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The Prince

Niccolò Machiavelli

Chapters I–IV


Chapters I–IV, page 2

page 1 of 3

Summary — Chapter I: The Kinds of Principalities and the Means by Which They Are Acquired

Machiavelli describes the different kinds of states, arguing that all states are either republics or principalities. Principalities can be divided into hereditary principalities and new principalities. New principalities are either completely new or new appendages to existing states. By fortune or strength, a prince can acquire a new principality with his own army or with the arms of others.

Summary — Chapter II: Hereditary Principalities

Chapter II is the first of three chapters focusing on methods to govern and maintain principalities. Machiavelli dismisses any discussion of republics, explaining that he has “discussed them at length on another occasion”—a reference to Book 1 of his Discourses.

Machiavelli notes that it is easier to govern a hereditary state than a new principality for two main reasons. First, those under the rule of such states are familiar with the prince’s family and are therefore accustomed to their rule. The natural prince only has to keep past institutions intact, while adapting these institutions to current events. Second, the natural disposition of subjects in a hereditary state is to love the ruling family, unless the prince commits some horrible act against his people. Even if a strong outsider succeeds in conquering a prince’s hereditary state, any setback the outsider encounters will allow the prince to reconquer the state.

Summary — Chapter III: Mixed Principalities

[M]en must be either pampered or annihilated.

(See Important Quotations Explained)

Machiavelli explains why maintaining a new principality is more difficult than maintaining a hereditary state. In the first place, people will willingly trade one recently arrived ruler for another, hoping that a new ruler will be better than the present one. This expectation of improvement will induce people to take up arms against any relatively unestablished prince. Although the people may quickly realize that their revolt is ineffective, they will still create great disorder. Furthermore, when a prince takes over another prince’s domain, he finds himself in a tricky situation with regard to the people who put him in power. He cannot maintain the support of these people because he cannot fulfill all of their expectations that their situation will improve. But he also cannot deal too harshly with them because he is in their debt. Immediately after taking power, the prince is in danger of losing his newly gained principality.

When a prince successfully suppresses a revolt, however, the ruler can easily prevent further revolt by harshly punishing the rebels and decimating his opposition. The ruler can deal more harshly with his subjects in response to the revolt than he would be able to normally.

It is much easier to maintain control over a new principality if the people share the same language and customs as the prince’s own country. If this is the case, the prince has to do only two things: destroy the family of the former prince, and maintain the principality’s laws and taxes. People will live quietly and peacefully so long as their old ways of life are undisturbed.

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Mixed Up

by PinguZ45, January 29, 2014

It's supposed to be able to ward of wolves like a lion and recognize traps like a fox. Sorry, just a minor correction


3 out of 3 people found this helpful

Hobbes was NOT a monarchist

by Ultra_Vires, May 01, 2014

Hobbes was not a monarchist; this is stated in the introduction written by C.B MacPhearson in Hobbes' Leviathan. It's true he wanted order, but calling him a Monarchist is wrong; he merely advocated a SOVREIGN. He alienated Monarchists by claiming that divine rule was NOT a legitimate form of governance.

"He preached obedience, that is to say, he set out the rational grounds for obedience, to whatever political authority actually exercised power at the time. But his doctrine was not calculated to please any of those who successively ... Read more


22 out of 27 people found this helpful

I spent a few hours on this, on chapter 3 Machiavelli summary

by anon_2223130183, November 30, 2014

On chapter 3;

"A prince should injure people only if he knows there is no threat of revenge."


I disagree with this, as I believe this sentence meant something else, as in to prevent/oppress, or avo... Read more


6 out of 6 people found this helpful