A Florentine bureaucrat of the late 15th and early 16th century has continued to fascinate politicians, scholars, and the public alike. Although he witnessed at close hand the deeds of both hapless and ruthless European rulers of the Renaissance that resulted in devastating wars for the Italian peninsula, it is not the life but rather the words of Niccolò Machiavelli that have earned him fame—and infamy. Both types of notoriety derive from his most well-known work, his small treatise The Prince.

In this online seminar, led by scholar Vickie Sullivan, fellows will carefully study this classic text to understand Machiavelli’s account of virtue and the low, but solid ground on which he recommends we construct our political regimes. The chronology in The Prince (pp. xxix–xxxi) and the indexes and glossaries in both works can assist in elucidating the particular characters, incidents, and key terms one finds in his writings. In particular, fellows explore the following themes and terms: founding, corruption, renewal, fortune vs. virtue, ordinary vs. extraordinary, appearance vs. truth, nature, necessity, acquisition, glory, and prudence.

Image: Statue of Niccolo Machiavelli, Circa 1500

Vickie Sullivan on Machiavelli & Religion


Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is the Cornelia M. Jackson Professor of Political Science and teaches and studies political thought and philosophy.  She also maintains teaching and research interests in politics and literature. She has published extensively on Montesquieu and Machiavelli and is the co-editor of  Shakespeare’s Political Pageant.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session

Other Courses You Might Be Interested In

Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Meditate on the nature of political authority with one of Shakespeare's greatest plays.

Thucydides and Today’s Challenges

Read Thucydides as a series of case studies, setting up a discussion of contemporary strategic problems.

Religion & Politics

Consider the proper role of religion in public life.

Vasily Grossman’s Life & Fate

Read the novel known as the Soviet War & Peace, and reflect on the nature of totalitarianism.

Shakespeare’s Prince & Tyrant

Explore the political and religious contexts of Shakespeare's plays.

Foundations of Political Philosophy

Explore the differences between ancient and modern political philosophy, with a focus on texts by Aristotle and Machiavelli.