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POINT OF VIEW

If you read the chapters carefully, you may notice that Machiavelli occasionally switches his point of view. Try to pay attention to the literary person in which he writes, because it may help you decide how to interpret the passage. When he uses the personal pronoun I-as in Chapter 14 when he says, "I say that on the side of the conspirator there is nothing but fear"- he is presenting himself as a knowledgeable expert who can give informed advice and make predictions based on experience.


When he writes you-"You must know, then, that as soon as the Roman Empire began to lose its power... Italy became subdivided into a number of states" (Chapter 12)- he is addressing his intended reader, Lorenzo de' Medici, and is either imparting gentle reminders (to a "superior") of the historical past or stern judgments on the Italian present. And when he speaks of they-"They know not how to command, having never occupied any but private stations" (Chapter 7)- he is referring to past rulers, military leaders, or political figures who have failed in their use of authority and leadership.

By keeping the "person" in mind as you read the book, you should find it easier to determine when Machiavelli is saying things he intends for Lorenzo's ear only, or when he's speaking to the general reader with references to specific events, episodes, or personalities that have helped fashion his own political views.

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