Summary: The Prevailing Sentiments Of The Renaissance

Categories: Realism

The Renaissance was a significant era of cultural rebirth across Europe during the fourteenth through seventeenth centuries. People started questioning ideals taken for granted in previous years. Due to this questioning, an outpouring of creativity and new ideas emerged. Those seeking new answers in Europe tended to look for guidance to what they considered to be a better past – in this case the classical antiquity or the early days of Christianity – and sought to revive long-lost values, their efforts, and the times in which they lived.

What was notable about the Renaissance was not the various realms of knowledge of the classical world and the discovery and study of old manuscripts. However, “it is the attitude with which these manuscripts and the texts they contained were pursued that had changed drastically from that of teleologically seeking the expected answers to scholarly questions, the answers that would not disturb the status quo, to a more skeptical attitude, open to answers that might indeed disturb previous or present concepts.

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” As a Renaissance philosopher, politician, and writer, living in the fifteenth century, I, Niccolò de Bernardo dei Machiavelli, am focused on humanism, a worldview and a moral philosophy that considers humans to be of primary importance . I approach human nature from a realistic standpoint, emphasizing practical and pragmatic strategies over philosophical ideals.

I wrote The Prince based on my political experience when the Medici family took control of Florence and exiled me. This book is a guide for successful monarchial rule by “analyzing exactly how power is won, exercised, and lost” based on lessons gleaned from ancient history.

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People wondered at the aggressiveness of new rulers over Italian city-states. The prince, personifying the ideal political actor, must be ready to handle any situation that comes his way to accumulate power.

The Renaissance value of humanism greatly influences The Prince because I, as a humanist, target human nature in portraying the ideal monarchy. Humanists of the Renaissance were promoters of human potential. The Prince is a handbook on political science describing how to run a state and do it successfully. '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.' Before this, the political stage worked between feudal monarchs/servants who were from Church-related institutes. Any past essay was political idealism. The Prince is political realism and describes what is happening in actuality. 'The two most essential foundations for any state, whether it be old or new, or both old and new, are sound laws and sound military forces. Now, since the absence of sound laws assures the absence of sound military forces, while the presence of sound military forces indicates the presence of sound laws as well, I shall forego a consideration of laws and discuss military forces instead.' I understand that while a good ruler should possess some admirable qualities, it is impossible for any human being to be entirely good. Therefore, characteristics like cruelty and dishonesty are necessary for a prince to effectively hold and enact power in a monarchial state. Based on ideas in The Prince, I suggest a ruler rather be feared than a loved one. '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.' 'I conclude that since men love as they themselves determine but fear as their ruler determines, a wise prince must rely upon what he and not others can control.' To be the successful leader, “The ends justify the means.” This doesn’t insinuate to be immoral. I don’t ask questions about good/bad. I am just realistic and write what the leader must do to be successful. My point is that you, as the prince, must know your job, do it well, and leave your mark on society in the position in life you have chosen to embrace. A Machiavellian prince is focused on political security, how to be successful as a leader. Unlike a leader during the Middle Ages, a prince living during the Renaissance will not go on crusades which will leave his state floundering with no leader.

I wrote several works, one of which is The Art of War which can perhaps explain what the prince should be mastering based on the Renaissance ideal of humanism. Although The Prince and The Art of War seem dissimilar, there is much to be learned from The Art of War which can then be applied to The Prince. The dialogue in The Art of War explains and predicts changes in European warfare and military affairs as a consequence of larger social, economic, and technological evolutions occurring during the Renaissance. The purpose of The Art of War is a consideration of the ancient modes and ancient orders of military virtue and how a return to these ancient forms of military virtue would overcome modern military corruption and perhaps solve the military crisis of sixteenth-century Italy. The military organization of ancient Rome provided a template for my model of an army. A prince looking to learn how to lead an army and state effectively may be disappointed at first when reading The Art of War, which is not written for princes, but for republicans interested in reviving the humanist ideal of a citizen army. The Art of War is a manual describing the technical aspects of war rather than a conceptual engagement. However, I go on to discuss military organization in The Art of War which is important for a prince to know in leading a state.

Princes will gain the most by reading the last part of my book The Art of War most closely resembles The Prince. From the conclusion, readers learn the most important aspect of war is managing the troops, “knowing how to govern an army [already] made… is not enough in Italy… rather, it is first necessary to know how to make it”. In current conditions in Italy, it is more important to know how to recruit an army rather than how to fight a battle. The concluding claim of The Art of War, then, is that the critical knowledge for the prince is not the art of commanding, but of creating an army. It is the absence of such knowledge that made possible the “great terrors, sudden flights, and miraculous losses” of the wars that began in 1494. Prior to these wars, “our Italian princes used to believe that it was enough for a prince to know how to think of a sharp response in his studies, to write a beautiful letter, to show wit and quickness in his deeds and words, to know how to weave a fraud and they failed to] perceive that they were preparing themselves to be the prey of whoever assaulted them”. The primary lesson of The Art of War from the defeat and military crisis in the wake of the Italian wars is how to create a good and well-ordered army . Making such an army is easy for princes who have access to a large subject population and who can draft 15,000 to 20,000 soldiers.

I advocate princes should copy the ancients which say “excellent captains need to be orators” on the captain as orator). In The Art of War, I demonstrate this by Fabrizio serving as both captain and orator in the dialogue. Both the prince and the captain must become professores in the art of war. This is required of the prince because, 'A prince must have no other objective, no other thought, nor take up any profession but that of war, its methods and its discipline, for that is the only art expected of a ruler.' The captain needs to be a professore in the art of the state in order to master the performances required to govern an army of soldiers. If The Prince directs the reader to read The Art of War in order to become a professore in this skill, The Art of War directs the reader to The Prince in order to learn about the art of the state—the classic skill set required for the art of war 186. And I, judging, by what I have seen and read, that it is not impossible to restore its ancient ways and return some form of past virtue to it, have decided not to let this leisure time of mine pass without doing something, to write what I know of the art of war, to the satisfaction of those who are lovers of the ancient deeds.

Humanism places human beings, not God or faith, as the center of attention in life. Living during the Renaissance, I have seen many hire an artist, based on Renaissance ideals, to draw their portrait. This is radically different than medieval artwork which was purchased exclusively by or for the church. Italian Renaissance reveres the body and portrays the human body as a thing of beauty in its own right. Similarly, during my lifetime, Raphael painted The School of Athens in accordance to the themes of Renaissance artwork. Raphael depicted a celebration of the scholars of ancient times. It shows the point of the renaissance campaign which is a revival of these glorious times. The School of Athens demonstrates how humanism captured the intellectual human life. Raphael painted faces of known Renaissance Men to be the ancient philosophers. Through this, Raphael is subtly saying the artists are the jewels of society now as opposed to the ancient philosophers.

Humanists redefined what it means to be educated. And not only that, but also what to do with that education. Civic humanism emerges during the Renaissance. Civic humanism is putting your efforts and talents into the service of the state so your mark will be felt in a broad sense. Participation in public affairs is essential and as a Renaissance humanist, I am doing my civic duty to the state. It is an era to use my education to have a vita activa, an active life. This is in contrast to the medieval scholar who lived and expounded a vita conteplativa, a contemplative life. As a civic humanist, I don’t like the monks living a vita conteplativa because they aren’t utilizing their knowledge in a curriculum that engages the individual. Civic humanists were all about using the individual prowess for a purpose. We are trying to achieve virtue in the traits that are necessary to achieve great things. This is more than moral excellence; it is maximizing our potential so that we all impact society. My contemporary Giovanni Pico della Mirandola writes on this idea in Oration on the Dignity of Man, which is called the humanist manifesto. He talks about man in a way that doesn’t exist in Medieval society. He states man has free will which puts us in a special position which is not given to animals or angels. Pico is telling us we each have our own abilities and try to reach virtue with them. Only man has the ability to do this as we are created in G-d’s image and He created us in His image so we have the abilities to be an Architect, a Craftsman, and an Artisan among other things. For many years I served as a senior official in the Florentine Republic with responsibilities in diplomatic and military affairs which helped me in reaching virtue.

Using the prevailing sentiments of the Renaissance, I wrote a “how-to” guide for successful monarchial rule based on the virtue of humanism. My philosophy is different than the medieval way of thought. No longer are people merely defined by groups; I urge readers to use their individual traits to their advantage. In essence, The Prince radiates the spirit of the Renaissance: the confidence and perseverance to own the present, to deviate the norm, and to become legendary and powerful. Additionally, The Art of War is a work on the humanist tradition of taking an historical example and learning from it. I utilize this to teach political lessons in my works.

Updated: Feb 19, 2024
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Summary: The Prevailing Sentiments Of The Renaissance. (2024, Feb 19). Retrieved from

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