The Prince

by: Niccolò Machiavelli

Important Quotations Explained

At this point one may note that men must be either pampered or annihilated. They avenge light offenses; they cannot avenge severe ones; hence, the harm one does to a man must be such as to obviate any fear of revenge.

This passage from Chapter III is an example of logical reasoning conspicuously devoid of ethical considerations. A prince must realize that he has two options: benevolence and destruction. Because the latter option will cause resentment among the people, he should choose it only if he is absolutely sure there will be no ill consequences—that the destruction he incurs will eliminate or disable any parties that might seek to revenge themselves against him. Feelings of pity or compassion are meaningless. Self-interest and self-protection are in this case the motivating factors and are to be pursued ruthlessly.