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Machiavelli's L'Asino: Troubled Centaur into Conscious Ass

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 June 2008

Ed King*
Affiliation:
Concordia University
*
Ed King, Department of Political Science, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West, Montreal, Quebec, CanadaH3G 1M8, eking@alcor.concordia.ca.

Abstract

Abstract. In this paper I examine some of the allegorical connections Machiavelli made in his unfinished poem L'Asino (The Ass) and make the case that they shed new light on the historical embeddedness of the more overtly political works, especially The Prince. When read alongside The Prince, L'Asino indicates what led Machiavelli to involve himself in politics in the first place, what he hoped to gain by his role as advisor and, afterwards, what his reaction was to his apparent failure to make his case effectively. It also offers us clues as to how Machiavelli conceived of his role as advisor to the Medici and highlights the anger he felt at having allowed himself to believe that his suggestions would be accepted without question and acted upon in the spirit in which they were intended. Some of the most important aspects of the poem I deal with focus on political metamorphoses, especially the prince's apotheosis into a successful Icarus and Machiavelli's less successful transition into Chiron the centaur. I also examine the allegorical significance of Diana and Circe, the message of the Abbot of Gaeta, and the implications of the Dantean allusions in the poem and perhaps most importantly the historical implications of the opening passage for Machiavelli's early entry into the political life of his patria.

Résumé. Dans cet essai, je montre J'indique comment certains liens allégoriques, établis par Machiavel etablit dans son poème inachevé, l'asino L'Âne (l'ane), font la lumière sur l'imbriquement historique des oeuvres machiavéliques de nature plus explicitement politique, surtout L e Prince. La lecture de l'asino L'Âne en parallèl avec Le Prince, indique indique à la fois ce qui d'abord porta Machiavel à se mêler de politique, ce qu'il espérait gagner en tant que conseiller et, par suite, ce que fut sa réaction face devant son incapacité dea son inabilite a soutenir sa cause. Une telle lecture offre également des indices sur sa façon de concevoir son rôle de conseiller aux Médicis et met en relief la rage qu'il éprouva pour s'être permis de croire que ses conseils seraient accueiqueillis sans questions et qu'on leur donnerait suite dans l'esprit même dans lequel ils furent avaient ét proférés. D'importants aspects aspects du poème traitent de métamorphoses politiques, telles l'apothéose du prince en Icare vainqueur et la moins heureuse transition de Machiavel en Chiron le centaure. J'examine également la légende de Ninus et Sardanapalus, le sens allégorique de Diane et de Circé, le message de l'abbé de Gaëte, le sens des allusions dantesques et boéthiennes et, ce qui est peut-être le plus important,, peut etre plus important, les implications historiques de la première partie du poème pour l'entré de Machiavel dans la vie politique de sa patrie.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association 2008

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