Machiavelli's The Prince Discussion Questions

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

After reading 'The Prince' by Machiavelli, use these discussion questions to help high school students think critically about the plot and themes of the book. This guide will help students formulate their own opinion of the book.

The Prince by Machiavelli

In 1532, Niccolo Machiavelli's book entitled The Prince was published. Machiavelli was a famous historian, politician and author who lived in Italy from 1469 until 1527. In his most famous work, Machiavelli reflects on what it takes to be successful in life, especially in politics. Machiavelli's book received mixed reviews because it was brutally frank in a way that many people wished to ignore. The questions in this guide will help your high school students think critically about what they read in the book, connect the book to the broader historical context and draw conclusions about themes.

Plot Questions

  • What surprised you most about the book? Of all the stories and examples Machiavelli used, what stands out to you the most? Why?
  • What parts of the book are dependent on the circumstances in which Machiavelli wrote (for example, setting, time, historical context, etc.)? What would the most significant changes be if it were written today?
  • Who do you think was the intended audience of this book?
  • What surprised you about the real-life examples of leaders Machiavelli used in The Prince?
  • What does Machiavelli say about the role of will (or the actions a leader takes) and fate (the things that will naturally play out with or without intervention)?

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