The Defence Of Poesie Analysis

Great Essays
Sir Philip Sidney’s The Defence of Poesie has been described as ‘instinct with and informed by a desire to reply to what any lover of poetry must consider a perverse and wrong-headed attack.’ Sidney identifies several charges which make up this ‘wrong-headed attack’; that there are ‘many other more fruitful knowledges’ than poetry, that poetry ‘is the mother of lies,’ and that poetry ‘is the nurse of abuse.’ These perceptions confronting literature were legitimate beliefs in Elizabethan England and serve as pretext for Sidney penning Defence. Sidney opposes these contemporary opinions by challenging the hierarchy of forms of knowledge in relation to history, philosophy and poetry. Secondly, the nature of poetry is also defined, and its content …show more content…
Sidney begins his defence against the charge that poetry is not a ‘fruitful’ knowledge by redefining the status of poetry, claiming ‘neither philosopher nor historiographer could at the first have entered into the gates of popular judgements if they had not taken a great passport of poetry.’ (Sidney, p.1047) Through this depiction of poetry, philosophy and history become a consequence of poetry’s merits, as Sidney implies the knowledge that poetry contains was essential in their dominant status as forms of knowledge. Sidney further dismisses the primacy of philosophy, arguing that ‘the philosopher teacheth, but he teacheth obscurely, so as the learned only can understand him, that is to say, he teacheth them that are already taught; but the poet is the food for the tenderest stomachs,’ (Sidney, p.1057) Poetry is portrayed as more accessible in this depiction, while the nature of philosophy is presented as self-indulgent and less legitimate, as it cannot be accessed by those who are not ‘learned’ (Sidney, p.1057). It is therefore conveyed that poetry is more enticing to readers, it is ‘food for the tenderest stomachs’ and implies that it ‘teaches more effectively than philosophy.’ (Lamb, p.506) Sidney pushes the reader further as he claims ‘of all sciences’ poetry is ‘the monarch. For he doth not only show the way, but giveth so sweet a …show more content…
Sidney acknowledges the charges that poetry is an inferior school of learning, that poetry is a false representation of reality and that poetry is an effeminate pursuit. These accusations against poetry reflect the social context of the time regarding the dominance of philosophy and history as schools of knowledge, Plato and Gosson’s authority on the standing of poetry and the fear that poetry could corrupt the morals of the individual. Disputing these accusations, Sidney argues that history and philosophy and wrongfully hold their status as superior forms of knowledge. Sidney removes the authority of poetry’s critics by emphasising how poetry works as a genre and uses persuasive techniques, such as repetition, metaphor and highly logical language to manipulate the reader and balance his controversial

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