Concepts of Fortune and Virtue in the Machiavellis Prince

Both of Machiavelli’s concepts of “virtue” and “fortune” deviate from their traditional meanings and connotations. In spite of this unambiguous deviation from the traditional meanings, his concept of “fortune” yields, in some cases, some dual connotations that are endorsed with the traditional attributes “unavoidable” and “predetermined” (Kain 35). However, most part of Machiavelli’s concept of “fortune” is the determination of the concept of “virtue”. Indeed Machiavelli’s “Fortune” and “virtue” are intertwined with each other, as far as a prince is virtuous. A prince who exercises virtue incurs good fortune and discourages bad luck. Yet as fortune is, to some extent, capricious and volatile, “superior virtú does not always triumph” (Merrilee).

The fact of how Machiavelli treats the concepts of ‘virtue’ and “fortune’ engenders controversies on the point of whether fortune is what fate yields or what ‘virtue’ contributes. For Machiavelli in the first place, people at the helms of power need to be fortunate enough to make a good start for the virtuous activities to hold their power. If fortune does not support a man of power, no amount of human effort is sufficient to take him to the zenith of his goals. In this sense, Machiavelli’s ‘fortune’ appears to be one’s fate. As Machiavelli treats virtue as the qualities that assist a prince to withstand the blows fortune, it appears to be the fabrication that a human being controls with his effort. As Nederman says, “Machiavelli reinforces the association of Fortuna with the blind strength of nature by explaining that political success depends upon the appreciation of the operational principles of Fortuna” (Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy). According to Machiavelli, both good fortune and ability are necessary for a prince to hold control over the territory or states that are acquired by fortune or by ability. Fortune and ability both contribute to the mitigation of the difficulties in controlling a state or acquired territories.