The intricate and multifaceted nature of texts allows composers to express their ideas in such a way that they have an influence on people’s perspectives. It also provides a means to either subvert or conform to the ideologies of the time. The treatment of personal morality, due to repercussions of personal morality, does not influence the nature of the texts, though it to an extent reveals similarities in terms of concerns and reinforces those ideas throughout the texts through their respective textual structures.
Both Machiavelli’s The Prince and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar share the concepts of power, human nature and the nation state. Through the contextual foundations of the texts, they explore and conform to the ideas and values of their contemporary period. Both texts were written during the Renaissance period; a period where there was a shift away from religion towards secularism due to the humanist way of thinking. The authors have been successful in serving a quintessential and didactic purpose to explore these concepts through various language forms and features and hence provide an interrelation between the texts that is apparent.
The Renaissance period comprised of political instability and ephemeral power due to the leaders inability and lack of understanding in maintaining control. Machiavelli was arrested on a charge of conspiracy in 1513, but was later given amnesty by Medici when he took the position of papacy. Machiavelli wrote The Prince under house arrest, as a gift to de’ Medici to regain the position in politics. Machiavelli commented that there was no moral basis on which the dichotomy between the legitimate and the illegitimate use of power could be established.
The Prince was written in prose dissertation with simple syntax to provide a conversational tone and indirectly question Medici’s intellect. Machiavelli renders this concept of power through traits evident in humans but most importantly leaders. “Men… are ungrateful/Wish to maintain… position… to not to be good” is indicative of men who are desirous for power and the extent to which they go to ‘maintain’ it. The negative connotation of’ungrateful expresses the flaw of humans, and their lack of appreciation. They shun danger” articulates, through the lexicon of ‘shun’ and exclusive language of ‘they’ as a commentary on the cowardly behaviour of leaders to face danger. This quote demonstrates the irony of Julius Caesar as despite the warnings given by his wife and the Soothsayer, Caesar goes to parliament, consequently leading to his downfall. “We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar” indicates, through the inclusive language of’we’, the attitude of Brutus towards Caesar and hence reinforcing the notion of power.
This further demonstrates Brutus’s personal morality as self-aggrandising, therefore allowing his actions to be hypocritical. Brutus’s attempt to “purify” the murder through a ritual subverts his appeal for power, as he is unable to justify his actions accentuating the political instability that existed during the Renaissance. Through the efflorescence of art, this being a cultural change in the Elizabethan period, Shakespeare was able to describe the current state of Britain, and demonstrate, through the dramatic play, how Queen Elizabeth I reigned for 45 years and lacked heirs, similar to Caesar.
In Antony’s funeral speech, the satirical repetition of Brutus: “the noble Brutus” furnished with the ironic rhetoric of “Brutus is an honourable man” reflects the corrupt humanist qualities that have been used as a facade against the external threats, allowing Shakespeare to reaffirm England’s need for a powerful and stable monarchy. Shakespeare expressed concerns of society through the plays narrative.
Thus, both texts reveal similarities in terms of the shared idea, but the personal morality of the characters, and the context of the composers, renders the reatment to reinforce the texts distinctive qualities with respect to their textual structures. Human nature is an aspect of power that essentially corrupts the intentions of leaders, with pride being an aspect of human nature that is self-destructive. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar when Caesar says “No, Caesar shall not. Danger knows full well that Caesar is more dangerous than he”: suggests, through the third person perspective combined with the comparison of ‘than’, that hubris is detrimental to any leader.
Shakespeare was trying to express the current state of London, as well as the world outside of London, and assure the populace that a powerful monarch that did not get enveloped by human passion was imperative. He was reassuring them of the political instability that existed prior to Elizabeth’s rei appealing to the fear of the unknown and raising the question of the type of monarch after Queen Elizabeth’s demise. Elizabeth brought about both political and economic stability during her reign; a leader such as Elizabeth was necessary for the well-being of the nation.
Furthermore, it is explicit when “Caesar… I know… would not be… sheep… he were… lion” is an implication, through the imperative ‘I know’, that the individuals in power would not want to be considered a ‘sheep’ but rather a lion. This is an allusion to Machiavelli’s The Prince, when he metaphorically states, through the animal imagery, that a leader needs to possess traits of both the “fox and the lion”, and how it is implicit within humans.
Likewise, “A prudent man should always follow in the path trodden by great men and imitate those who are most excellent” implies, through the authoritative tone of’should always’, that leaders ‘should emulate successful leaders as they can be considered ‘prudent’ and demonstrate the lack or absence of pride within themselves. Machiavelli’s use of historical reference to” Alexander the Great”, establishes the need to follow prosperous leaders, and depicts through this reference that unity guides leaders to success. To reveal similarities, the authors employ similar notions, addressed through different textual structures to reinforce the texts’ istinctive qualities.
The safeguarding of any society is essentially the responsibility of the nation state. The nation state needs to be able to accommodate for the populace to increase credibility and retain power for a prolonged period. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the nation-state is portrayed as the source of liberty for the masses. “So often shall the knot of us be called ‘The men that gave their country liberty” suggests, through the use of inclusive language of’us’, that the successful liberation of the country is a group achievement rather than a singular success.
It allows leaders to subvert the perceptions of the populace and allow them to consider the actions of the nation state. This can be associated with Machiavelli’s statement: “the ends justifying the means”. This signifies that the conspirators’ action of killing Caesar is for the ‘liberty’ of “their country’, something that is beneficial for both the populace and the conspirators in terms of personal morality and the obtaining of power. Mark Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral depicts illuminates his personal morality as worthy of leadership.
This is evident through the repetition of “honourable” where he mocks Brutus’s actions and claims that Caesar was not ‘honourable’. Mark Antony utilises his morality to reveal the truth in front of the masses, hence diminishing the populace’s faith within Brutus. Queen Elizabeth I brought the whole of the country over in theory and practice to the protestant faith. She created a church that pleased no one but had enough of the reformed ideology to keep the reformers happy and enough of the conservative ideology to keep the silent majority also happy.
This religious change during the Elizabethan Era is an example of the nation-state satisfying the masses to retain control. Similarly, in Machiavelli’s The Prince, the nation state is accentuated as a fundamental aspect of any successful leadership. Machiavelli suggests that the nation state needs to destroy the current state to avoid any uprisings or revolts and then establish laws and rules that can govern the state. Machiavelli states this as the underlining rule to governing state that has currently been taken over. Machiavelli considers the “Church State” as an ideal nation state. This is primarily because of the church states “strong and well-established ancient religious institutions”. This implies, through the lexicon of ‘strong’ and ‘well-established’, that traditional means of ruling are the epitome of successful leadership and that power as a group is much more effective than a single leader. Machiavelli wrote The Prince as a ‘handbook’ on how to maintain power.
This novel consists of a didactic tone complemented by a counselling tone to reinforce Machiavelli’s role as an advisor as well as to critique Medici’s intellectual ability. The concept of the nation state is parallel amongst the two texts due to the indirect treatment of personal morality. Hence, personal morality is used as a means of personal gain. The difference in textual structures exhibits the differences in the use of personal morality and reinforces the texts’ distinctive qualities.
The treatment of personal morality is utilised to an extent as the repercussions are long term and due to the positions of the authors in their individual society. Both, Machiavelli’s The Prince and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, share the themes of power, human nature, and the nation state due to the limited use of personal morality. This has allowed them to reveal similarities, due to the shared context of the Renaissance period, and they have been successful in reinforcing the texts’ distinctive qualities through various language forms and features.