Machiavelli's The Prince: A Neglected Rhetorical Classic

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1980


“Throughout the history of its influence, people have found Machiavelli's The Prince to be many things, but a work of rhetoric has rarely been one of them. Two recent readings, however, especially when juxtaposed, suggest the value and timeliness of exploring its rhetorical dimensions. Kenneth Burke has treated the lessons of The Prince as instruction for an "administrative rhetoric," a method of persuading subjects and other states through both verbal and non-verbal weapons, while J.G.A. Pocock has read it as a treatise on political innovation and stabilization.[…]I propose a reading of The Prince that builds on Burke's and Pocock's partial accounts to produce an understanding of the entire text. Considering The Prince as a piece of rhetorical invention will show the connection between an administrative rhetoric and a concern for stable innovation, and it will connect both those ideas to the text.”