The Prince was written by Machiavelli as a practical handbook for ruling (though some scholars argue that the book was intended as a satire and essentially a guide on how not to rule). The dedication of the work to Lorenzo de' Medici, the ruler of Florence, demonstrates this intention from the start. The Prince isn't overly theoretical or esoteric; its prose is plain, and its logic is simple. Machiavelli's intention to deliver realistic, easy-to-understand advice is reflected in these characteristics.
The scope of the book is described in the first two chapters. Autocratic regimes, not republican ones, are of importance to the Prince. The first chapter establishes a framework for the rest of the book by defining the various types of principalities and princes. Chapter III explains how to manage composite principalities, which are those that are recently founded or annexed from another power, and for which the prince is unfamiliar with the people he governs. In addition, Chapter III summarizes the book's core concerns—power politics, warcraft, and public goodwill.
The center of the work is Chapters IV through XIV. Machiavelli provides practical guidance on a wide range of topics, including the benefits and drawbacks of various paths to power, how to acquire and hold new states, how to cope with internal insurgency, how to form alliances, and how to maintain a strong military. Machiavelli's views on free will, human nature, and ethics are implicit in these chapters, although they do not emerge overtly as themes of discussion until later.
The attributes of the prince are the emphasis of Chapters XV to XXIII. In general, Machiavelli's underlying belief that lofty aspirations translate into disastrous government guides this discussion. This is particularly true when it comes to personal virtue. While certain virtues are admirable in and of themselves, a ruler acting in line with virtue is frequently destructive to the state. Similarly, while certain vices are frowned upon, they are sometimes necessary for the sake of the state. This line of logic is combined by Machiavelli with another: the idea that gaining the populace's goodwill is the best way to keep power. As a result, the appearance of virtue may be more essential than genuine virtue, which could be considered a liability.
The Prince's concluding portions connect the novel to a specific historical context: Italy's division. Machiavelli lays out his description and explanation of past Italian rulers' failures, concluding with an impassioned plea to the nation's future rulers. Only Lorenzo de' Medici, to whom the book is dedicated, Machiavelli believes, can restore Italy's honor and glory.