Be Like the Fox
Since the publication of The Prince five centuries ago, Machiavelli has been associated with political amorality. But that characterization is unfair. In Be Like the Fox, Erica Benner sets the record straight: far from the ruthless "Machiavellian" henchman that people think he was, Machiavelli emerges here as a profound ethical thinker who fought to uphold high moral standards and restore the democratic freedoms of his beloved Florence.Shaking the dust from history, Benner masterfully interweaves Machiavelli's words with those of his friends and enemies, giving us a biography with all the energy of fiction. Through dialogues and diaries, we witness dramatic episodes, including Savonarola's fiery sermons against the elite in Florence's piazza, Machiavelli's secret negotiations with Caterina Sforza at the court of Forli, and the Florentines' frantic preparations to resist Pope Julius's plan to over-throw their Republic.Benner relates how Machiavelli rose as an advisor in the Florentine Republic, advancing the city's interests as a diplomat and military strategist, only to become a political pariah when the Republic was defeated. His egalitarian politics made him an enemy of the Medici family, and his secular outlook put him at odds with religious zealots. But he soon learned to mask his true convictions, becoming a great artist of foxlike dissimulation. Machiavelli's masterpiece, The Prince, was in fact a critique of princely power, but the critique had to be veiled, written as it was after the Medici triumphed over the Republic.In Be Like the Fox, the most accurate and compelling portrait of Machiavelli yet, Benner recounts the gripping story of a brilliant political thinker, showing that Machiavelli's ideas--about democratic institutions, diplomacy, and freedom--are more important than ever.

Be Like the Fox Details

TitleBe Like the Fox
Author
FormatHardcover
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 9th, 2017
PublisherW. W. Norton & Company
ISBN0393609723
ISBN-139780393609721
Number of pages384 pages
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Politics, Biography

Be Like the Fox Review

  • Laura
    March 23, 2017
    From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the week:A new interpretation on the importance of The Prince in Machiavelli's life and subsequent reputation.His name has of course become a by-word for political machination, but this new biography by Erica Benner challenges the notions that Machiavelli was simply a satanic cynic.She suggests that, in context, he emerges as his era's staunchest champion of liberty who refused to compromise his ideals to fit the corrupt times in which he lived. As often as he advocate From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the week:A new interpretation on the importance of The Prince in Machiavelli's life and subsequent reputation.His name has of course become a by-word for political machination, but this new biography by Erica Benner challenges the notions that Machiavelli was simply a satanic cynic.She suggests that, in context, he emerges as his era's staunchest champion of liberty who refused to compromise his ideals to fit the corrupt times in which he lived. As often as he advocates extreme measures for dealing with the enemy, he actually balances this with respect for the law in sentences such as "victories are never secure without some respect, especially for justice" and "cities have never expanded either in dominion or in riches if they have not been in freedom."So this book is an attempt to redress the balance.Read by Toby JonesWritten by Erica BennerAbridged by Polly ColesProducer: Clive BrillA Brill production for BBC Radio 4.http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08k1stv
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  • Roman Clodia
    March 27, 2017
    This is very much a political biography rather than a personal one, a 'life and times' of Machiavelli rather than a psychological study of the man. Benner builds on a solid scholarly foundation of primary sources and delivers from them a lively, mostly accessible, account of the struggles for power in Florence during Machiavelli's lifetime. In some ways, this is another rise and fall of the Medici with interventions from Savonarola and Cesare Borgia at various parts of the history. Machiavelli h This is very much a political biography rather than a personal one, a 'life and times' of Machiavelli rather than a psychological study of the man. Benner builds on a solid scholarly foundation of primary sources and delivers from them a lively, mostly accessible, account of the struggles for power in Florence during Machiavelli's lifetime. In some ways, this is another rise and fall of the Medici with interventions from Savonarola and Cesare Borgia at various parts of the history. Machiavelli himself, not always as central as Benner might wish, works as a diplomat, helps establish a short-lived citizen army, then falls foul of the ruling powers and comments from the margins via plays, poetry and political discourses.Benner is very positive, almost hagiographical, about her subject but it's difficult to get a sense of the 'real' man - not necessarily her fault as the period doesn't lend itself to displays of interiority, but disappointing all the same. We know he marries and has five children, we hear briefly of his infatuation with a courtesan, but the book focuses on his political personality, his politicised friendships such as that with Francesco Vettori.It's not new, of course, to read The Prince as irony but there are contradictory moments such as when Machiavelli asks the advice of his friends as to whether he should present it to Guiliano de'Medici (p.247), odd if it's intended as an exposé of the Medici family's political manipulations?Benner has a jaunty style of writing: the narrative is in the present tense with embedded quotations distinguished typographically according to who is 'speaking' (italics for Machiavelli himself, bold for Savonarola's ranting, for example). There are places where the complications of wars and changing alliances between France, the papal powers, Florence and other Italian city states get a little hard to keep hold of and a historical time-line would have been handy for quick look-ups. Overall, though, this is a lively, intelligent and enjoyable re-look at Machiavelli's role in Florentine politics.I read a review copy via Amazon Vine.
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  • Michael McAllister
    May 20, 2017
    First rate work.....This is a most fascinating and scholarly treatment of the life, writings and travails of a man most defamed by history. He was not understood as the humanistic and pragmatic thinker he undoubtedly was. Many thanks to the author for revealing the true purport of his writing.
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