Wednesday, December 05, 2007


While reading, The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, came across this:
"Men in general are ungrateful, voluble dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain; as long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours; they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote; but when it approaches, they revolt." "If men were all good, this precept* would not be a good one; but as they are bad, and would not observe their faith with you, so you are not bound to keep faith with them."

* A prudent ruler ought not keep faith when by so doing it would be against his interest, and when the reasons, which made him bind himself no longer exist.

And, of course, this came to the mind instantly like a rebuttal:

"What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so."

Hamlet- William Shakespeare
While one is worshipped and his works are considered not merely as works of art but also human documents and to quote Bernard Shaw ‘one must not trifle with Shakespeare’ the other, Machiavelli has become an adjective because, to my mind, of the wrong interpretation of his works. Both the definitions (though you can hardly say Machiavelli is defining Man as such) are interesting because of differences in the perspective. I mean, don’t you think they are in a sense defining themselves. Going by those words of Machiavelli, my mental picture of him would be of a person who was greedy and ambitious, suspicious and cynical, insecure and hence distrustful. But the image of Hamlet and thereof Shakespeare would be that of an idealist, disillusioned dreamer.
I know, in no way can one compare Shakespearean world with that of Machiavelli’s but I cannot help from doing it. There was this stupid 'kahawat' that I had pasted in my room during my college days in spite of my not so affability with that Language which goes something like this:
Zindagi Se Tum Haske Milo; O Tumse Muskurake Milti Hai.
Does it all depend, then, on how we look at the world? Does it boil down to the individual finally?
The worlds created by Shakespeare can never be considered as monstrous. There’s something tragical about almost all the villainous characters. They are so fresh and strange and hence become in a way precious. Machiavelli was a bitter man writing to win back his passage. Though there are gems of wisdom (more on that later),as a work of analysis of Statesmanship and Power it fails to impress as much. The premise on which it is written is that the world is a treacherous place waiting to be conquered by men of tact and great understanding. And one can hardly expected to accept such a view-point.

PS: BTW you can check your mach level here. I got high machs of 77. Can it be attributed to my machiavellian instinct?!

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