Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Five Hundred Years of Italian Scholarship on Machiavelli's Prince

  • Giovanni Giorgini

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.

Copyright

References

Hide All

1 N. Machiavelli, Letter to Francesco Vettori of December 10, 1513 in Machiavelli, N., Lettere (Torino: Utet, 1984); and Machiavelli and His Friends: Their Personal Correspondence, ed. Atkinson, J. B. and Sices, D. (De Kalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2004). On this letter and the correspondence with Vettori in general see Najemy, J., Between Friends (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).

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), 239–55. 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), 1839; 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), 2136.

3 See Firpo, L., “Le origini dell'antimachiavellismo,” Il Pensiero Politico 2 (1969): 337–67.

4 Bireley, R., The Counter-Reformation Prince: Anti-Machiavellianism or Catholic Statecraft in Early Modern Europe (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), 14. This is a very informative work although I quite disagree with the author's view of Machiavelli.

5 Renaissance writers appropriated texts liberally and creatively and did not have our current standards of citation: hence it is misleading to speak of “plagiarizing” without qualification. See the remarks in Larivaille, B. and Pernet-Beau, S., Une réécriture du Prince de Machiavel, le De Regnandi Peritia de Agostino Nifo, bilingual ed. (Université de Paris-Nanterre X: Centre de Recherches de Langue et Littérature Italiennes, 1987); see also Borsetto, L., Il furto di Prometeo: Imitazione, scrittura, riscrittura nel Rinascimento (Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, 1990); Grafton, A., Forgers and Critics: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990).

6 Augustini Niphi Medicae Philosophi Suessani De Regnandi Peritia, Ad Carolum. VI. Imper. Caesarem Semper Augustum (Naples, 1523).

7 The literature includes such works as Bartolomeo Platina, De vero principe (1481), Giuniano Maio, De maiestate (1492), Francesco Patrizi, De regno (1494), and Giovanni Pontano, De principe liber (1503). See Cosentino, P., “Un plagio del Principe: il De regnandi peritia di Agostino Nifo,” Semestrale di Studi (e Testi) Italiani 1 (1998): 139–60. On the Speculum Principis literature see the classic Gilbert, F., “The Humanist Concept of the Prince and The Prince of Machiavelli,” Journal of Modern History 11 (1939): 449–83. On Nifo, and more generally the early reception of Machiavelli, see Anglo, S., Machiavelli: The First Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). Finally, see Procacci, G., Studi sulla fortuna del Machiavelli (Rome: Istituto Storico Italiano per l'Età Moderna e Contemporanea, 1965) and Machiavelli nella cultura europea dell'età moderna (Rome: Laterza, 1995).

8 On this see Strauss, L., Thoughts on Machiavelli (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958); Giorgini, G., “The Place of the Tyrant in Machiavelli's Political Thought and the Literary Genre of the Prince,” History of Political Thought 29, no. 2 (2008): 230–56.

9 Guicciardini, F., Considerazioni intorno ai Discorsi del Machiavelli sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio, in Opere inedite di Francesco Guicciardini, ed. Canestrini, G., vol. 1 (Florence: Barbera, Bianchi e Comp., 1857).

10 See for instance Guicciardini's letter to Machiavelli of 18 May 1521, where he acknowledges that his friend is “extravagant from the common opinion and inventor of new and unusual things.”

11 Storia fiorentina di Messer Benedetto Varchi, nella quale principalmente si contengono l'ultime revoluzioni della Repubblica fiorentina, e lo stabilimento del Principato nella casa de' Medici: colla tavola infine delle cose più notabili (Cologne, 1721).

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], 8485).

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.

15 Boccalini, T., De' ragguagli di Parnaso (Venice, 1630), 421–24.

16 The word “Machiavellian” is found for the first time in 1566 spelled “mache villion”; in the Sempill Ballates (1568) attributed to Robert Sempill it recurs as “Machivilian.” “Machiauilisme” is found in T. Nashe, Pierce Peniless (1592); “Machiavilianisme” recurs in T. Tuke, True Trial (1607). Cotgrave, R., Dictionarie of the French and English tongues (London, 1611) translates the French word “Machiauelisme” as “subtle policie, cunning roguerie.” The Italian “machiavellista” and “machiavello” are current since the sixteenth century.

17 Ambrogio Catarino Politi, De libris a christiano detestandis, et a christianismo penitus eliminandis (Rome, 1552). On Politi see Caravale, G., Sulle tracce dell'eresia: Ambrogio Catarino Politi (1484–1553) (Florence: Olschki, 2007).

18 See R. Bireley, The Counter-Reformation Prince.

19 Bozio, T., De robore bellico diuturnis et amplis catholicorum regnis liber unus: Adversus Macchiavellum (Rome, 1593); the work was reprinted in Cologne the following year, with some corrections, including the correct spelling Adversus Machiavellum (used also in other reprints of Bozio's works by the same publisher).

20 Bozio, T., De imperio virtutis sive imperia pendere a veris virtutibus non a simulatis libri duo: Adversus Macchiavellum (Rome, 1593).

21 Bozio, T., De ruinuis gentium et regnorum adversus impios politicos libri octo (Rome, 1595).

22 Bozio, T., De antique et novo Italiae statu libri quatuor: Adversus Macchiavellum (Rome, 1595; Cologne, 1595).

23 This idea was reiterated in another huge work: Bozio, T., De iure status sive de iure divino et naturali ecclesiaticae libertatis ac potestatis (Rome, 1600).

24 Botero, G., Della ragion di stato libri dieci (Venice, 1589).

25 Antonii Possevini e Societate Iesu Iudicium (Lyon, 1593).

26 Lucchesini, G. L., Saggio della sciocchezza di Nicolò Macchiavelli scoperta eziandio col solo Discorso Naturale, e con far vedere Dannose anche à gl'Interessi della Terra le Principali sue Massime (Rome, 1697).

27 Galanti, G. M., Elogio di Niccolò Machiavelli cittadino e segretario fiorentino (Naples, 1779). On this aspect of the Italian Enlightenment see Ferrone, V., The Politics of Enlightenment (London: Anthem, 2012).

28 Alfieri, V., Del Principe e delle lettere, in Opere di Vittorio Alfieri (Italia, 1805), 19:111.

29 Ibid., 120–21.

30 Foscolo, U., Della patria, degli scritti e della fama di Niccolò Machiavelli (1811), in Opere complete di Ugo Foscolo (Naples, 1860); see also his Discorso storico sul testo del Decamerone di Messer Giovanni Boccaccio (Lugano: Ruggia, 1828).

31 Foscolo, U., Commentario critico degli scritti e della fama di Machiavelli, in Prose letterarie (Florence: Le Monnier, 1850); see, for instance, 2:452.

32 De Sanctis, F., Storia della letteratura italiana (Naples: Morano, 1870).

33 Mancini, P.S., Della dottrina politica del Machiavelli (Turin: Lampato, Barieri, 1852).

34 Another prominent statesman who drew inspiration from Machiavelli in his works and political action was the Bolognese Marco Minghetti (1818–1886): see his Opuscoli letterari ed economici (Florence: Le Monnier, 1872) and the Scritti politici, ed. Gherardi, R. (Rome: Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri, 1986).

35 Pareto, V., Trattato di sociologia generale (1916) (Turin: Utet, 1988), 2286; see also 2357.

36 Michels, R., “Gaetano Mosca e la teoria dello Stato” (1929), in Socialismo e Fascismo (1925–1934), ed. Panella, G. (Milan: Giuffrè, 1991).

37 Gobetti, P., “Un conservatore galantuomo,” La Rivoluzione Liberale 3, no. 19 (1924); now in Scritti politici, ed. Spriano, P. (Turin: Einaudi, 1960), 652. Gobetti was a liberal opponent of Fascism, the founder of many liberal enterprises in Italy, who was murdered by the Fascists in 1926.

38 Burnham, J., The Machiavellians (New York: John Day, 1943).

39 Mosca, G., “Il Principe di Machiavelli quattro secoli dopo la morte del suo autore” (1925), in Ciò che la storia potrebbe insegnare: Scritti di scienza politica (Milan: Giuffrè, 1958), 673720.

40 Croce, B., “Machiavelli e Vico: La politica e l'etica,” in Etica e Politica (1931) (Bari: Laterza, 1981), 204–9; La questione del Machiavelli,” in Indagini su Hegel e schiarimenti filosofici (Bari: Laterza, 1949), 174–86.

41 Gentile, G., “Religione e virtù di Machiavelli” (1918), in Studi sul Rinascimento (Florence: Sansoni, 1923), 107–12, and “L'etica di Machiavelli” (1920), in Studi, 113–20.

42 Noce, A. Del, “Riflessioni sull'opzione ateistica” (1961), in Il problema dell'ateismo (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1990), 335–75.

43 Gramsci devoted the entire notebook 13, written in jail between 1932 and 1934, to Machiavelli: Gramsci, A., Quaderno 13: Noterelle sulla politica del Machiavelli, ed. Donzelli, C. (Turin: Einaudi, 1981). The literature is conspicuous. See especially Medici, R., La metafora Machiavelli: Mosca Pareto Michels Gramsci (Modena: Mucchi, 1990) and Fontana, B., Hegemony and Power: On the Relation between Gramsci and Machiavelli (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993).

44 Mussolini, B., “Preludio al Machiavelli,” Gerarchia 3, no. 4 (April 1924): 204–9; the essay was republished as a pamphlet Preludio al “Machiavelli” nel quarto centenario di Machiavelli (Rome: Tipografia Il Popolo d'Italia, 1927) and was reprinted in Machiavelli, N., Il Principe, con il Preludio al Machiavelli di Benito Mussolini (Milan: Società Anonima Notari, 1928). For many reasons the h.c. degree was never conferred upon the Duce: see de Felice, R., Mussolini il fascista (Turin: Einaudi, 1966), 465–66. It is noteworthy that the Socialist member of parliament Giacomo Matteotti, just before being kidnapped and killed by the Fascists, wrote a reply which is also a complete refutation: “Machiavelli, Mussolini and Fascism,” English Life, July 1924: 87ff. On this see Canali, M., Il delitto Matteotti (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1997).

45 The necessity of “force,” together with “consensus,” was also the gist of Mussolini's previous article sent to Gerarchia, an onslaught on liberalism, deemed to be old-fashioned as a method of government: Mussolini, B., “La forza e il consenso,” Gerarchia 2, no. 3 (March 1923).

46 On Mussolini's and the Fascist use of Machiavelli, as well as on the reactions they prompted in Italian anti-Fascist intellectuals (such as Matteotti, Gobetti, and others) see the very well-informed Barbuto, G. M., Machiavelli e i totalitarismi (Naples: Guida, 2005).

47 See Mitarotondo, L., “Il Principe fra il ‘Preludio’ di Mussolini e le letture del Ventennio,” in Machiavelli nella storiografia e nel pensiero politico del XX secolo, ed. Bassani, M. and Vivanti, C. (Milan: Giuffrè, 2006), 5978. The prefaces to the Prince of Mussolini, Craxi, and Berlusconi were published in “Testi e pretesti: Tre presentazioni del ‘Principe,’” Il Ponte 54 (1998).

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). 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): 126–28.

49 Chabod, F., Scritti su Machiavelli (Turin: Einaudi, 1964).

50 Sasso, G., Niccolò Machiavelli (1958) (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1992); Machiavelli e gli antichi e altri saggi, 4 vols. (Milan: Ricciardi, 1987–97).

51 Matteucci, N., “Niccolò Machiavelli,” in Alla ricerca dell'ordine politico (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1984), 3167. See also his provocative “Machiavelli politologo,” in Alla ricerca, 69–108.

52 Russo, L., Prolegomeni al Machiavelli (1931), in Machiavelli (Rome: Laterza, 1988). One may compare this view with Singleton, C. S., “The Perspective of Art,” Kenyon Review 15 (1953): 169–89, 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).

Metrics

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