Machiavelli: Philosopher of Power (Eminent Lives) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 29, 2007
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In this discerning new biography, Ross King rescues Machiavelli's legacy from caricature, detailing the vibrant political and social context that influenced his thought and underscoring the humanity of one of history's finest political thinkers. Ross King's Machiavelli visits fortune-tellers, produces wine on his Tuscan estate, travels Europe tirelessly on horseback as a diplomatic envoy, and is a passionate scholar of antiquitybut above all, a keen observer of human nature.
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From Publishers Weekly
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The narrative begins with Niccolo Machiavelli, age only 29 (young for the role he would play), becoming a player in Florence's political apparatus. He was a humanist, and had a good education when young. He came from a good family, albeit one that was not wealthy. Shortly after his accession to a good post, he became Second Chancellor. As a part of his position, he also was assigned diplomatic tasks.
He maintained this position until Florence was taken under the authority of the Medici family. In the process, Machiavelli lost his position (and may have been tortured in the process). The book portrays well the frustration Machiavelli felt, as he did many things to ingratiate himself with the powerful Medici family. Indeed, his famous "The Prince" was dedicated to a Medici. After, essentially, realizing that he would not soon regain his position, he began writing, whether histories, political analyses, or plays. Ironically, one of his plays was performed for the Pope (a Medici) and well appreciated by him.
The book continues by depicting his life, including a last moment opportunity to play the role of diplomat--with the backing of, you guessed it, the Medici family. One thing the book does nicely, even though it is rather superficial, is to demonstrate the crazy quilt pattern of shifting alliances. On his personal life, he was quite a pain to his wife (fidelity was not an attribute he displayed) and family, being gone, while a diplomat, a great deal of the time.
The last chapter does a serviceable job of putting Machiavelli in a larger context. The book is well written and well serves the purpose of an accessible, non-academic view of this famous philosopher, writer, and diplomat.