Author Information

Katherine Paton


The scholarly ambiguity over the proper understanding of Machiavelli’s political thought characterizes the scholarship in his literary works as well. The tragic interpretation of Machiavelli’s literary works posits that Machiavelli’s understanding of virtue fails to provide humanity the means by which fortune can be overcome. In contrast, the comic interpretation argues that man is virtuous and prudent enough to conquer fortune. To accomplish this, one must only follow Machiavelli’s political teaching. I address this tension through analysis of conspiracy in Machiavelli’s Clizia. Sofronia’s successful conspiracy attests to the utility of Machiavelli’s account of virtue in overcoming fortune and speaks to the comic quality of Machiavelli’s political and literary works. The argument advanced here also speaks to the conspiratorial quality of Machiavelli’s political and philosophic enterprise.

Note on the Author

Katherine Paton is a political science major, studying political theory. She began research on this project in the Fall semester of 09-10 with an ATP semester grant. She continued research with the ATP summer grant during the summer of 2010, and will be presenting the entire work at the Midwest Political Science Association conference in April 2011.

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