In order to become a successful Prince, Machiavelli believes you must follow certain codes and guidelines. Although these codes are technically optional, Machiavelli argues that if you ignore his suggestions, disaster will strike. When reading his rules on being a prince, I could not help but think of my writing seminar I am taking this semester. Currently in my writing seminar, we are learning and reading about Courtly love, and the rules that dominated medieval courtship. The connection between managing a kingdom and ‘falling’ in love may seem very different, however both activities involve strategies and rules. Machiavelli understood that in order to maintain your position as prince, you must contain certain qualities, however “…it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities [he] [had] enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them.” If the prince appeared to be “...merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright...” he would earn the respect of the people, especially if he was able to set these traits aside to make an executive decision on ruling. A similar idea is presented in courtly love. Just like a prince must contain characteristics for him to be accepted by the people, a potential lover must contain qualities to be worthy of loving. Men in the courts “...had to conform to a type, and his typical qualities were discretion, faithfulness, obsession, generosity, and courtesy.” Women were in control of the relationship. They decided if they would accept the man, how the relationship would unfold, and when to end it. Therefore, men had to have the qualities that women desired so that they had a better chance of having the romance they desired. The demands medieval men were under relate to the characteristic traits a prince should have to rule. For both medieval men and princes, they were required to have qualities that would cause their people (or women) to like them, and therefore make their goal of finding love or ruling that much easier.
A constant thought a prince has is “what can I do in order to stay in power?”, therefore he weighs the pros and cons, and associates himself with people that will benefit him. A prince never involves himself with something that will compromise his power, however he will involve himself in something in order to benefit himself in the long run, even if it has negative short term affects. The same concept is applied to women involving themselves in relationships. During medieval times, courting involved married women becoming romantically involved with a knight. This led to scandal, for if their relationship was made public, the woman could be sent to convent. The vengeful husband could even kill the knight for there were no laws stopping him. The danger behind being caught was extremely real and therefore, the women had to be careful and dedicate themselves to their decisions. Like a prince, a woman had to make a choice that would benefit her in the long run, rather than the short term, therefore she would wait to find a lover, or only accept the man with the best qualities. Machiavelli believes that “...Fortune is the arbiter of one-half of our actions, but that she still leaves us to direct the other half, or perhaps a little less.” Therefore, he believes that a prince has to be strong in his decisions because he can only control so much. The same goes for women finding a lover. They must be strong in their choosing of a lover, for Fortuna could possibly mess with the situation.
Finding a lover and remaining a prince are two very different activities. Although both have different goals, both use similar tactics to achieve their desires. So even though we agreed that Machiavelli was possibly a misogynist, he could possibly use his believes to “score” him a lady.