I am grateful that Miles Unger has written this new biography of Machiavelli which reveals much about his life, as well as addressing the many mischaracterizations of the man and his work.
Unger shows us, through Machiavelli’s letters to his friends and colleagues, that the man so often identified as an unscrupulous tutor of tyrants was a dedicated republican motivated by an unfailing patriotism (for Florence specifically, and Italy more generally). Mr Unger shows us that those who judge Machiavelli solely on the basis of The Prince and their interpretation of it are missing the man.This biography also demonstrates an aspect of Machiavelli - the aspect which has always drawn me to Machiavelli - crucial to his entire outlook: his study of politics from the stand point of the lessons of history (ancient or contemporary) for an understanding of how the art/science of politics is actually conducted, as well as the nature of how man is, rather than how he should be.
Miles Unger also illuminates an aspect of Machiavelli’s life and work which is often ignored: his plays, poetry and fictional works. Machiavelli’s observations about life and overall philosophy, which can be found his political volumes, are found in these humorous observations about the world. Perhaps his most famous play is La Mandragola (The Mandrake) [pdf]. You cannot find this in any bookstore, although you can readily find the plays of Ayn Rand (an unfortunate situation on many accounts, imho). There is also his short novel Belphagor about a devil who comes to Earth and marries to discover if women are to blame for men’s troubles. In all his works, Machiavelli pulls back the curtain and shows us (or rather, at the time, Florentines and Italians) who we really are with all our faults.
For me, this biography offered a new perspective, and if I dare say, a justification of my own opinions, of this demonized philosopher of whom I have become most enamoured.