The Sforza family
Because The Prince is a political commentary, not a work of fiction, Machiavelli does not use "characters" in the sense of a novel or short story. Instead, he draws his examples from the current political and social events, as well as from ancient history. His "characters" are the political leaders of his time. He mentions far too many individuals to be listed here, but several make repeated appearances in The Prince, and it is helpful to keep them and their relationships in mind.
Francesco Sforza Mercenary general who became Duke of Milan.
Ludovico Sforza Also called "Il Moro," the Moor. Son of Francesco Sforza and Duke of Milan, he encouraged King Charles VIII of France to invade Italy.
Caterina Sforza Riario Ludovico's niece, the illegitimate daughter of Gian Galeazzo Sforza. Ruler of the cities of Forli and Imola; called "The Amazon of Forli."
The Borgia family
Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) Corrupt and decadent leader of the church, who shamelessly maneuvered his many illegitimate children into positions of power.
Cesare Borgia Alexander VI's son, Duke of Valentinois in France, and conquerer of the Romagna region in Italy. Machiavelli's chief example of an ideal prince.
The Medici family, rulers of Florence
Lorenzo de Medici Grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent. The Prince is dedicated to him.
Pope Leo X (Giovanni de Medici) Pope at the time The Prince was written. His election resulted in Machiavelli's release from prison.
Pope Julius II Warrior pope who succeeded Alexander VI. Noted for his defense of the temporal and spiritual power of the Catholic church.
Girolamo Savonarola Charismatic preacher and prophet who ruled Florence after the Medici family was removed from power.
King Ferdinand Ruler of Spain. Better known to American students as the husband of Queen Isabella, who financed Christopher Columbus' voyages to the new world.
King Charles VIII Ruler of France who invaded Italy at the urging of Ludovico Sforza, but was quickly driven out.
King Louis XII Charles' successor. Invader of Italy and its main foreign dominator immediately prior to the time during which The Prince was written.
Emperor Maximilian II Ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, another European power with designs on Italy.