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Machiavelli in Hell Paperback – January 13, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (January 13, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679743421
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679743422
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #559,176 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This intellectual biography of the 16th century Italian quotes exclusively from Machiavelli's own words rather than quoting others who commented upon him. In this way de Grazia, a professor at Rutgers, paints a colorful portrait of the man entirely in the context of his time. In The Prince Machiavelli had famously examined the dilemma of the ruler who must find a resolution between political necessity and ethical behavior. By thus inventing 'realpolitik' Machiavelli entered the language of political discourse, and got himself rather a bad name. De Grazia's book, which won a Pulitzer Prize, goes some way to rehabilitating him, suggesting that his immoral means were put to good political ends.

From Publishers Weekly

De Grazia's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the author of The Prince and a study of the roles of work and leisure in Western culture.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Czinczar on April 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
A big, definitive book. This one isn't what you would call a "page turner." There's plenty to absorb on every page. More than a mere biography, it's more about Machiavelli's thought process and writings concerning politics and morality. Secondarily, the details of Niccolò's life are sprinkled semi-chronologically throughout the book.Each chapter looks at a different aspect of Niccolò's thinking. You don't need to do much thinking of your own as you read this. De Grazia has written out every thought that could be thought about Machiavelli's writings and philosophy. He sometimes parses indivitual sentences down to minute details to wring from them every possible shade of meaning Machiavelli could have intended. Such an exhaustive examination can make for a less-than-compelling read.Each chapter builds on the previous ones, as de Grazia moves toward an unified and succinct view of Machiavelli's philosophy, which is: The end really does justify the means, as long as that end is the glory of God and Country (mostly Country).Reading such a big, thoroughgoing book can be a chore. It took me three attempts to get through it. The successful attempt took eight months. If you ever wished for a single, definitive book on the life, writings and philosophy of Machiavelli, this is it. But be careful what you wish for . . . .
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on May 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
De Grazia's book on Machiavelli is an example of a kind of old-fashioned intellectual study one rarely finds these days: a close reading of the original texts--all of them, from "The Prince" to the least known of the letters--unencumbered by secondary sources and filled with arcane details that gradually build to a comprehensive and exacting overview of the man and his life. It is not an introduction for the uninitiated; rather, it's an explicative guide to all Machiavelli's works and a cohesive summary of the unique worldview imagined by this archetypal Renaissance man.

More specifically, it tries to reconcile the goal (in political terms) of the "common good" pursued by the ideal ruler with the morality (in theological terms) of the "evil acts" this same ruler must sometimes perform to achieve this goal. In its crudest terms, the question is: How can the "good" (e.g., successful) prince avoid going to hell? "It is permissible to say good of evil," according to De Grazia's reading of Machiavelli, "if that evil is but seeming evil and converts to a true good." The qualities of such actions become "means, tools, instruments, detachable from the person using them." Nevertheless, the prince "has to steer a course between cruelty and compassion"; his action must be accompanied by "grace and glory." And in the end, the virtuous leader whose worth is misunderstood in this life will be rewarded in the afterlife; indeed, God prefers political action to spiritual activity.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Galen K. Valentine on January 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Let me say first that I did not find this book difficult to read or comprehend, as some reviewers have implied it might be. It was, and is, a scholarly work, but Grazia makes the material lively, interesting, and above all understandable. Each thread in the tapestry that he weaves around the life and philosophy of Niccolo (as he calls him throughout the entire work) is discussed separately but folded back into the whole at regular intervals.
Grazia introduces us to Niccolo Machiavegli (Machiavelli in the Tuscan style) in Chapter 1, a figure often reviled in later ages. From Chapter 2 onward we are treated to an analysis of his works, political, social, and dramatic in the context of an overarching political philosophy. What I found most interesting about Machiavelli In Hell is the interleaving of Niccolo's life with this analysis. He becomes a person rather than the one-dimensional cutout we are often given in school texts - a man of feeling, ideals, and intelligence. With some persistence and careful reading you can it make through this book with a greater understanding of what Niccolo gave to later generations, or even his own. It is not a substitute for The Prince, The Art of War, or the Mandragola but an introduction.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By N. Watson on July 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
I give this book an easy 5 stars. This is much less intimidating than many of Nicolo's own writings... De Grazia is interested in his subject, fun, and ultimately very sympathetic to Machiavelli. The book shows how Machiavelli was a poet, a lover, a (really good!) comic playwright, and a champion of democracy, in addition to being one of the founding fathers of political science. I've read the majority of Nicolo's surviving work, often in the Italian, and De Grazia truly portrays him as he was... a courtier after Castiglione's model who (even after his death) suffered more than his share of the "unremitting malice of fortune." READ IT!!!
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a work of scholarship, not intended to be a page-turner, as other reviewers noted. It is rare to find historical studies that succeed in giving a sense of the subject's mindset. Here one can develop a sense of the Renaissance statesman and philosopher's intellectual journey, without modern idealistic baggage. I have read several studies of Niccolo, and this is the the best by far.
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