The Funny Thing About Niccolo Machiavelli, According To Harvey C. Mansfield

One of my favourite books on Niccolo Machiavelli is Machiavelli’s Virtue by the Havard University Professor of Government, Harvey C. Mansfield.

Machiavelli’s Virtue is unlike any other book in its field. Virtually every page has something to offer by way of arresting comment or unique insight.

In a nutshell, Harvey C. Mansfield “gets” Machiavelli.

It is well known that Machiavelli applied his political insights to the farcical wranglings of comic drama, as well as writing histories and political tracts such as The Prince and The Discourses in which his sardonic wit is also to be found.

However, Harvey C. Mansfield pushes his analysis of the mechanics of humour in the serious works much further and in so doing provides us with a remarkable insight into Machiavelli‘s method and doctrine.

Reading Machiavelli will never be the same again:

…no paragraph in The Prince and The Discourses has been understood until you have found something funny in it. If you are not in more or less constant amusement when reading Machiavelli’s books, you should consider yourself bewildered. This is not to say that Machiavelli’s true meaning is a joke; it is rather that Machiavelli sees grave things as ridiculous because they are manipulable by men, and yet grave because they answer human necessities.

Here is a 3 hour video discussion with Harvey Mansfield, in which he discusses his life and work and responds to telephone calls, faxes, and email from viewers.