An Apology for PoetryClassical Criticism

Why Philip Sidney is so Important in English Criticism?

4 Mins read

The contribution of Philip Sidney in English literature isn’t deniable; he holds a distinguished place amongst different writers. Apology for Poetry is a crucial Renaissance document. It is a synthesis of the vital doctrines of Plato, Aristotle, Horace, Scaliger, Minturno, and several different writers and critics. It brings together romanticism and classicism. It is the first attempt in English to deal with poetic art, practically and not theoretically.

Sidney represents modern trends in poetry’s nature and function on the three unities, tragedy, comedy, diction, and meter. Everywhere his work displays the effect of Aristotle and Plato and different classical writers. But his originality lies within the skill with which he has draws upon, selected, organized, and adapted earlier concepts after which he has put forth his views, independently arrived. He makes use of;

  1. Italian critics,

2. Classical critics Plato and Aristotle.

3. Roman critics, Horace and Plutarch.

4. He also exhibits the effect of the medieval concept of tragedy

5. His didactic approach to poetry is usually the Renaissance approach.

However, his manner of presentation, his freshness and vigor, and his logical faculty are characteristically his own. His style has dignity, simplicity, concreteness, and racy humor, and irony. It is an illuminating piece of literary criticism in addition to a valuable part of imaginative literature.

Sidney approached poetry not as a pedantic critic however as a responsive reader. While most of his contemporaries have been busy framing rules of rhetoric and prosody, he was paving the how for artistic literature. He was preparing viewers who may ‘feel’ the emotional influence of literature and appreciate it. Sidney felt that literature was an incredibly dynamic force, and it had the ability ‘to move,’ ‘to uplift,’ and satisfy emotionally and aesthetically.

Read About: What is Literature and Virtue in Apology for Poetry by Sidney?

J. W.H. Atkins has identified that “to him poetry was a natural human activity enabling men to sing to beauty and truth and to satisfy their longings for a world transformed, thus nurturing in them what was good and noble. Moreover, so far from being merely an instrument of moral teaching, it was a concrete and inspiring revelation of human deals, and thus, in a sense, a criticism of life. This, then with its element of permanent truth, was the substance of Sidney’s message to an age perplexed and even hostile.”

No doubt Sidney has freely drawn on earlier critics, but he has tried to reach his conception of poetry. The fundamental question he meets is: why is poetry valuable. The second part of his essay deals with the nature and worth of poetry. This is adopted by an examination of the objection to poetry. Finally, the fourth part presents a critique of contemporary literary poetry and morality.

His definitions of poetry, two in quantity, the converse of his greatness as a critic. The first is: “Poesy, therefore, is an art of imitation, a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth; to speak metaphorically, a speaking picture, with this end,—to teach and delight.” The second is: “it is not rhyming and versing that maketh a poet… but it is that feigning striking images of virtue or vice, or -what else, with that delightful teaching; which must be the right describing note to know a poet. “

His defense of poetry is unique. It logically refutes the modern charges of the puritans in opposition to poetry. Poetry is ordinary; the first light-giver to ignorance and the first nurse. The earliest recorded or preserved utterance of any nation is a type of poetic expression alone. The ancients delivered wisdom only via poetry. The first philosophers and scientists got here before the individuals in the garb of poets. The world created by the poet is a more incredible world than ours. Within the poetic world, we come across true lovers, constant friends, courageous men, and excellent men. These characters are perfect. The bad men in this world have pure badness, and such villains aren’t allowed to go unpunished.

Poetry is superior to history and philosophy. The poet has both the general and the particular instance. But the philosopher is barely theoretical, for he has examples. The historian has examples, however, no precepts. The historian speaks of what has been, not of what should be. The philosopher is vague and speaks of what should be. The poet says of each what’s and what needs to be of what’s common and explicit. Poetry has liveliness and passion that is lacking in history and philosophy.

Sidney’s remarks on tragedy, tragi-comedy, and comedy speak of his knowledge of the modern traits of literature and his broad readings. In drama, his observations have been valid in his age and authentic and correct even today. His remarks on satire and numerous types of poetry are of great significance, including his views on diction, meter, and verse. Surprisingly enough, Sidney presents the best defense of the meter. Praising English, he says that only in English can rhyme be noticed: “very precisely.”

Dramatic criticism in England started with Sir Philip Sidney. Sidney was ‘the president of chivalry and nobleness.’ But, as Hakluyt referred him, he was probably the most delicate flower of the garden of wit and art. He noticed that Poetry had fallen from high estimation to be the laughing stock of children in his days. Nevertheless, it was to his attempts that Poetry was again read with interest, and poets like Shakespeare and Spenser made others made England ‘nest of singing birds.’

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