The Prince By Machiavelli Summary and Analysis Chapter 26

Summary

There could not be a more appropriate time to welcome a new ruler to Italy. In order for the greatness of Italian spirit to be shown, Italy had to be humiliated first. Although it appeared a prince was coming to lead her, bad luck struck him down, so that she still waits eagerly for her rescuer.

The Medici family can fill this role, if they will imitate the precepts Machiavelli has explained. Even signs from God point to their coming greatness. The other Italian princes never achieved this goal, because their old methods of warfare were unsound. There is no lack of courage or strength among the Italians, but their leaders are weak. For this reason, Italian armies have lost in the field for the last 20 years. If the Medici family want to become great leaders, they will raise their own armies. All the other European armies, despite their successes, have weaknesses that can be exploited with new strategies.

Italy has been waiting for a savior to liberate her from oppression by the foreign barbarians. Let the Medici take up the cause, and Italy will be great once more.

Analysis

The final chapter of The Prince is Machiavelli's exhortation to the Medici family to lead Italy out of foreign domination under a strong, centralized leadership. His tone is passionate and poetic, in contrast to the dry, direct style of the rest of the book. Still, Machiavelli slips back into his more familiar analytical style when discussing the various military techniques employed by the German, Swiss, French, and Spanish. Methods of warfare were another of Machiavelli's great interests. In 1520, he wrote an entire book on the subject in his Art of War (Dell'Arte della guerra). Machiavelli is at his most fervent when describing the bravery and strength of the Italian national spirit, and he rebukes the foolish leaders who have failed to make use of this great raw material. Even here, though, he has room for a small jab: The Italians, he says, fight well individually, but do not take well to authority, because they all think they know best.

Another notable break with the rest of the book is the repeated invocation of God, who has been conspicuously absent from Machiavelli's discussion up until this point: Italy beseeches God for a redeemer, God favors the Medici, God wants the people to use free will, and God sends signs to show that the time is near. Machiavelli even refers to the man who was thought to have been ordained by God to save Italy, namely Cesare Borgia, who but for his rotten luck would have unified Italy. Italy still waits for this promised savior.

The bitterness of Italy's subjugation to foreign powers runs throughout this final chapter. All of Machiavelli's observations and advice about the state and the prince have been directed toward this goal, to bring forth the leader who will liberate Italy from the barbarians and unify it. Then Italy will be the peaceful, prosperous state Machiavelli envisions, with a prince who works for the security and stability his subjects need. Machiavelli closes the book with a quotation from the patriotic poem "My Italy" (Italia mia) by the great Italian poet Francesco Petrarca.

Glossary

Moses, Cyrus, Theseus the great leaders Machiavelli cited in Chapter 6, whom he presents here as liberators of oppressed peoples.

head of the Church Giovanni de Medici, the newly elected Pope Leo X.

Sea, cloud, stone, manna miracles that occurred when Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Machiavelli claims these are signs that point to the Medici's role in liberating Italy.

Taro . . . Mestre battles in which Italian forces were defeated.

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