Author(s): Erica Benner
One needs to be a fox to recognize snares, and a lion to frighten the wolves Niccolo Machiavelli lived in a fiercely competitive world, one where brute wealth, brazen liars and ruthless self-promoters seemed to carry off all the prizes; where the wealthy elite grew richer at the expense of their fellow citizens. In times like these, many looked to crusading religion to solve their problems, or they turned to a new breed of leaders - super-rich dynasties like the Medici or military strongmen like Cesare Borgia; upstarts from outside the old ruling classes. In the republic of Florence, Machiavelli and his contemporaries faced a choice: should they capitulate to these new princes, or fight to save the city's democratic freedoms? Be Like the Fox follows Machiavelli's dramatic quest for political and human freedom through his own eyes. Masterfully interweaving his words with those of his friends and enemies, Erica Benner breathes life into his penetrating, comical, often surprising comments on events. Far from the cynical henchman people think he was, Machiavelli emerges as his era's staunchest champion of liberty, a profound ethical thinker who refused to compromise his ideals to fit corrupt times. But he did sometimes have to mask his true convictions, becoming a great artist of fox-like dissimulation: a master of disguise in dangerous times."
Erica Benner succeeds brilliantly in overturning centuries-old received views of a seminal but misunderstood writer and thinker. Her enthralling and moving evocation of Machiavelli's turbulent career, set in the milieu in which he lived, also reveals how much he is our contemporary. -- Rosamund Bartlett
Erica Benner lives in Berlin. She is the author of several books, including Machiavelli's Ethics and Machiavelli's Prince: A New Reading. A former fellow in Political Philosophy at Yale, she taught for many years at Oxford University and the London School of Economics.