Machiavelli dedicates The Prince—to Lorenzo de’ Medici, who became duke of Urbino in 1516. He describes his book as a summary of his “understanding of the deeds of great men,” intended to help Lorenzo de’ Medici achieve eminence as a prince.

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Chapters 1–4

Through the use of historical references and examples, Machiavelli outlines the two kinds of states, republics and principalities, focusing mainly on principalities. Machiavelli breaks down principalities into hereditary principalities and new principalities, and the proceeding chapters detail how best to maintain and govern each principality, while considering their own particular set of problems and solutions.

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Chapters 5–7

In Chapter 5 Machiavelli explains how best to deal with a newly conquered state that presumable lived freely, offering three potential solutions, with the third being the most ruthless at it pertains to the destruction of the old regime to allow the new regime to rule effectively. In the following chapters Machiavelli stresses the importance of a prince’s natural ability to conquer as a cornerstone to successfully governing their states and maintaining loyalty amongst their citizens.

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Chapters 8 & 9

Machiavelli explains how a man can become a citizen through acts of criminality and cruelty as well as how a man can become a prince by garnering the favor of their fellow citizens and outlines the successes and failures of each in maintaining power.

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Chapters 10 & 11

Machiavelli now discusses the importance of maintaining a strong army in order to ensure power. In Chapter 11, Machiavelli discusses the role of the church, in this case the Catholic Church, through what he calls Ecclesiastical principalities.

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Chapters 12–14

Machiavelli spends a considerable amount of time in the consequent chapters describing warcraft and the three types of armies, a prince’s own army, an army made up of mercenaries, and an auxiliary army, each bearing their own positives and negatives. Machiavelli also touches upon the most important form of study that a prince should understand and master, that being the study concerning the art of war.

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Chapters 15–17

Machiavelli sheds light on the appropriate behavior of a prince for ruling, and how a prince who is pragmatic is advantageous. Machiavelli also goes on to show the dangers of being too generous and compassionate of a prince, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of being too fearful or hateful.

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Chapters 18 & 19

Machiavelli compares a prince to a fox, especially the fox’s ability to be cunning and tricky, as well as a lion that is smart enough to be aware of traps and be cognizant of potential risks. A prince, according to Machiavelli, should also avoid being hated in order to hold on to his peoples’ trust and respect.

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Chapters 20–23

Once more the subject of how a prince should best prevent an insurrection is brought up, as well as what kinds of people a prince should align themselves with, and the importance of establishing fortresses to prevent revolutions. The attitude of a prince and his citizens is also touched upon, especially those behaviors that inspire and convince their subjects that they are living in peace. Machiavelli also discusses the importance of a prince’s ability to think critically and independently and warns against people who would flatter the prince as it would tarnish the prince’s respect and reputation.

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Chapters 24–26

Machiavelli begins the conclusion to The Prince by advocating for the ways that following his suggestions would lead to the ideal hereditary prince, before moving on to the topic of fortune and circumstance. Finally, as the book was written in dedication to Lorenzo de’ Medici, Machiavelli lays out a plan for him to reclaim Italy and its eternal glory.

Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapters 24–26.