Compare and Contrast Essay on More’s “Utopia” and Machiavelli’s “The Prince”
Sir Thomas More’s “Utopia” and Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince” have certain similarities. The two texts have differences too.
More’s “Utopia” and Machiavelli’s “The Prince” are similar in the sense that both texts are about leadership. Utopia discusses utopian rule that would establish a society with qualities such as communal property, classless, high productivity and no poverty. On the other hand, The Prince favors autocratic rule that emphasizes power. One of the differences that stand out between the forms of leadership that the two texts endorse is the issue of war. Utopia favors a leadership that has little inclination to war whereas The Prince endorses a leadership that has particular emphasis on war craft and maintaining a strong military. The Prince explains that war is a viable route of gaining power (More 3).
Utopia diverges from The Prince in the sense that while the former favors rationality, the latter views rationality as detrimental for government. In Utopia the character, Hythloday, includes rational thought as one of the as one of the foundational pillars of a utopian society. This contradicts Machiavelli’s warning against lofty ideas claiming that they crush government. Both texts discuss virtue but the view it differently. Utopia views immoral behavior as not good, The Prince asserts that whereas certain virtues are desirable in the own right, there are vicious actions that are necessary for the welfare of the state. According to The Prince, an appearance of virtue is what is good but not the actual virtue (Machiavelli 4).
It is noteworthy that both texts allude to real people and places. Utopia is refers to King Henry VIII and explorer Amerigo Vespucci. It also mentions places such as England, Asia and New World that is today’s America. The Prince mentions Lorenzo de’ Medici, ruler of Florence, and Italy. Utopia implies collective conscience with its idea of common property, claiming that it is more powerful than private property is inferior to common property. On the other hand, The Prince implies free will that is an element more manifest in the individualism and private property than communalism and common property (More 23).
Utopia appears to benefit both the ruler and the follower but largely the follower. On the other hand, the autocratic leadership that The Prince prescribes seems to benefit the ruler more than the follower. In fact, the text implicitly portrays a leader’s act of goodwill as being selfish and only meant to obtain and maintain power. Whereas Utopia ends with More endorsing some of the elements of the utopian leadership and rejecting others, The Prince ends with the narrator endorsing Lorenzo de’ Medici as the hope of restoring Italy. In a way, the narrator of The Prince views Lorenzo de’ Medici as the embodiment of the ideas he discusses and as such, he would endorse them (Machiavelli 37).
In conclusion, the two texts have a similarity in the fact that both discuss leadership. Another similarity with two texts is that they discuss virtue. Utopia emphasizes utopian leadership whereas The Prince emphasizes autocratic leadership. The two texts diverge in their view of rationality with Utopia emphasizing it and The Prince downplaying it.
More, Thomas. Utopia. New York: Dover Publications, 2011.Print.
Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. Rockville, Md.: Arc Manor Publishers, 2007. Print.