Comparing Virtue In The Prince And The Discours

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The concept of virtue appears as one main topic both in Machiavelli’s The Prince and The Discourse. Claiming that “men are more prone to evil than to good,” he does not believe in the good nature of man and therefore concludes that for one living in society, “circumstances do not permit living a completely virtuous life.”(d,132, p, 55) Under such a presupposition, he advocates two redefined, yet different concepts of virtue in each of his texts. In The Prince, the distinction between virtue and vice is blurred and “virtù” is introduced as the quality to maintain one’s state whereas in The Discourses, virtue is the embodiment of a republican spirit. This difference can be shown by his contradictory definitions of virtuous acts, his varied reactions to identical historical figures, and his opposite attitudes towards similar situations in both texts. He thereupon addresses specifically to the rulers and to all citizens as a whole…show more content…
In The Prince, he refers Cesare Borgia as a man with “such indomitable spirit and so much ability” that “no better example can be cited than the actions of this man,” despite Cesare’s numerous cruel deeds (28, 29). Additionally, he supports his arguments with many rulers who are actually tyrants, such as Cesare and Hiero of Syracuse, by contrast with the list of tyrants as negative examples in The Discourses. Furthermore, he emphasizes more on the virtue of the entire populace rather than the “virtù” of a single ruler in The Discourses, because “when [the material] is corrupt, good legislation is of no avail unless it be initiated by someone in so extremely strong a position,” and even with those “whose virtue was such that…the city remained free so long as they lived…when they were dead [the city] returned to its ancient tyranny.”(158, 159) He stops defending his justification on tyranny on account of the changed concept of

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