Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Margaret T. Fisher

Second Advisor

Allegra Stewart


The association of the name of Francis Bacon with that of Niccolo Machiavelli is no novelty to the modern reader. But in most instances this association is brief and fleeting, possessed of a will-o'-the-wisp character that is at once unsatisfying and challenging. The natural conclusion to which one is tempted to leap is that Bacon, since he is the more recent in point of time, was influenced by the great Florentine in matters of philosophy and style. A second possibility is that both men were influenced by similar conditions of political and cultural backgrounds. A still further consideration lies in the belief that certain ideas are "in the air", so to speak, and descend upon different minds in various times and places without implying any necessity of relationship.

It seems advisable to study the two men and their works in the light of these three possibilities. It is not the purpose of this thesis to assert the influence of Machiavelli upon Bacon's philosophy as a whole. This study is rather an attempt to bring together in comparative consideration the personalities and philosophies of two outstanding minds of their respective ages, and to draw such conclusions as seem logical. To this end I propose to examine the theories of Machiavelli set forth in The Prince and the Discourses on Livy, and from this background to view Bacon's philosophy relating to civil business as set forth in his Essays, especially "Of Truth," and "Of Great Place," and in the Advancement of Learning.

I have here used the term, philosophy, to refer to the principles of human conduct by which Bacon's life was governed, rather than in a metaphysical sense.