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Essay: Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince and Thomas More’s Utopia

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Niccolò Machiavelli beliefs show that being feared means more than being loved in his story The Prince. “From this it follows that all armed prophets have succeeded and all unarmed ones have failed; for in addition to what has already been said, people are by nature changeable”(Machiavelli Chap. 6, pg 27). By being armed, by being a “threat”, he believes that there are many more opportunities to succeed. Although, Thomas More’s ideas in his fantasy writing, Utopia, show the opposing idea of being loved is better than being feared. Being loved by the people was more important to him. More states, “That the soul of man is immortal, and that God of His goodness has designed that it should be happy; and that He has therefore appointed rewards for good and virtuous actions, and punishments for vice, to be distributed after this life”(More 47). Another ruler, Henry VIII, also known as Henry the Eighth was quite the ruler with a very notable reputation. Henry VIII believed that his power was the most important thing in his rule. Each and every empire and its ruler, power is a focus. The power from every ruler in history really determines and defines the ruler. The reputation they gain lives with them for the future to learn about in Western Civilizations. The idea created by Niccolò Machiavelli of being feared rather than loved showcases the sixteenth century.

The Prince shows how being feared will get more done in society. Feared is believed to give the more power than love. Love will only make the people see him as a “friend” not their ruler. Machiavelli states in his story of The Prince, “Therefore, if you are a prince in possession of a newly acquired state and deem it necessary to guard against your enemies, to gain allies, to win either by force or fraud, to be loved and feared by your subjects, to be respected and obeyed by your troops, to annihilate those who can or must attack you, to reform and modernize old institutions, to be severe yet cordial, magnanimous and liberal, to abolish a disloyal militia and create a new one, to preserve the friendship of kings and princes in such a way that they will either favor you graciously or oppose you cautiously-then for such purposes you will not find fresher examples to follow than the actions of this man.” (Machiavelli Chapter 7, pg. 34). He is saying that again having a very strong, confident, and well-being self as a ruler makes all the difference in his empire. The fear factor makes the people on edge with every move and willing to go along with their ruler. Having power in society during the sixteenth century was very important to a ruler and his or her empire.

Thomas More believed that being a ruler you need to be liked and admired by your people. Being hated or feared meant nothing and as a ruler you would not accomplish anything. In the story he wrote named Utopia, he describes a fantasy based on fiction characters inherited from historic personalities. The story was written in 1516 only following 3 short years of The Prince. More says that, “For as he is both a very worthy and a very knowing person, so he is so civil to all men, so particularly kind to his friends, and so full of candour and affection, that there is not, perhaps, above one or two anywhere to be found, that is in all respects so perfect a friend: he is extraordinarily modest, there is no artifice in him, and yet no man has more of a prudent simplicity. His conversation was so pleasant and so innocently cheerful, that his company in a great measure lessened any longings to go back to my country, and to my wife and children, which an absence of four months had quickened very much” (More 9). Thomas More shows how and why he believed that people should have a good and healthy relationship with his or her ruler. He explains in detail the requirements such as being modest, simplicity, kindness and loyalty. Thomas More’s Utopia contradicts The Prince and says that love can give more power and very importantly, respect. In this story Henry VIII was also referenced and based on his rule he showcased another idea of how a ruler should see over his people.

The Defence of the Seven Sacraments written by Henry VIII in 1512 discusses a much different perspective on the way a ruler should be seen by his people. Henry the 8th takes his power to a higher level using the Church as his power. He took over for pope and was the head of the Church of England. Thomas More and other people of this age were executed under harsh laws referring back to Henry and his decisions that he made a ruler. Likewise of the that of the Prince. For example, Thomas More did not acknowledge Henry as the now head prominent figure in the Church of England. More also refused to pledge the Oath of Supremacy which would bring about his murder by Henry VIII. What everybody believes, he alone by his vain reason laughs at, denouncing himself to admit nothing but clear and evident Scriptures.  And these, too, if alleged by any against him, he either evades by some private exposition of his own, or else denies them to belong to their own authors.  None of the Doctors are so ancient, none so holy, none of so great authority in treating of Holy Writ, but this new doctor, this little saint, this man of learning, rejects with great authority. Seeing, therefore, he despiseth all men and believes none, he ought not to take it ill if everybody discredit him again.  I am so far from holding any further dispute with him that I almost repent myself of what I have already argued against him.  For what avails it to dispute against one who disagrees with everyone, even with himself? (Henry VIII Defence of the Seven Sacraments). In conclusion, Henry the 8th as a monarch let his power get the best of him and took his power so far he gained a very horrible reputation.

The Prince showcases that being feared over loved as a ruler is the main goal.

 “The answer is, of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved.” (Chapter 17, pg. 60).

Utopia written by Thomas More introduces an opposing idea that being loved will create a better empire for the people rather than being feared through the fantasy of what is Utopia. “It seemed much more eligible that the king should improve his ancient kingdom all he could, and make it flourish as much as possible; that he should love his people, and be beloved of them; that he should live among them, govern them gently, and let other kingdoms alone, since that which had fallen to his share was big enough, if not too big for him.” (French Court, pg. 19). The Defence of the Seven Sacraments written by Henry the 8th displays how his power in the Church created hatred from his people. “Who is ashamed of nothing, fears none, and thinks himself under no law.” (Henry the 8th). Thomas More even talks about Henry VIII before he is announced as King and the achievements he should conquer as King. “Henry VIII., the unconquered King of England, a prince adorned with all the virtues that become a great monarch, having some differences of no small consequence with Charles the most serene Prince of Castile, sent me into Flanders, as his ambassador, for treating and composing matters between them”(Utopia pg 8).

Being feared over love can differ from rulers and their people. Each and every ruler of their empire has done things differently and the way they wanted. Each writing shows different takes on the idea that fear is better than to be loved. Niccolò Machiavelli states, “I cannot describe with how much love, with what thirst for revenge, with what resolute loyalty, with what tenderness, with what tears he would be received in all those provinces which have endured these foreign hordes. What gates would be closed to him? What people would deny him obedience? Whose envy would oppose him?” (Chapter 26, pg. 9). This shows that not every person is the same, not every empire is the same. The difference in time and in writings from multiple rulers adds to the idea and had shaped the thought that being feared is better than being loved by the people.

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