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The Prince
The Prince
The Prince
Audiobook3 hours

The Prince

Written by Niccolo Machiavelli

Narrated by Fritz Weaver

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



About this audiobook

This political-science classic still has the power to shock, just as it did when first published almost 500 years ago. Fritz Weaver reads in an appropriately detached manner, for it is this air of objectivity regarding the ruthless pursuit of political power that has made Machiavelli's name synonymous with evil. This quality recording begins and ends with ceremonial music, which sets the right tone for a treatise directed to royalty.

Release dateDec 14, 2006
The Prince

Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli was an Italian politician, diplomat, founding father of political science, and author of the preeminent political treatise, The Prince. Born in Florence, Italy, Machiavelli held many government posts over his lifetime and often took leading roles in important diplomatic missions. During his time visiting other countries and nation states, Machiavelli was exposed to the politics of figures like Ceasare Borgia and King Louis XII, experiences which would inform his writings on state-building and politics. Machiavelli’s political career came to an abrupt end when the Medici overthrew Florence, and he was held as a prisoner under the new regime. Tortured for a short time, he was released without admitting to any crime or treason. At this point, Machiavelli retired and turned to intellectual and philosophical pursuits, producing his two major works, The Prince and Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy. He died in 1527 at the age of 58.

Reviews for The Prince

Rating: 4.08955223880597 out of 5 stars

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  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    Pretty illustrations intermingled with the text to show the period during which this is written. Not terribly fond of the translation, will have to try another one to get a better feel for the text, probably a good historical and close to the original style of the book but feels a bit forced. It's an interesting look at power and how power is won or lost and while many people have taken inspiration from it to take power not many of them seem to have read the portions on keeping power.I believe I read this years ago in college but it was interesting to go back and read it again for no purpose other than pleasure. Many authors could get inspiration for how to set up governments and how to keep power in the hands of both the good and bad guys.
  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
    Well, you probably know about this book. Now, I'm sure that I could have read it much more closely and come up with some very interesting material to think about. But honestly- it's just not that interesting. If you're easily shocked or titillated by the idea that powerful people are powerful because they're immoral, you will be shocked and titillated. If you didn't spend your formative years reading Cicero's 'De Oficiis,' on the other hand, you won't be surprised. And honestly, if you've read a newspaper in the last century, Machiavelli won't teach you anything. He has a bunch of nice stories to illustrate his points, but without knowing the context of the stories he tells it's difficult to know why I should care. The chapter on republics is interesting, granted. But to be honest I think I'd rather read someone who knows a lot about Machiavelli than the man himself. Skinner, here I come.

    I should say, too, that the Cambridge edition is excellent. 'The Prince' is in desperate need of annotation, and the editors do an excellent job of making things clear without making the text unreadable.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    I read this because it is one of those books everyone says should be read. It wasn't terribly long, the translation was easily understandable and I thought I would give it a try.What surprised me, was that I enjoyed it. I found Machiavelli's teaching style very good. He sets forth a principle, then illustrates it with examples from both ancient history and his times. It was easy to go from there and find examples in our modern times of most of the principles he set forth. I found myself marveling at his insight into human nature and the practicalities of leadership in a fallen world.Needless to say, I now feel myself prepared to take on the leadership of any minor principality which would have me. World, beware!
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    Niccolo Machiavelli may represent the epitome of a politician born in the wrong age. Nowadays anyone as politically astute and accomplished as Machiavelli undoubtedly was would make sure that they had a slick PR team in place, ready to put a positive spin on their every utterance. Even then, things can come adrift. In recent years even as experienced a political operator as Peter, now Lord, Mandleson, New Labour spin doctor extraordinaire, though having a whole team of press consultants and PR men at his behest, found his ceaseless machinations earned him a reputation for duplicity and divisiveness, rendering him a hissing and a byword within his own party, let alone among his Conservative opponents. Yet even Lord Mandelson didn't suffer the vilification and revulsion that have attached themselves to Machiavelli over the last six centuries.

    The very word 'machiavellian' carries with it a heavy semantic weighting, with connotations of intricate and decidedly underhand plotting; shameful manoeuvres best left in the shadows, hidden from view. There is even a solid body of belief that ascribes the origin of the Devil's cognomen 'Old Nick' as a reference to Machiavelli's practice of the dark arts of political persuasion, and to this work in particular.

    Florence in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries may have been at the centre of the Renaissance, but it was also a hub of political and military activity. Machiavelli had held public office during the brief history of the Republic of Florence before the Medici dynasty reasserted itself. As so often befalls senior in times of violent regime change, Machiavelli found himself imprisoned and even tortured in 1512. It was in the years shortly after this that he wrote this work, an observation on the practical application of political rule. He is careful not to become bogged down in moral considerations. He is, instead, principally concerned with the establishment of a strong administration that can defend and maintain its borders and protect its people. The implication is that if military security can be established, the populace will benefit in the long run. His advice is, therefore, essentially dispassionate. He has studied politics in action during disturbed time, and synthesis his experience into a handbook for the ambitious ruler.

    He was clearly a scholar and shows great familiarity with the classics. His chapter on the impact of ruler who achieve their position as a consequence of crime is a distillation of Herodotus's life of Agathocles of Syracuse. Born the son of a potter, Agathocles combined courage and ambition with criminal intent, allying himself with the Carthaginians to establish himself as King of the Syracuse throne. Having stolen the throne, he established himself as a pragmatic and successful leader who protected his realm and people, and this reigned for several years in relative stability.

    His taste for pragmatism does occasionally lead him into blunt and even reckless assertions. Comments of the nature of, 'I say it would be splendid if one had a reputation for generosity; nonetheless, if you do earn a reputation for generosity then you will come to grief' can never constitute a popular manifesto!

    In the end, the question of whether he was evil and manipulative, or merely pragmatic, is really somewhat irrelevant. His book has survived for centuries, and offers a fascinating observation of the political life in a turbulent city state, caught between the Scylla of impending military intervention by the French and the Charybdys of an omnipresent Church that dominated everyday life.

    The translation that I read (which I bought more than thirty years ago while still at school) was that by George Bull, published by the Penguin Classics series in 1961, and it did seem rather dated in parts. The introduction offered lots of fascinating information about Machiavelli's life and the prevailing context against which he wrote, though I have seldom seen a scholarly tract that was so poorly written. Bull obviously poured all his efforts into the translation and just dashed the introduction off against a too tight deadline!
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    Now understand why it's a classic 
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    I should have read this book (free for Kindle) years ago. Machiavelli's works on ancient history came up frequently in a different book I read recently, and he has been cited in several other books on my lists. Alas, I've now read this work. I find some of the oft-cited passages I hear are somewhat taken out of context.

    The version I read had a brief biographical sketch of Machiavelli, which was helpful. Machiavelli is foremost a historian, so he cites examples of rulers and conflicts both from Florentine and Italian history, the current Ottoman state, Greco-Roman history, and the Bible.

    He starts by looking at the failures of statecraft-- how a monarch can lose a state which he has conquered or inherited. Louis XII was one such object of failure in his aims on Italian provinces. He talks of how one holds a free Republic, you either have to destroy it or make it a tributary while encouraging development of an oligarchy there to maintain defacto control. This seems like it's played out accurately in world history.

    Machiavelli's "it's better to be feared than loved" is in the context of a Prince who takes a territory who was originally not his own. There will likely be unrest, so the advice is to do some large act of cruel suppression up front to quell dissent and then do small acts of benevolence over time to keep the populace pacified. If a ruler drags out the cruelty, he will breed hatred which is the ultimate failure of a monarch. The ruler must appear to be capable of both cruelty and mercy, so that he appeals more broadly, and where possible he should have an underling be the "bad cop" enforcer. It'd be best to be both feared and loved, but you will always have to give one of those up and it's best to give up love. The great projects of history, according to Machiavelli, were done by rulers who were remembered to be mean and not kind.

    It's always a bad idea to rely on foreign mercenaries for your army. Machiavelli marks the decline of Rome with the hiring of Goths to do soldiering at the cost of the Roman army. France was making the same mistake in relying on Swiss mercenaries at the time of his writing. Building fortresses are of no defense when the people hate you.

    A ruler has to be "liberal" in his spending. Games and welfare for the people, benefits for the standing army. This is obviously hard to do unless you're conquering and expropriating-- otherwise you bankrupt your treasury. The Prince gains glory and reputation by accomplishing big tasks-- namely conquering territories and enriching the kingdom.

    The Prince should also seem to be a man of integrity. The great rulers abandon virtue when they have to-- sometimes they have to break their word in order to protect their position or the state. This is acceptable so long as not done in such a away that the people despise him. The prince should be virtuous but also know how and when to get his hands dirty.

    A Prince should have a few advisors that he listens to and that he rewards for speaking honestly and openly; he should ignore all other opinion. The Prince should always make sure his advisors and viceroys know that their positions-- their wealth, authority, and very lives-- are at the whim of the Prince so that they don't go seeking their own gain or become corrupt.

    A Prince is someone who believes he has the power to shape world events, that everything isn't left to "fortune" or random chance forces of history. He yields that authority and has other men follow him.

    I enjoyed this book, it's obviously a 5 star classic.