ABOUT THIS BOOK
“Machiavellian”—used to describe the ruthless cunning of the power-obsessed and the pitiless—is never meant as a compliment. But the man whose name became shorthand for all that is ugly in politics was more engaging and nuanced than his reputation suggests. Christopher S. Celenza’s Machiavelli: A Portrait removes the varnish of centuries to reveal not only the hardnosed political philosopher but the skilled diplomat, learned commentator on ancient history, comic playwright, tireless letter writer, and thwarted lover.
Machiavelli’s hometown was the epicenter of the Italian Renaissance in the fifteenth century, a place of unparalleled artistic and intellectual attainments. But Florence was also riven by extraordinary violence. War and public executions were commonplace—Machiavelli himself was imprisoned and brutally tortured at the behest of his own government. These experiences left a deep impression on this keen observer of power politics, whose two masterpieces—The Prince and The Discourses—draw everywhere on the hard-won wisdom gained from navigating a treacherous world. But like many of Machiavelli’s fellow Florentines, he also immersed himself in the Latin language and wisdom of authors from the classical past. And for all of Machiavelli’s indifference to religion, vestiges of Christianity remained in his thought, especially the hope for a redeemer—a prince who would provide the stability so rare in Machiavelli’s worldly experience.
Machiavellian. The very word calls up images of plots, daggers and devious minds. Christopher Celenza separates the man from the melodrama.
-- Steven Carroll Sydney Morning Herald
Both readable and trustworthy.
-- Steve Donoghue Open Letters Monthly
Demonstrates how Machiavelli’s thoughts on conflict and leadership are relevant to today’s political world.
-- L. B. Gimelli Choice
A brief, erudite exposition of the Florentine secretary’s mores and intentions. In this accessible work, Celenza explores why Machiavelli’s The Prince continues to enthrall readers and how the author’s other, less-well-known works, such as his comedies, can help enrich the way we understand him…A compelling portrait of the life of a man ‘subject to and involved in history, who believed…that by interpreting the past sagely, one could act more fruitfully in the present.’
-- Kirkus Reviews
By setting the author of The Prince in his historical context, Christopher Celenza captures the brilliance, risk-taking, danger, and sheer exuberant delight of the Italian Renaissance. With particular sensitivity to the precise nuances of Machiavelli’s language, Celenza enables us to seize upon what continues to be relevant in his work to our own time and place.
-- Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
Celenza’s Machiavelli is a man passionately engaged in history, a scholar of the past whose interests run from the remote annals of ancient Rome to the tormented chronicles of early modern Italy, and an unflaggingly committed participant in the events of his own time. The result is a singularly humane portrait of a wise man making his way through what was often a cruel, chaotic world.
-- Ingrid Rowland, University of Notre Dame
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Renaissance, Conspiracies, Bonfires: Machiavelli’s Little-Known Youth
2. Highs and Lows: Machiavelli Emerges
3. Interlude: Machiavelli’s Letter
4. The Prince
5. Conversing with the Ancients: The Discourses
6. The Comedy of Life: Letters and Plays, Wives and Lovers