Skip to main content Accessibility help

Patricide and the Plot of The Prince: Cesare Borgia and Machiavelli's Italy

  • John T. Scott (a1) and Vickie B. Sullivan (a2)

An understanding of Machiavelli's assessment of Cesare Borgia in The Prince is essential for interpreting his view of politics, but the ambiguity of that assessment has led to vastly different conclusions about Machiavelli's political teaching and Cesare's significance. We approach Machiavelli's ultimate intentions through a consideration of his more immediate concern for Italy. Machiavelli's great interest in Cesare and his criticism of this potential hero stem from the historical context of an Italy divided due to the Church. Cesare possessed—yet squandered—an opportunity to rid Italy of the evils plaguing it by killing his father, Pope Alexander, and by eliminating the College of Cardinals. Machiavelli's suggested denouement to the plot of The Prince is an assault on the ecclesiastical power. He invites his reader to contemplate the vulnerability of the Church and to act where Cesare and others shrank. Machiavelli ultimately counsels us to break our reliance on God or fortune and thus create the conditions for a reinvigorated civil life.

Hide All
Allen, John William. [1928] 1960. A History of Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century. Reprint. New York: Barnes & Noble.
Baron, Hans. 1954. “The Concept of Nationalism in Machiavelli's Prince.” Studies in the Renaissance 1:3848.
Baron, Hans, 1991. “The Principe and the Puzzle of the Date of Chapter 26.” Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 21:83102.
Berlin, Isaiah. 1980. “The Originality of Machiavelli.” In Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas, ed. Hardy, Henry. New York: Viking.
Burckhardt, Jacob. 1958. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. Trans. Middlemore, S. G. C.. New York: Harper & Row.
Butterfield, Herbert. 1962. The Statecraft of Machiavelli. New York: Collier.
Catholic Encyclopedia. 1913. 15 vols. New York: Encyclopedia Press.
Chabod, Federico. 1964. “Il segretario fiorentino.” In Scritti su Machiavelli, 4th ed.Torino: Giulio Einaudi.
Cochrane, Eric. 1961. “Machiavelli: 1940–1960.” Journal of Modem History 33:113–36.
Croce, Benedetto. 1945. Etica e Politica. 3d ed.Bari: G. Laterza e Figli.
Dietz, Mary G. 1986. “Trapping the Prince: Machiavelli and the Politics of Deception.” American Political Science Review 80:777–99.
Figgis, John Neville. [1907] 1960. Political Thought from Gerson to Grotius, 1414–1625. Reprint. New York: Harper & Row.
Frederick of Prussia. 1981. The Refutation of Machiavelli's “Prince”; or, Anti-Machiavel. Trans. Sonnino, Paul. Athens: Ohio University Press.
Geerken, John H. 1976. “Machiavelli Studies since 1969.” Journal of the History of Ideas 37:351–68.
Gentillet, Innocent. 1968. Anti-Machiavel. Ed. Edward Rathé, T.. Genève: Libraire Droz.
Gierke, Otto von. [1900] 1987. Political Theories of the Middle Age. Reprint. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gilbert, Allan H. 1938. Machiavelli's “Prince” and Its Forerunners. Durham: Duke University Press.
Gilbert, Felix. 1977. History: Choice and Commitment. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Grazia, Sebastian de. 1989. Machiavelli in Hell. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Guicciardini, Francesco. 1969. The History of Italy. Trans. Alexander, Sidney. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Guicciardini, Francesco. 1970. The History of Florence. Trans. Domandi, Mario. New York: Harper & Row.
Hulliung, Mark. 1983. Citizen Machiavelli. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Langton, John. 1987. “Machiavelli's Paradox: Trapping or Teaching the Prince.” American Political Science Review 81:1277–83.
Machiavelli, Niccolò. 1971. Tutte le opere. Florence: Sansoni.
Machiavelli, Niccolò. 1985. The Prince. Trans. Mansfield, Harvey C. Jr., Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Machiavelli, Niccolò. 1988. Florentine Histories. Trans. Banfield, Laura F. and Mansfield, Harvey C. Jr., Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Machiavelli, Niccolò. 1989. The Chief Works and Others. Trans. Gilbert, Allan, 3 vols. Durham: Duke University Press.
McKenzie, Lionel A. 1982. “Rousseau's Debate with Machiavelli in the Social Contract.” Journal of the History of Ideas 43:209–28.
Mansfield, Harvey C. Jr., 1981. “Machiavelli's Political Science.” American Political Science Review 75:293305.
Mattingly, Garrett. 1958. “Machiavelli's Prince: Political Science or Political Satire?American Scholar 27:482–91.
Montesquieu, Charles Louis Secondat, Baron de, . 1989. The Spirit of the Laws. Ed. and trans. Cohler, Anne M., Miller, Basia Carolyn, and Stone, Harold Samuel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Orwin, Clifford. 1978. “Machiavelli's Unchristian Charity.” American Political Science Review 72:1217–28.
Parel, Anthony J. 1992. The Machiavellian Cosmos. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Petrarch, Francesco. 1976. Petrarch's Lyric Poems: The Rime Sparse and Other Lyrics. Ed. and trans. Durling, Robert M.. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Pitkin, Hanna Fenichel. 1984. Fortune Is a Woman: Gender and Politics in the Thought of Niccolò Machiavelli. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Plutarch, . N.d. The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. Trans. Dryden, John and Clough, Arthur Hugh. New York: Modern Library.
Pocock, J. G. A. 1975. The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 1978. On the Social Contract with Geneva Manuscript and Political Economy. Ed. Masters, Roger D.. Trans. Masters, Judith R.. New York: St. Martin's.
Rubenstein, Nicolai. 1990. “Machiavelli and Florentine Republican Experience.” In Machiavelli and Republicanism, ed. Bock, Gisela, Skinner, Quentin, and Viroli, Maurizio. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sasso, Gennaro. 1966. Machiavelli e Cesare Borgia: Storia di un giudizio. Rome: Ateneo.
Skinner, Quentin. 1978. The Foundations of Modern Political Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Skinner, Quentin. 1981. Machiavelli. New York: Hill & Wang.
Skinner, Quentin. 1990. “Machiavelli's Discorsi and the Pre-humanist Origins of Republican Ideas.” In Machiavelli and Republicanism, ed. Bock, Gisela, Skinner, Quentin, and Viroli, Maurizio. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Strauss, Leo. 1958. Thoughts on Machiavelli. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Tarcov, Nathan. 1982. “Quentin Skinner's Method and Machiavelli's Prince.” Ethics 92:692709.
Viroli, Maurizio. 1990. “Machiavelli and the Republican Idea of Politics.” In Machiavelli and Republicanism, ed. Bock, Gisela, Skinner, Quentin, and Viroli, Maurizio. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Whitfield, John Humphreys. [1947] 1965. Machiavelli. Reprint. New York: Russell & Russell.
Whitfield, John Humphreys. 1969. Discourses on Machiavelli. Cambridge: Heffer & Sons.
Wolin, Sheldon S. 1960. Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought. Boston: Little, Brown.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed