Ambition in Utopia and The Prince

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McNichol, Michaela
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Ambition in Utopia and The Prince
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Machiavelli’s The Prince is a lesson book for princes seeking to gain or to maintain power, and its cut throat advice in books IX, XV and XVIII paints society in a cynical light: the world is a battle between the great and the many, both only having one goal: to oppress or to avoid oppression (The Prince, IX). This stark observation coupled with the ruthless advice Machiavelli gives to princes illustrates that ambition is, in fact, the cornerstone of human nature. An imagined city, Utopia portrays what perfect human communalism would look like - a society of equality, where the ambitious are not allowed to rule (Utopia, 81). The sameness and oneness contrast with the way the world actually functions, and acts as a caricature to illustrate that such a way of life is impossible as it goes directly against human nature. Even in Utopia, there are laws which prohibit public officials from tyranny and from limiting the freedoms of the people; it logically follows that these laws are necessary because tyranny and the desire for power come naturally to man. Therefore, Utopia’s caricature of humanity proves that ambition is, in fact, the cornerstone of human nature (Utopia, 136). Both The Prince and Utopia clearly demonstrate that political life is a reflection of human nature, and that ambition is the key to understanding humanity.
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