Machiavelli explicitly expresses methods of how to be an efficient ruler throughout The Prince. According to Machiavelli, a ruler must do what is necessary in order to maintain power and prevent being overthrown. The most notable characteristics of a Machiavellian leader include avoiding flatterers, to be feared rather than loved, choice of secretaries, keeping people faithful, and how to rule after power is obtained by wickedness.
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He focuses on ways power is gained and how one may maintain authority as a king. A king should be merciful and effective with the use of his power. Machiavelli conveys many instances where his techniques of maintaining control have succeeded. In Hamlet, Shakespeare created a character who closely follows the principles of an effective ruler. Claudius is a great ruler who reflects the qualities of a Machiavellian leader.
While there are many methods to maintaining power as a king, it is essential to avoid flatterers. Machiavelli states in his chapter How Flatterers Should be Avoided, that Princes should be wise with whom they take guidance from in order to keep control of the kingdom. A king must be clever with his use of flattery to prevent deception and defeat. If the king is not careful, a wicked flatter’s ways may prove destructive to the king, But, like the owner of a foul disease/ To keep it from divulging, let it feed/ Even on the pith of life. Where is he gone? (4.2.22-24). Claudius avoids flatterers by flattering others himself. He uses other people to get what he desires while also keeping them truthful with him. Claudius uses Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to get information on the cause of Hamlet’s unusual behavior. In Act two, King Claudius states to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Moreover that we much did long to see you, (2.1-3). Furthermore, Claudius uses Laertes to get rid of Hamlet, whom is the ultimate threat, You have been talked of since your travel much/ And that in Hamlet’s hearing, for a quality/ Wherein they say you shine (4.7.81-83). Flattery is one of the various characteristics of an effective Machiavellian leader.
Machiavelli states that a prince should rule with mercy and cruelty, as it is better to be feared than loved. However, it is crucial to avoid becoming too cruel or merciful, as it may cause disorder within the kingdom, The other motive/ Why to a public account I might not go/ Is the great love the general gender bear him (4.7.18-20). Claudius is merciful and cruel when it is deemed necessary. For example, Claudius did not have Hamlet killed right away. Claudius did not kill him because Hamlet is his wife’s son and the people of the kingdom love Hamlet, The Queen his mother/ Lives almost by his looks, and for myself/ (My virtue or my plague, be it either which), /She is so conjunctive to my life and soul/ That, I could not by her (4.7.13-16). Claudius inflicts cruelty when necessary, while also avoiding hatred. Claudius is wise in his decisions of punishment, Yet must not we put the strong law on him. He’s loved of the distracted multitude/ Who like not in their judgment, but their eyes (4.3.3-5). Claudius was not necessarily a harsh ruler. However, when there was a need to inflict cruelty, he always planned to do so in the quickest way. In plotting to kill Hamlet, Claudius planned his death to appear as an accident, Under the which he shall not choose but fall;/ And for his death no death no wind of blame shall breathe/ Even his mother shall uncharge the practice/ And call it an accident (4.7. 73-76). Claudius was sneaky and efficient with the use of his power. His plan to make Hamlet’s death appear as an accident, shows the use of necessary cruelty and mercy.
It is important for a ruler to keep people faithful. Although there are many ways a prince may keep his people loyal, deception is essential in keeping people devoted to the throne. Loyalty from his people is not ensured if they are not kept truthful. A king must appear to be merciful, honest, and trustworthy to maintain power over his kingdom. A great deceiver gains the loyalty of people, My lord, I will be ruled/ The rather if you could devise it so/ That I might be the organ (4.7.77-79). Throughout Hamlet, Claudius deceives many people. Claudius deceives everyone by lying about the cause of King Hamlet’s death, The harlot’s cheek beautied with plast’ring art/ Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it/ Than is my deed to my most painted word. O heavy burden! (3.1.59-62). Claudius lies to protect himself and to ensure that he will keep the crown. Additionally, Claudius lies to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern about why Hamlet must die, Our sovereign process, which imports at full/ By letters congruing to that effect/ The present death of Hamlet (4.4.72-74).
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