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tributed to “Marlowe's conception of Machiavelli's principle of virtù" a veritable revolutionizing of the English drama. What the Elizabethans saw in Il Principe was that which most casual readers see, — the cynical delineation of a Superman and that sneering disregard of ethics which led the contemporaries of Marlowe to derive the nickname of his Satanic Majesty from the given name of Machiavelli. Their interpretation, it goes without saying, was due in part to the garbled French version of Gentillet, on which the English edition of that period was based, for no English translation of the Italian work itself appeared until a few years before the closing of the theatres; but it is certain that the Superman element would, in any circumstances, have loomed largest in their eyes.
The sentiment of admiration, which had invaded the theatre, shared the honors with the Aristotelian principles of pity and terror; and big action, big character, big language, of a rather melodramatic and ranting type, appealed most successfully to the devotees of the playhouses. The feeling for bigness, whether commercial or political, artistic or sentimental, was in the air, and authors sought to astound. The warrior who took on the proportions of a Tamburlaine, the miser who could be as consistently and magnificently a miser as Shylock, the skeptic who had the daring of a Faustus, the politician who cherished the boundless ambitions of a Richard III or a Mortimer, the domestic villain who pursued his scheming with the ruthlessness of an Iago, best fulfilled the requirements of the popular ideal.
What were they all, nevertheless, but Supermen? What were they all but Elizabethan personifications of Machiavellian virtù ?
If we were to regard the political philosophy of Machiavelli merely as the doctrine of the Superman, it would be extremely unhandsome in us to find much fault with it at the present moment. The notion of the Superman has been naturalized among us, both academically and practically, this many a year, and the only glory accruing to Machiavelli in this instance would be that of having played the role of a precursor in positivistic political thinking. Had Il Principe been written yesterday as an analysis of the Superman in politics by some well-known political authority, it would doubtless have been accepted as a
careful, though perhaps too candid, carrying out of modern scientific principles and of advanced theories of radical philosophy. It would not, indeed, have filled the public ear with the reverberations of a Nietzschean thunderclap, but it would have merited the quiet approval of that small circle of rational beings which recognizes facts when it sees them. Unfortunately, Machiavelli did not entitle his essay the Superman, but called it the Prince and gave it a concrete application: and more unfortunately, still, he has long been at the mercy of friends, translators, and others traducers of his thought.
The friendly Foscolo, for one, palliates the crude, hard tone of Il Principe by referring it to the period in which Machiavelli, while plying the diplomatic trade, was learning the inside of political negotiations,-a period of violent fraud among all the rulers of Europe, and of decadence and impotence for the military and civic honor of Italy. There can be no question of the influence which such knowledge must have had on the essentially realistic mind of Machiavelli. National success he found most flourishing under highly centralized powers controlled by strong-willed men capable, in the Nietzschean phrase, of “transvaluating all values.” Yet the recognition of this fact need not have led him to the unmitigated cynicism laid at his door in such expressions as the following:
“It cannot be called virtue in him to kill his fellow-citizens, betray his friends, to be without faith, without pity or religion; these are ways that may get a man empire, but no glory or reputation," or, "there remains nothing of this nature to be discoursed but of Ecclesiatical Principalities, about which the greatest difficulty is to get into possession, because they are gained either by fortune or virtue, but kept without either, being supported by ancient statutes universally received in the Christian Church, which are of such power and authority they do keep their prince in his dignity, let his conversation or conduct be what it will." Had he actually been guilty of such flagrant misuse of language and such baseness of thought, all the opprobrium with which his name has been visited would be amply deserved. Fortunately for his repute, we can pronounce him innocent. His translators, from one of whom the above is taken, have unwittingly deepened
the sinister impression created by his too-early use of a scientific method in a study of mass-psychology. They have committed the gross literary crime of rendering Machiavelli's virtù by the one word in the English language with which it has no logical connection whatsoever,- virtue, by the one word which is the least suitable for conveying the multifarious meaning of the Italian, by the one word which fails most lamentably to meet Machiavelli's idea of success, and incidentally, Nietzsche's definition of happiness. It is surely something more than a haphazard coincidence that the brilliant German, who most energetically expressed what seems for some decades to have been the fervent national belief of his countrymen, should have employed that omnipresent Machiavellian term in one of his discussions of the aim of life:
“What is happiness? The feeling that power is increasing, that resistance is being overcome.
“Not contentment, but more power; not peace, but war; not virtue, but valor (virtue in the style of the Renaissance, virtù, virtue without moralic acid)”— "nicht Tugend, sondern Tüchtigkeit (Tugend im Renaissance-Stil, virtù, moralinfreie Tugend).”
II If Mr. Morley's declaration concerning the effect of Machiavelli's principle of virtù on the English drama is to receive due weight, a proper understanding of that principle becomes a prerequisite to any intelligent study of the Elizabethan stage, and, particularly, of Marlowe's plays. At the same time, it serves to distinguish clearly the two dominant doctrines of dramatic action, — the Elizabethan, centering about the will to power and the quite modern, centering about the inhibition of the will to power.
Virtù is nearly ubiquitous in Il Principe. It occurs on the first page; it occurs on the last page; and it is found 68 times in the 74 pages of the Italian text. It is frequently met in conjunction with fortuna, which is repeated 44 times. By fortuna, Machiavelli evidently wished to signify the totality of uncontrolled forces with which leaders have to reckon, since, like Nietzsche's wise man, he admits the possibility of lucky throws.' For a leader
in a limited area, that totality will be small; for a leader in a large area, it may become unlimited and almost unmanageable. The task of the man of virtù is to diminish by as much as he can the number of uncontrolled forces, and to wipe them out entirely, if possible. The latter is practically what Cæsar Borgia, Machiavelli's Superman, accomplished. There was in him that impulse to let his 'strength discharge itself,' that combination of very great versatility and very great strength in each quality, which Nietzsche considered indispensable in the Superman. He was a leader of "so much courage and virtù and knew so well how men were to be won or destroyed, and so solid were the foundations laid by him in such a short time that, if he had not had those armies on his back, or if he had been in good health, he would have overcome every difficulty.” His failure to reach his ultimate goal, the mastery of all Italy, was, in the judgment of Machiavelli, due to “an extraordinary and extreme malignity of fortuna."
The career of Cæsar Borgia is well known. The will to power was his master-faculty. He had early decided to depend entirely on himself, instead of making use of the arms of others, and had lured into his service, by means of honors, gold, and official positions, the well-born adherents of his opponents. The members of the hostile house of Colonna he had scattered, thereby minimizing the power of each, and the Orsini he had supplanted before they were aware of what had happened. When in need of help to quell rebellions, he called on the French, and when the danger had passed, he turned his back on them. To strengthen his position at one period, he became reconciled with the Orsini, and later, under the guise of friendship, had them delivered into his hands. The masses he won over by a taste of prosperity. To overcome the insolence and the robbery committed on the common people by the nobles of Romagna, he saddled on the province a strict and cruel governor. Having gained his end, and finding it now expedient to propitiate some of his enemies, he had his governor assassinated on the public square. Fearing that the next Pope might be his enemy, he put to death such of the despoiled nobles as might have been restored by His Holiness. In furtherance of his plans, he formed
a party of his own in the College of Cardinals, and made friends with the Roman nobility, so as to be able to check the Pope whenever necessary. The French and the Spaniards he played against each other. As soon as the coast was clear, he seized Pisa, Lucca, and Sienna. He was close to the pinnacle of success, when a dangerous and lasting illness brought him low. “Had the Duke been in health at the time of Alexander's death,” comments Machiavelli, “everything would have gone well with him ; for he said to me on the day when Julius II was created Pope, that he had provided for everything that could possibly occur in case of his father's death, except that he had never thought that at that moment he should himself be so near dying." His only blameworthy act, according to his eulogist, consisted in the election of Pope Julius II whom, while Cardinal, he had offended and caused to fear him. In all other respects, Machiavelli would hold Duke Valentine up as the ideal of those who aspire to sovereignty through the possession of a remarkable virtù.
The virtù of Cæsar Borgia resides in a cold, calculating manipulation of men and events for political aggrandizement. It considers men as forces and not as human beings : and toward these forces, the exponent of virtù must maintain the attitude of the physicist or the mathematician. He must know them with precision, must be able to compute what they will add up to, must never delude himself into assuming that they are anything except forces, and must refrain from letting others understand that his theory of society is not purely human, sympathetic, sentimental, and even lachrymose. It presupposes, of course, a nice judgment as to how far men may be driven and how far led. It means the playing of leaders against one another, or the playing of foreign allies or enemies against one another. It includes the seeking of outside help when such help is needed, and the forgetting of such help when the occasion has passed. It permits of bloody deeds, treachery, bribery. At the same time, it absolutely demands high personal courage. Cæsar Borgia's virtù is the doctrine of expediency in its most objective, heartless form.
It may, nevertheless, be productive of good, for it may save a country or maintain a people in prosperity: and that, it is obligatory on us to remember, is Machiavelli's sole