To be Feared or Loved

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The quote, derived from Machiavelli’s thoughts; “it is better to be feared than loved,” is supported by Beowulf in Beowulf and by Hrothgar in Grendel through their actions. Leaders have many choices to make; one of the most important choices is to decide if he prefers to be loved or feared by his followers. The main purpose of being a leader is to lead your followers into victory, rule your subjects and have a prosperous kingdom. So the question appears; is it better to be loved or feared. According to Niccolo Machiavelli “if you have to make a choice, to be feared is much safer than to be loved” (225). Machiavelli was the first philosopher of the Renaissance, and wrote The Prince which argued that leaders must do anything necessary to hold on to power. The main reason it is better to be feared is because men are evil, rotten and will only do things that benefit themselves. Men only think of themselves and it is for this reason fear can control them and keep them loyal to a leader. Since loyalty through love can be easily broken because it involves no punishment, loyalty through fear is the better choice because it involves the “dread of punishment, from which [the subjects] can never escape” (Machiavelli 226). Machiavelli goes on to say that the great leader Hannibal took control of his immense army, because the soldiers saw Hannibal as a fearsome and cruel person, thus, making them loyal to him. Machiavelli in addition gives an example of a leader who chose not to be feared and cruel: “Scipio, an outstanding man not only among those of his own time, but in all recorded history; yet his armies revolted in Spain, for no other reason than his excessive leniency in allowing his soldiers more freedom than military discipline permits”(226). Failure to be cruel and fearsome will cause a leader to lose control of his soldiers, and it will cause the leader’s soldiers to revolt. Hannibal was the better leader; even though he was cruel, he was more merciful in reality than Scipio because he did not allow any disorders to happen. Another leader who found success because he chose to be feared was Hrothgar from the novel Grendel. He organized his tribe and started to conquer and destroy any tribe who did not want to join him. Soon Hrothgar became powerful and when he had shown the other tribes his “strength of his organization… instead of making war on them, he sent men to them… with heavy wagons… to gather their tribute to his greatness” (Gardner 37).
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