Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 September 2013
An understanding of Machiavelli's assessment of Cesare Borgia in The Prince is essential for interpreting his view of politics, but the ambiguity of that assessment has led to vastly different conclusions about Machiavelli's political teaching and Cesare's significance. We approach Machiavelli's ultimate intentions through a consideration of his more immediate concern for Italy. Machiavelli's great interest in Cesare and his criticism of this potential hero stem from the historical context of an Italy divided due to the Church. Cesare possessed—yet squandered—an opportunity to rid Italy of the evils plaguing it by killing his father, Pope Alexander, and by eliminating the College of Cardinals. Machiavelli's suggested denouement to the plot of The Prince is an assault on the ecclesiastical power. He invites his reader to contemplate the vulnerability of the Church and to act where Cesare and others shrank. Machiavelli ultimately counsels us to break our reliance on God or fortune and thus create the conditions for a reinvigorated civil life.