Short interpretive essay (no more than 1200 words) on an assigned topic in Machiavelli. You must place the word count at the head of the essay. You will be penalized five points for every 100 excess words or portion thereof (1-100 words excess will cost you five points).
CHOOSE ONE OF THE FOLLOWING TOPICS:
In Chapter III of The Prince, King Louis XII of France, a prince, furnishes an example of repeated failure, while the ancient Roman republic furnishes one of recurrent success. The other princes of Machiavelli’s day are also almost always adduced as examples of failure, whether splendid like Cesare Borgia or paltry like Oliverotto da Fermo. This being the case, we might suppose that Machiavelli wished to foster republics in the Italy of his day. Does Chapter V support this supposition? It certainly contains high praise for republics. But you’ll want to consider the argument of the chapter as a whole, including the context of this praise, as well as the placement of the chapter between Chapters IV and VI. At what do republics excel, and at what do great princes like those of Chapter VI excel? Might Machiavelli have some reason to be dissatisfied with contemporary Italian republics? Might he doubt that they are up to the crucial task facing the Italians of his day, namely the reunification of their country?
In answering these questions feel free to draw on whatever chapters seem to you to be relevant to them. You will be judged on your overall understanding of Machiavelli, your success at answering the questions posed, and the clarity of your thought, your expression, and the organization of your argument. You are not required to use any secondary sources in preparing this essay.
Here’s a topic that should delight any Spaniards in the class. Of the many characters in the Prince who were contemporaries of Machiavelli, by far the most successful would appear to be Ferdinand, King of Aragon and later Castile, who can be called “an almost new prince” because despite beginning as a weak ruler he had become “first king among the Christians” (Chapter 21). Among Ferdinand’s other projects was to sponsor the voyages of Christopher Columbus, but that need not concern you here. Your assignment is to interpret the significance of Ferdinand for the unfolding argument of the Prince. What possibility does he disclose unique to him among the characters in the work? How is he related to other key characters? (You might find it particularly useful to compare him with Cesare Borgia, on the one hand, and with Machiavelli himself, on the other.) Because Machiavelli proceeds partly by keywords or cross-references, you’ll want to note the relevant ones here, for example, that a certain deed of Ferdinand is described as one “than which nothing is rarer,” and that this same deed is characterized as one of “pious cruelty” (pietosa crudeltà, which recalls the title of Chapter 17.
You will be judged on your overall understanding of Machiavelli, your success at interpreting this particular passage of Chapter 21 within the context furnished by the work as a whole (including Machiavelli’s other references to Ferdinand), and the clarity of your thought, your expression, and the organization of your argument. You are not required to use any secondary sources in preparing this essay (although it might help to familiarize yourself with the basic facts of the life of Ferdinand).
REMEMBER THAT WHICHEVER TOPIC YOU CHOOSE YOU HAVE JUST 1200 WORDS TO SPEND ON IT, AND THAT YOU MUST PLACE THE WORD COUNT AT THE HEAD OF YOUR ESSAY. YOU WILL BE PENALIZED FIVE POINTS FOR EVERY 100 EXCESS WORDS OR PORTION THEREOF (I.E., 1-100 EXCESS WORDS WILL COST YOU FIVE P0INTS, 100-199 EXCESS WORDS, TEN POINTS). IT’S IMPORTANT TO LEARN TO WRITE CONCISELY.
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