Shakespeare S Machiavellian Characters And The Prince Research Paper

Length: 3 pages Sources: 1+ Subject: Healthcare Type: Research Paper Paper: #79733489 Related Topics: Richard Iii, Lady Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Macbeth
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Machiavelli and Shakespeare:

The Influence of Machiavelli on Shakespeare's Plays

The Italian Renaissance-era philosopher and political adviser Nicolo Machiavelli is one of the most famous and infamous writers on the subject of politics. Despite the common use of the synonym Machiavellian for evil, Machiavelli's seminal tract The Prince was considered so ground-breaking because of his emphasis on the practical nature of holding principalities versus a philosophy of the divine right of kings. Cunning rather than religion was the reason leaders triumphed, according to Machiavelli. Machiavelli was not necessarily opposed to democracy but rather advocated strong-armed techniques because simply from the prince's perspective that these methods were superior in holding territories. Machiavelli offered hard-headed words of wisdom versus ethical theories. Machiavelli's unsentimental and irreligious attitude towards kingship was very controversial at the time and influenced many of the depictions of villains in the Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare's plays, including Julius Caesar, Macbeth and Richard III.

From a modern reader's perspective, some of Machiavelli's advice is quite sensible, including that "a wise prince ought to hold a third course by choosing the wise men in his state, and giving to them only the


but he ought to question them upon everything, and listen to their opinions, and afterwards form his own conclusions" (XXII). This advice against flattery can be seen in many of Shakespeare's plays, including Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar is suspicious of Cassius, one of the main conspirators against him but says he prefers to have men around him who are "fat" while "Cassius has a lean and hungry look. / He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous" (1.2). Caesar's refusal to heed men who warn him, like the soothsayer, and his determination not to look weak when his wife Calpurnia begs him not to go to the Capital ultimately leads to his assassination. He is afraid of men who think too much and dies as a result of poor, flattering advice to ignore the danger of Cassius and his own arrogance.

Machiavelli is also quite explicit that rulers that hold their position must focus on what they seem to be like, versus how they really are. " is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them ... to have them and always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them is useful; to appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright ... you may be able and know how to change to the opposite" (XVIII). These words are directly echoed in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Lady Macbeth advises Macbeth to "look like the innocent flower, / But be the serpent under't" (I.V). Macbeth's bloody reign has also been characterized as Machiavellian, given the fact that it began with violence and Macbeth views such violence as necessary to secure his throne. He even…

Sources Used in Documents:


Machiavelli, N. (2013). The Prince. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved from:

Shakespeare, W. (1993). Julius Caesar. Shakespeare Homepage. Retrieved from:

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