Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli In His World by Erica Benner

Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli In His World

Since the publication of The Prince five centuries ago, Machiavelli has been associated with political amorality. But that characterization is unfair. In Be Like the Fox, Erica Benner sets the record straight: far from the ruthless "Machiavellian" henchman that people think he was, Machiavelli emerges here as a profound ethical thinker who fought to uphold high moral stand...

Title:Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli In His World
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0393609723
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:384 pages

Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli In His World Reviews

  • Laura
    Mar 23, 2017
  • Roman Clodia
    Mar 27, 2017

    This is very much a political biography rather than a personal one, a 'life and times' of Machiavelli rather than a psychological study of the man. Benner builds on a solid scholarly foundation of primary sources and delivers from them a lively, mostly accessible, account of the struggles for power in Florence during Machiavelli's lifetime.

    In some ways, this is another rise and fall of the Medici with interventions from Savonarola and Cesare Borgia at various parts of the history. Machiavelli h

    This is very much a political biography rather than a personal one, a 'life and times' of Machiavelli rather than a psychological study of the man. Benner builds on a solid scholarly foundation of primary sources and delivers from them a lively, mostly accessible, account of the struggles for power in Florence during Machiavelli's lifetime.

    In some ways, this is another rise and fall of the Medici with interventions from Savonarola and Cesare Borgia at various parts of the history. Machiavelli himself, not always as central as Benner might wish, works as a diplomat, helps establish a short-lived citizen army, then falls foul of the ruling powers and comments from the margins via plays, poetry and political discourses.

    Benner is very positive, almost hagiographical, about her subject but it's difficult to get a sense of the 'real' man - not necessarily her fault as the period doesn't lend itself to displays of interiority, but disappointing all the same. We know he marries and has five children, we hear briefly of his infatuation with a courtesan, but the book focuses on his political personality, his politicised friendships such as that with Francesco Vettori.

    It's not new, of course, to read

    as irony but there are contradictory moments such as when Machiavelli asks the advice of his friends as to whether he should present it to Guiliano de'Medici (p.247), odd if it's intended as an exposé of the Medici family's political manipulations?

    Benner has a jaunty style of writing: the narrative is in the present tense with embedded quotations distinguished typographically according to who is 'speaking' (italics for Machiavelli himself, bold for Savonarola's ranting, for example). There are places where the complications of wars and changing alliances between France, the papal powers, Florence and other Italian city states get a little hard to keep hold of and a historical time-line would have been handy for quick look-ups. Overall, though, this is a lively, intelligent and enjoyable re-look at Machiavelli's role in Florentine politics.

    I read a review copy via Amazon Vine.

  • Michael McAllister
    May 20, 2017

    This is a most fascinating and scholarly treatment of the life, writings and travails of a man most defamed by history. He was not understood as the humanistic and pragmatic thinker he undoubtedly was. Many thanks to the author for revealing the true purport of his writing.

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