When reading and interpreting Machiavelli?s, The Prince and his Discourses, one must consider the time and motive for Machiavelli?s words. He is trying to explain how to be an effective and great leader, while trying to restore Roman ancient virtue. Machiavelli believes that one may use whatever means necessary in order to restore ancient Roman virtue, and displays these thoughts in his works. While reading his writings, one must understand that Machiavelli?s view is that fratricide is not an end but is the means.
Machiavelli believes that in order to be a great leader, one must not be too kind or generous: for generosity, liberality, clemency, and mercy may lead people to think of one as weak. This may cause more disorder than order. On the other hand, shrewdness and minimal acts of cruelty, especially in the beginning of ones reign, are what leads a leader to greatness. If one sends signals of cruelty early in reign, than it is possible that less acts of cruelty will be needed later.
To Machiavelli, great does not mean morally good. One cannot be a morally good leader if you are planning to be a considered a great leader. More or less, murder is needed to be considered a great leader, but the least amount of violence used makes the most effective leader. Machiavelli believes that Rome was founded on fratricide and rape and are justified if the restoration of Roman civic virtue occurs. In Machiavelli?s Discourses Machaivell says that Romulus actions are justified for killing his brother Remus because he saw a golden age. Machiavelli believes you should use whatever means are needed to obtain goals, since goodness and greatness are not possible.