Table of contents

Prince of Persia 2

Some notes on the virtue of body & spirit

This story teaches that power should be exercised rather by one man alone than by an aristocratic clan. The woman is Fortune & helps only the one who manhandles her. Personalized fortune, however, is dangerous, because it teaches what men desire who desire glory.

The whole story turns on one conquest. The three brothers together conquer a city against their father’s wishes. The elder needs a justification, which his uncle’s deceit knowingly offers. Both together, it is suggested, are superior to the king; they are fox & lion both. The middle brother loves honor less than his elder, but more than the youngest. Like the elder, he loves to give & to receive orders. Like the younger, he loves to fight & to mingle with the people. He dies stupidly, caught between the two. The middle path is wrong.

The youngest is the truest prince, because he did not inherit, but is winning his throne by his virtue. It is a happy accident that all the other contenders are dead by the end. The aristocrats have killed each other. This man, risen from the people, assumes power by himself. His few crimes are decisive & easily justified once he is victorious. His princely virtue is described poetically as the ability to turn back time. This allows him to avoid the inevitable, to an extent, by learning what is necessary.

The prince starts as a warrior, but at the end his art of war is all-encompassing, which transforms his prudence into prophecy. Presumably, his newness suggests he will install a new empire. But we should not believe the hype. Let us rather return at his beginning: the necessity of his youthful poverty, which led him to stealing & running from the laws, taught him that acquisition is always necessary & therefore that learning from necessity is the only needful thing. Even if man could acquire enough to stave off harsh nature trying to kill him, then he must fend off his fellow men. This is a harsher lesson & it takes the death of his adopted family for the prince to learn that he stands alone.

The desire for this woman who resembles fortune in her gifts & fickleness is not unique to this young prince. He is merely the most successful of his species. She teaches about necessity & has some secret prophecy. She announces that human evil causes the gods to act to destroy the human beings. Innocent human goodness may delay this terrifying fate. The pious father-king knew this & had not desire for this woman.

The problem is that the young prince is himself fearless. He does not find necessity appalling. He requires no authority beyond himself.