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Five Hundred Years of Italian Scholarship on Machiavelli's Prince

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2013

Abstract

Machiavelli's Prince circulated widely in manuscript form in Italy way before its publication in 1532. Its reception was mixed from the start: some readers found in it a frank, sometimes ironic, description for the benefit of the people of the evil means used by bad rulers; others read in it evil recommendations to tyrants to help them maintain their power. The history of the reception of the Prince in Italy discloses a book with many facets: the impious and amoral Machiavelli of the Jesuits; the republican champion of the people, who unveiled the evil practices of tyrants, of the Enlightenment and Romantic readers; the citizen and patriot who fought for the liberation of Italy of the “Risorgimento”; the nationalist author who realized the limits of popular sovereignty and the necessity of force during the Fascist era; and many more Machiavellis and Princes present in Italy in the past five hundred years.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © University of Notre Dame 2013 

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References

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2 Three were written by Machiavelli's friend Biagio Buonaccorsi, who urged the recipient of one copy to defend the work against those who would criticize it simply “out of malice or envy”: see Kahn, V., “Machiavelli's Afterlife and Reputation to the Eighteenth Century,” in The Cambridge Companion to Machiavelli, ed. Najemy, J. M. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 239–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Richardson, B., “The Prince and Its Early Italian Readers,” in Niccolò Machiavelli's “The Prince”: New Interdisciplinary Essays, ed. Coyle, M. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985), 1839Google Scholar; Gaeta, F., “Appunti sulla fortuna del pensiero politico di Machiavelli in Italia,” in Il pensiero politico di Machiavelli e la sua fortuna nel mondo (Florence: Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento, 1972), 2136Google Scholar.

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12 In fact, it was the obscure Francesco Tarugi, a former secretary to the Dieci di Pratica, who got the position on June 10, 1527; Machiavelli died eleven days later. Giannotti was appointed secretary on September 23, 1527, when Machiavelli was already dead.

13 B. Varchi, Storia fiorentina IV, 5. This judgment echoes the words written by Giambattista Busini in a letter to Varchi dated January 23, 1549: “the entire city hated him because of the Prince: to the wealthy it seemed that his Prince was a document intended to teach the duke how to deprive them of their entire property, to the poor to deprive them of all their liberty. The Piagnoni regarded him as heretic, the good as dishonest, the bad as one more depraved or more crafty than them, so that everyone hated him.” Busini added that Machiavelli “loved liberty extraordinarily” (Lettere di Giambattista Busini a Benedetto Varchi sopra l'assedio di Firenze, ed. Milanesi, G. [Florence: Le Monnier, 1861], 8485Google Scholar).

14 Or, more accurately, second publisher since Giunta's edition in May 1532 was preceded by a few months by Blado's (January 1532). In his dedicatory letter, Giunta compared Machiavelli to a physician who describes poison as well as medicines so that people can stay away from them.

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48 Chabod argued against Meinecke and his idea that The Prince had been written in different stages. This idea has been recently revived by Mario Martelli, who argued that Machiavelli wrote two versions, one “in haste” in 1513 and one with additions and alterations in 1518. The notion of the two versions was rejected by Sasso; Giorgio Inglese, in his introduction to The Prince, stated that even if Machiavelli did make changes to the text, these do not date further than May 1514. For the sources and an informative and well-balanced account see Russo, F., Bruto a Firenze (Naples: Editoriale Scientifica, 2008)Google Scholar. I agree with Gennaro Barbuto that, lacking the manuscript copy of The Prince, the problem of its dating cannot be solved once and for all: however, we know from a letter of Niccolò Guicciardini to his father Luigi that a manuscript copy already circulated in the summer of 1517. See Barbuto, G., Machiavelli (Rome: Salerno Editrice, 2013): 126–28Google Scholar.

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52 Russo, L., Prolegomeni al Machiavelli (1931), in Machiavelli (Rome: Laterza, 1988)Google Scholar. One may compare this view with Singleton, C. S., “The Perspective of Art,” Kenyon Review 15 (1953): 169–89Google Scholar, where Machiavelli's prince is depicted as an artist interested only in the beauty and soundness of his construction.

53 Flora, F., Storia della letteratura italiana (Milan: Mondadori, 1940)Google Scholar.