“The notion that The Prince is what it pretends to be, a scientific manual for tyrants, has to contend not only against Machiavelli’s life but against his writings, as, of course, everyone who wants to use The Prince as a centerpiece in an exposition of Machiavelli’s political thought has recognized…”
Mattingly (wikipedia), a historian, argues that this short work of Machiavelli’s overshadows his attempts at plays, poems and prose, and overlooks the following:
“‘…Popular rule is always better than the rule of princes.’ This is not just a casual remark. It is the main theme of the Discorsi and the basic assumption of all but one of Machiavelli’s writings, as it was the basic assumption of his political career.”
Well, perhaps Machiavelli did really believe in the traditional virtues (Christian, Aristotelian?) and thus did not truly question those traditional beliefs…
…and instead perhaps The Prince should be viewed more as work of art in the vein of his other works (and not as philosophy necessarily?) as Mattingly argues…
You’ll encounter extremely profound and highly practical advice for those who find themselves in power. I’ve heard it argued that he was quite moral (I’m not entirely convinced), in that he encouraged wise rule by compiling such insight all in one place. (see the previous post on justice and Thrasymachus).
Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy’s Machiavelli entry, which begins with an argument as to why it’s necessary to include him.