Summary and Analysis
Those who seek the favor of powerful men usually offer them precious material gifts, but Machiavelli instead offers his precious knowledge of the conduct of great men. He aims to present this knowledge in a plain and direct style. He observes that as a person of low social rank, he has the best perspective on the actions of those who are high above him, just as princes have the best perspective on the actions of the people. He hopes that his gracious patron will pity his humble and unfortunate position.
Machiavelli addresses his book to Lorenzo de Medici, whom he calls magnificent, alluding to Lorenzo's famous grandfather, who was known as Lorenzo the Magnificent. Machiavelli had originally dedicated The Prince to Giuliano de Medici, one of Lorenzo the Magnificent's sons, but Giuliano died in 1516, and consequently would have been no help in putting Machiavelli back into political office. Machiavelli refers to his current miserable situation in the final paragraph.
Dedications to powerful patrons were attached to almost all works of Renaissance literature. They usually declared the author's unworthiness and praised the patron's greatness, and Machiavelli's dedication stands squarely in this tradition. However, he was sincere in his desire to get back into the good graces of the Medici family.
Machiavelli's plain manner of speaking can be found throughout the book. He discusses all his subjects, even the most shocking, in a cool and matter-of-fact tone, as if analyzing a scientific specimen.