Machiavelli's The Qualities of the Prince' touch on a wide variety of topic, all pertaining to the idea of what makes a smart ruler. He toughs on topics such as war, honesty, generosity, mercy/ cruelty, but they all end up on the same theme of how to avoid being hated and keep power.

The essay starts off with a prince must "never raise his thought from this exercise of war, and in peacetime he must train himself more than in time of war- (38) He goes on to say that a prince must always be thinking of war "whether it is while he is hunting and learning the terrain, or looking over history books in or to mimic previous rulers moves "he is always aware of his surroundings and how it can apply to war.

Throughout the whole essay, Machiavelli shows his cynicism, but perhaps it is strongest when he says that although it is desirable to have a prince who is generous, kind and trustworthily, "it is neither possible to have nor observe them all completely, because human nature does not permit it- (41). He also states that a prince needs to "learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge or not to use it according to necessity- (40).

The question of whether generosity or being a miser is more beneficial is also asked. Machiavelli states, "only the spending of your own is what harms you. And there is nothing that uses itself up faster than generosity, for as you employ it you lose the means of employing it, and you become either poor or despised or, in order to escape poverty, rapacious and hated- (43). His argument for that is that if you start out being generous in order to be loved, you deplete your funds and then have to tax the people, and if you stop being generous people hate you, whereas, if you start out miserly, you may not be loved, but you at least are not hated.

Mercy versus cruelty is also another topic touched upon in his essay. He states that cruelty is good in moderation.