AN INTRODUCTION TO THE PRINCE
A T the time when Machiavelli first emerged from the shelter of his familiar circle into a world dominated by the passions of the mob, the life of Florence was neither calm nor well-ordered. Between 1494 and 1498 the various social classes of the Republic had bestirred themselves, seeking, albeit vainly, to rebuild the city-state; and they had been roused to a high pitch of frenzied excitement by the resounding, picturesque sermons of Girolamo Savonarola. If at times the biblical figures which the Dominican friar recalled to life in his addresses seemed remote and intangible, they were pregnant with an obscure meaning; and the masses believed, even if they did so with a passion that was purely superficial and without far-reaching significance, proclaiming with their bold leader their faith in the resurgence of the moral world and of political life.
Niccolò, for his part, world stand aside from the rest. He would linger, alone and indifferent, in the farthest corner of the square, and with a faint, ironical smile 1 observe the fluctuations of party passion, discerning beneath the mask of godliness the human motive that inspired the friar's preaching, coldly and surely analysing his 'lies',2 immediately perceiving the pitiable helplessness of the people, who vacillated between one party and the other, now submitting their will____________________