The Prince: Novel Summary: Chapters 17-18

Chapter 17: Now Machiavelli considers cruelty versus clemency and fear versus love.  A good prince, he maintains, is moderately clement.  Yet a prince who shows too much mercy to his people will “allow disorders to arise, from which follow murders or robberies.” Thus, like the question of liberality versus meanness, the prince should be a combination of both.
Next, Machiavelli asserts that its “safer” for a prince to be feared than loved because men who merely love a prince but dont fear him will abandon him when the going gets tough.  The teacher explains, “love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.” Yet again, the prince must not go so far that he becomes hated, for hatred is to be avoided at all costs.
Finally, when given the choice between killing a man or taking his property, Machiavelli says that its better to kill him.  This is because the mans relatives will supposedly forget his death sooner than they will forget their stolen land.
Chapter 18: Here, Machiavelli answers the question of whether a prince should keep the faith.  He says that most good princes have not considered their religion very important because it often leads to ruin.  Though men should live by law, it is often necessary for a prince to live by force, as animals do.  Machiavelli recognizes the dual nature of man.  A good prince must be able to use both the nature of humans and that of beasts.  He must be crafty like a fox and fearsome like a lion.  The author explains, “it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves.”
A prince should keep the faith only when its beneficial.  When religion becomes a liability, he must discard it.  He should simply pretend to keep the faith, realizing that this deception is a key to his success as a ruler.  Machiavelli expounds on this idea, saying “a prince, especially a new one, cannot observe all those things for which men are esteemed, being often forced, in order to maintain the state, to act contrary to faith, friendship, humanity, and religion.” Maximilian I perfectly exemplifies this deceptive quality in a prince.