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Analysis of Cesare Borgia in Machiavelli’s the Prince

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Using the model of Cesare Borgia in The Prince, Machiavelli proposes a new theory of virtue that is consistent with no moral standard other than what is called for by necessity. To do this, Machiavelli first discusses Cesare's virtue, and then proceeds to suggest how Cesare's virtue falls short. His interpretation of the rise and fall of Cesare's virtue in Chapter VII serves to demonstrate that Machiavellian virtue has a telos - it looks toward the end of not simply acquiring but maintaining the state. Cesare becomes the "instrument" of Machiavelli whose story is used not just to redefine virtue but to show the repercussions of this virtue for Machiavelli's chosen new prince, Lorenzo de' Medici.

Although Machiavelli closes Chapter VII by showing that Cesare's virtues are ultimately incomplete, he does not deny the prince the virtue that is due him. The example of Cesare Borgia is a parable of the prince who acquires his state through, as the chapter title states, "others' arms and fortune" - those of his father, Pope Alexander VI - but whose inheritance is neither sufficient nor complete (7.25). It is the parable of a special breed of "hereditary prince" who must become a "new prince" through his own virtue. He must "put his roots in the states that the arms and fortune of others had given him" (7.27). There are two main ideas found in this depiction of Cesare?s virtue. Virtue is necessarily adaptable, enabling one to build on what one has inherited, and it follows the trend of founding, the planting of one?s roots. The new prince must found a new order through a constant reevaluation of virtue depending on his need. However, creating this new order requires renewing ?old orders through new modes? (7.32).

What are the old orders restored through Cesare?s virtue, and what new modes does he employ? As for old orders, Machiavelli offers three. First, Cesare renews the civic order of the state. ?His cruelty restored the Romagna, united it, and reduced it to peace and to faith,? in contrast to the Florentine people who sacrifice civic order for the appearance of mercy (17.65). It is Alexander VI before him who upsets the orders of the Orsini and Colonna noble factions of Rome ?to bring disorder to their states so as to be able to make himself lord securely of part of them? (7.27). These states are disrupted on the course toward Cesare?s security, and the virtuous prince, by uniting the Romagna, rebuilds what has been destroyed in the paving of his path. In addition, Cesare renews the public order through a bond with his people. This bond takes on a spiritual dimension through a covenant between the ruler and the ruled. Cesare kills his minister Remirro de Orco to show that the cruelty Remirro exercises, indeed cruelty in general, is necessary but not unconstrained ? when its necessity passes, it will too. Remirro is sacrificed to establish this covenant, ?to purge the spirits of that people and to gain them entirely to himself? (7.30). Finally, Cesare fulfills the oldest order, that of the filial relationship and filial duty to his father Pope Alexander VI. As Cesare is used as Machiavelli?s instrument to redefine virtue, so Cesare, the new prince, is conceived as the ?instrument? of Alexander (11.46). It was Alexander who ?decided to make his son the duke great,? and Cesare has been given this task as his patrimony: to fulfill the prophecy initiated by Alexander, with his sword drawn in the image of Moses, to become ?great? (7.27).

Cesare?s virtue is no less seen in the new modes with which he renews these old orders. The duke does not depend ?on the arms and fortunes of others? (7.28). Instead, he shows the flexibility to adapt, going from auxiliary to mercenary arms until he becomes ?the total owner of his arms? (13.55). The self-sufficient nature of the prince?s virtue is supplemented by its acquisitive nature. Machiavelli constantly focuses on Cesare?s ability to ?gain? people to himself, because he understands that ?men have to be won over or lost? (72E31). This acquisition extends to the future; Cesare is not content with his present fortune. He secures himself politically for what may come through four modes: eliminating the bloodlines of lords he had offended, winning over Roman gentlemen to keep the pope in check, gaining representation in the College of Cardinals, and acquiring empire to resist attacks (7.31). The new mode with which Cesare operates is best captured in the listing Machiavelli gives at the close of Chapter VII: the mode of constant motion exhibited in the well-chosen, well-executed turn between virtue, as traditionally held, and vice. Cesare?s ability ?to secure himself against enemies, to gain friends to himself . . . to make himself loved and feared by the people . . . to be severe and pleasant, magnanimous and liberal, to eliminate an unfaithful military, to create a new

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