[PDF Notes] Machiavelli’s influence on literature during the age of Puritans

Machiavelli’s the prince was widely read, but its teachings were largely misunderstood. Machiavelli was understood to provide a materialistic and satanic interpretation of the world order. Spiritual and moral theories of the governance of the universe were rejected.

It was not God but who was the supreme power. That is why weakness, ingratitude, ill-will, wickedness, cruelty, etc., are essential elements of human character and society, and religion is merely an instrument of exploitation in the hands of kings and princes. This materialistic view, tinged with Satanism, clashed with the Biblical and Christian interpretations, and a diabolic creed, a faith in cynical self-seeking and aggression, was thus inculcated.

Under the impact of such theories, the hero turned villain on the Jacobin stage, and diabolism-ruthless self-seeking to the utter disregard of all moral and humanitarian considerations-became the dominant theme even of such great dramatists as Webster and Tourneur. Faith in the older world-order was thus shaken, but a new and more stable order had not yet evolved. Man was literally caught between ‘two worlds’ and disillusionment, fear and anxiety, born of uncertainty, were the natural result.

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