However, for Milton as for Machiavelli, the question rests on merit.
The dissolution of the easy equivalence of Christian and civic virtue forces Milton to defeat Machiavelli in his own realm of prudence; somehow, he has to show that the prince self-destructs if his only grounding is a talent for exercising power.
As Machiavelli makes clear in The Discourses, enduring principalities are rare.
In book two of The Discourses, Machiavelli rails against the effect Christianity has had on political life; by glorifying the contemplative man rather than the man of action, it has made societies prey for the wicked.
For Machiavelli and Milton chaos is not tyranny's opposite but its substructure.
The last two books of Paradise Lost culminate Milton's exploration of the issues surrounding Christian and civic virtue, issues raised in large part by Machiavelli and the Italian civic humanists.
1) For analyses of the reception of Machiavelli and his works on the continent and in England, see among others Raab; Pocock; Donaldson; and Kahn, 1994.
In her introduction to the section devoted to Milton, 169, Kahn argues that in both his prose and poetry "Milton was Machiavellian in a way Machiavelli would have appreciated: he understood the rhetorical dimension of politics exemplified by Machiavelli's Prince and Discourses; and much of his work can be seen as an extended meditation on the relation of rhetoric and faith not only to virtue but also to virtue.
3) Raab, 183, raises the interesting possibility that in The Prince Machiavelli slyly undercuts the idea of princely rule, thereby creating as republican a work as The Discourses.
Machiavelli often speaks of the goddess Fortuna as a dangerous and castrating woman who must be dominated.
Guicciardini, for example, criticized Machiavelli for wanting to give too much power to ordinary citizens; his concept of mixed government was highly aristocratic, favoring concentration of power in the "ottimati.