diversity. The Catholic was the governing power, and based its governance on the religious principles that it held. Machiavelli proposed a political system based on science and efficiency, not religion. Machiavelli taught that religion had no place in government and this principle eventually led to the principle found in the United States Constitution regarding the separation of church and state.
The Catholic Church saw anyone who spoke against it or expressed negative views and opinions to be its enemy and a threat to its power. In Chapter 12 we are informed that whether a prince is morally good or bad, a solid foundation is the basis for the ability to maintain and retain his domain (p. 48). In Chapter 12 we find an implied mention of Ferdinand of Aragon, "and he who told us that our sins were the cause of it told the truth, but they were not the sins he imagined, but those which I have related,"(.p. 53) In this passage there is an implied mention of Ferdinand of Aragon. Ferdinand professed piety in the public eye and in this passage we find a comment by Ferdinand in regards to why Charles was able to take Italy so easily. Ferdinand believes that Italy lost to King Charles due to it corrupt acts. However, Machiavelli feels that the sins were of a material type and that religion had nothing to do with it. Machiavelli's sins referred to political mistakes that would cause the loss of a Prince's power.
The placement of Machiavelli's characters within the text give obvious clues as to what concept they symbolized. Ferdinand of Aragon is conspicuously placed within the text in arguments the have to do with the importance of the matters of state, prevailing over the matters of morality and the ideals, at least superficially held by the Catholic Church. Machiavelli praises many leaders of the Catholic Church, including several Popes (p. 7-15). However, they are not praised for being good leaders, fair leaders, or pure of heart. Instead Machiavelli praises them for their military might and the ability to conquer. This was no accident and was a technique used to express the importance of the matters of state over the matters of Church.
Chapter 21 is the primary chapter devoted to Ferdinand of Aragon. Machiavelli sings praises of Ferdinand for the ease with which he gained his vast kingdom and power. Machiavelli admired the way that Ferdinand was able to begin his rise to power unnoticed (p. 88). Machiavelli gives a clue as to the personality of Ferdinand in the same passage. Machiavelli admires how Ferdinand was able to use the money of the Church and of the people to support his armies (p. 89). This suggests several things about Ferdinand. First of all, in order to get away with using Church money to support a war effort, he had to have been a trusted figure in the eyes of the people. This implies that Ferdinand gave an outward appearance of holding to the moral standards that a good leader was supposed to have. This quality allowed him to accomplish his objective without suspicion or being detected.
As we read further in the opening paragraph of Chapter 21, we find that Machiavelli admires Ferdinand for his ability to use the Church as a cloak, or disguise for purposes of his own gain (P.88). He then tells how Ferdinand was able to use this excuse to gain the support of his armies and that this led to his ability to rid Spain of the Moors, launch a successful campaign in Africa, and later gain territory in Italy and France (p. 90). Machiavelli clearly feels that Ferdinand is insincere in his devotion to the principle of the Catholic Church, but admires him for being able to use this to his strategic advantage. Machiavelli makes it clear that it is not possible for Ferdinand to be sincere in his outward religious convictions, but he gives no reasoning for this. This may by an expression of Machiavelli's feelings about the superficiality of the Catholic Church in general. On the outside, the Church purports to exemplify the proper moral characteristics that it wishes to instill in its devotees. However, the Catholic Church is guilty of the most vile of sins, including greed and gluttony. These characteristics were highlighted in Chapter 21 and exemplified in the description of Ferdinand contained in the opening paragraphs.
In this passage the statements about Ferdinand parallel Machiavelli's feelings about the Catholic Church. Its placement in this chapter is further evidence of its true intent. Chapter 21 is only concerned with how a Price should keep up the public image needed to gain and keep the trust of the people, so that he may conquer some without raising suspicion and gain the support of others and convince them to help him in his endeavors. This chapter is not concerned with whether Ferdinand truly feels the moral obligations expressed in his actions. It is only concerned with his ability to gain the trust of the people, using the mask of religion as a screen for his true intentions.
Chapter 18 differs from Chapter 21 in that it appears that Machiavelli is talking about actual faith and not just the outer appearance of faith. Machiavelli says that a successful Prince cares little for matters of true faith of the heart, but rather only concerns himself with matters of the state (p.88). Machiavelli states that a wise ruler will not keep faith as this can be turned against him in matters of the state (P. 90). Machiavelli says that the Prince must show cunning, like a fox in order to achieve the greatest personal gain. It is not necessary to be a moral person, but it is important to have the appearance of morality ad trustworthiness (P. 89). This statement agrees with the philosophy found throughout Chapter 21. Machiavelli surmises that it is acceptable to be willing to change to an opposite political view, when this will give one the greatest advantage.
Machiavelli stresses the importance of a wholesome outward appearance. Machiavelli concedes that if at all possible, a Prince should strive to remain truly good. However, if the situation warrants should be ready to turn himself from it when needed. A Prince, by being a good actor, should not let anything slip that could give away his true inner worth or feelings. Machiavelli contends that if people feel that one has a holy outward appearance, then they will support and defend you.
At the end of Chapter 18, we find one of those cryptic mentions of Ferdinand of Aragon. Machiavelli refers to him as "One prince" who of the present time, it…[continue]
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