When my (very) Christian philosophy professor taught this book (and I question the wisdom of teaching The Prince as a philosophical text), he talked about it in such a way that clearly imparted the following sentiment: “Boy, this Machiavelli, he sure is a crazy guy! Ha ha! Better to be feared than loved; what a maroon!” He did the same thing with Nietzsche. He couldn’t help but inject his own solid philosophical stance into every book we read (basically, “Here’s a non-Christian viewpoint, but it’s wrong.”), but rather than simply condemn men like Nietzsche or Machiavelli outright, he’d approach them in such a way that instantly relegated them to the comic and cartoonish. Übermensch indeed!
I have to admit, though, that I failed to be impressed by Machiavelli. Sure, it was a landmark work for its time, but it read to me like a Bond Villains for Dummies. The only thing lacking was a chapter about slowly dipping your enemies into shark tanks. Perhaps this is merely an instance where a book’s ideas have so integrated themselves into our cultural fabric that it banishes the tome itself to irrelevancy. I hate to think I’m the sort of colicky cultural infant that scoffs at original works because of their derivative progeny, but I was truly unable to take much away from The Prince. It’s a quick read, anyway, written to be a matter-of-fact lesson in being evil while appearing good. Certainly, I could draw comparisons to modern leaders and modern philosophies, but those would be vague and not particularly applicable anyway.
Chances are, you could read a paragraph summary of The Prince and take away the same depth of knowledge as reading the whole book. If you really want to read it, it’s very short, but I personally wouldn’t recommend doing even that.