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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon November 7, 2009
The idea of "reviewing" this is more than a little silly -- it's arguably the most influential non-religious work of all time -- but I thought a few comments & historical notes might still be worthwhile.

"The Prince" was essentially the first work of political realism in Western thought -- the first work of Western political philosophy that concerned itself not with the ideal government (as Plato had done in his _Republic_) but with the practical realities of getting and holding power. To describe the impact and influence of that willingness, that first notion that conventional morality might not be the best guide to success, would be as impossible a task as trying to summarize the influence of Galileo. Napoleon is rumored to have written extensive annotations to this book; Stalin allegedly kept a copy on his nightstand. Half of Shakespeare's villains (Iago, Richard III, etc.) derive their character in whole or part from this text.

Most of this book is extraordinarily controversial, even today, yet still fundamentally difficult to argue against; there's a reason the Catholic Church kept it on the _Index Librorum Prohibitorum_ for centuries. If you're looking for food for thought, it's here.

This particular kindle edition is fairly good; the text is cleanly presented with few typographical or scanning errors, and the translator has clearly made a significant effort to present the text as accurately as possible in a modern translation, with several footnotes detailing possible alternate translations of particular words, etc. In addition to the text of _The Prince_, this edition also includes two shorter historical works by Machiavelli, "Descriptions of the Methods Adopted by the Duke Valentino When Murdering Vitellozzo Vitelli, Oliverotto da Fermo, the Signor Pagolo, and the Duke di Gravina Orsini," and "The Life of Castruccio Castracani of Lucca." ("Duke Valentino" is an alternate name for Cesare Borgia). Both additional texts are, in essence, case studies of how contemporary historical figures achieved success by acting according to the precepts which Machiavelli outlines in the main body of the text, and as such are very useful and interesting companion reads.

As a final note, if anyone has recommendations for histories of Italy in this time period, please link me to them in a comment -- after reading this, I want to read more about the era. Thanks!
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