The Defence of Poesy
The Puritan movement and its Relation to “A Defense of Poesy”
In the long essay, “A Defense of Poesy,” Sir Philip Sidney responds to the attempts of repression by the Puritan Movement on poets and their work by characterizing poetry as the roots of culture and intelligence. Sidney uses mythical allusions and historical references to various cultures in order to create an all-encompassing argument promoting the continued development of poetry in society, as well as defending its current and past existence. Sidney’s work is considered to be one of the most critical and influential literary criticisms of its time.The Puritan Movement lasted between the 16th and 17th centuries and was characterized by the desire to purify the church from the Catholic clergy’s corruption. At this time in history, the church was a largely influential part of government, and much of this corruption stemmed from the intertwining of the two. In addition, the Catholic Church had begun to sell items known as Indulgences, which were purchased relics sold by the Church in order to forgive one’s sins, or even forgive future sins at a higher cost. The invented rituals of the Church, which were not found in the Bible, outraged many people who believed in the raw interpretation of the Bible, especially with the literacy rate growing which allowed more people to be able to read the Bible for themselves, as opposed to being told what was written by a priest or other esteemed member of the Catholic Church. One result of this outrage was the formation of the Puritan Movement. Puritans held extremely strict views on people’s actions and works and their compliance with the Bible. Poets and playwrights were especially criticized by the Puritans, who said that such fiction-making would only lead to moral corruption and increased materialism, both of which they found to be detrimental to society’s progress. In order to refute the attacks by Puritan writers, Sidney composed “A Defense of Poesy.” He argues that poetry does, in fact, bring about moral good in society. He continues to refer to poetry as a tool to exercise and expand the imagination. The imagination, he believes, is the source of man’s sympathy, compassion, and love. He goes on to say that there are three different types of poetry: religious poetry, philosophical poetry, and poetry functioning as an imaginative treatment of life and nature. He states that even in the most primitive societies, such as the American Indians, poets have always been in existence and in a place of respect. Poetry has been used to preserve the memories of historical events, cultural values, ideas, and wisdom since its inception. He writes that poets are superior to regular historians and philosophers, due to their ability to convey history and ideas in an imaginative and creative way which appeals to the human condition. It can present factual information in a way that people can understand. Sidney states that the philosopher teaches “so as the learned only can understand him” (955). Poetry is also different from history and philosophy in its ability to move and give incentive for virtuous action. Sidney goes on to mention that many great philosophers, whose ideas are held highly and generally respected at this point in time, were in fact poets. Plato is one of the most notable examples of a great philosopher and poet. An interesting and clever fact pointed out by Sydney is that the word “poet” in Greek and Roman times actually meant “Maker” or “profit.” This coincides with his argument that all throughout history, poets have been respected and thought of reverently by members of society, and makes a strong point with the Puritans reading his essay by citing the comparison between poets and profits, appealing to their strong religious roots. Sidney once again appeals to the Puritans’ religious beliefs by stating that poets take part in the divine creation process. The talent of poets comes from their ability to create something new by using a pre-conceived idea known as the fore-conceit. Poetry links the real with the ideal, thus providing a link between the two worlds. Poets even have the ability to make the most unpleasant of things, such as war and death, appear pleasant through the means they use when presenting them. The Puritans often found poetry to be lewd, hence why they denounced it. What was ironic about this, however, was that their arguments against it seemed to be less of a religious matter, but more social, political, and personal. The Puritans had the view that poetry should be entirely eliminated from their society, as opposed to the view held by poets like Sidney that when vice was found in poetry, one should simply take away the vice. He believed that poetry in itself could do no harm. Sir Phillip Sidney wrote “A Defense of Poesy” as a response to Stephen Gosson’s “School of Abuse.” Gosson was a Calvinistic Puritan man, as his religion demanded, he detested all laughing matters. Puritans believed that laughter distracted people from proper function and hard work, and that laughter in itself is a distraction, deviating from the proper way. They thought that laughter in excess corrupted the Puritan virtues of efficiency, diligence, order, and rationality; it was a degradation of ethics. Laughter was also considered to be a display of lack of control over the bodily function and therefore lack of civility; “laughter is by courtesy a violation and indecency” (Gosson 4). As stated, Gosson’s work led an attack on theatre, but he also came up with several grounds on which he condemned poetry, more specifically, Sidney’s poetry. The first claim he makes is that a man can employ his time more usefully than in poetry. This point stems directly from the Puritan values of hard work with little leisure time. The Puritans viewed poetry as a waste of valuable energy with a destructive result. He goes on to state that poetry is the mother of all lies, calling poets themselves “fathers of lies, pipes of vanities and schooles of abuse” (Gosson 11). This statement is reflective of the Puritans’ disapproval of any fiction-making. Once again, such behavior was viewed as adding no value to society and feeding false ideas into particularly impressionable members of society, such as young people. Thirdly, he refers to poetry as the “nurse of abuse, infecting us with many pestilent desires.” This statement demonstrates his belief that poetry degrades one’s virtue and morality, being why corrupt and immoral poetry is written. Sidney refutes this argument in saying that the abuse of poetry should not condemn the entire art; poetry is not to blame for the abuses committed against it by bad poets. His final argument is that Plato had banished poets from his ideal commonwealth. This point, however, can be refuted by more closely examining Plato’s intentions behind his writing, where he banished instead the abuse, not the practice in itself. He agreed with Sidney in saying that by being wary of poetry’s power, one could honor poetry rather than condemn it. Altogether, the Puritan Movement was the historical event that inspired Sidney to write “A Defense of Poesy.” Sidney successfully defends poetry against the Puritans’ repression by characterizing it as a holistic part of society vital to its culture and heritage.
Discuss the relationship of teaching (docere), delighting (delectare) and moving (movere) in ‘The Defence of Poesy’.
‘Poesy, therefore, is an art of imitation, for so Aristotle termeth it in the word mimesis, that is to say, a representing, counterfeiting or figuring forth – to speak metaphorically, a speaking picture – with this end: to teach and delight’. Discuss the relationship of teaching (docere), delighting (delectare) and moving (movere) in the Defence.Stephan Gosson’s Puritan attack on poetry, and the source from which he derived a number of his complaints, Plato’s Republic (X), in which Socrates banishes poetry from his idealised state, were joint forces in prompting Sir Philip Sidney’s Defence of the art. Responding primarily to Plato’s suggestion of fiction’s morally corrupt influence on its readers (specifically incorporated into Gosson’s The School of Abuse), Sidney employs a style that fuses the rhetorical and polemical with an almost conversational friendliness in order to present his argument in a persuasive manner.Sidney’s various assertions centre on poetry’s positive force for inspiring its readers not, as Plato contested, towards ‘sinful things’, but instead towards virtuous action, through following the traditional tripartite aim of rhetoric; to teach (docere), delight (delectare) and move (movere) ‘not only in furnishing the mind with knowledge, but in setting it forward to that which deserveth to be called and accounted good, which setting forward and moving to well-doing’ (page 21). The verbs Sidney uses here relate to affecting the mind into action, and it is exactly this notion of ‘transforming individuals’ that Dr. Gavin Alexander captures when he describes poetry as teaching not only ‘what to think but what to do, and inspiring the reader with a desire to act accordingly.’ The ‘lynch pin’ of this civilising function is undoubtedly mimesis, the Greek word more or less translating as ‘imitation’ or ‘representation’ in English, although there is no easy or exact translation due to the complexity of the concept. In order to fully comprehend Sidney’s meaning here it is necessary to contrast Plato’s and Aristotle’s separate understandings of mimesis. Whilst both poets undoubtedly believed in physical and ontological realities transcending the realms of the human mind, Plato’s mimesis was rooted in his belief that this world and the things in it are simply imperfect versions of perfect conceits that exist only in the ‘ideal,’of which everything in this world is only a copy. When art imitates life, it is merely imitating an imitation, there being two removes between it and the original: ‘the tragic poet is an imitator, and therefore, like all other imitators, he is thrice removed from the king and from the truth’ (Republic X). However, Aristotolian doctrine dictated that the artist represents realistic possibilities; he redefined mimesis as the figuring forth of an idea, a fore-conceit, existing in the poet’s mind. Thus, the poet takes on the almost divine persona of the creator; rather than making a mere duplication of the original, in Aristotle’s view, he should attempt to capture the essence of an idea, and represent it by embodying the whole in exemplary characters and actions. Plato’s argument led him to believe that poetic mimesis was a force used by poets to misdirect and deceive, emphasising his claim that it is over-dramatic with his warning to the admirers of Homer that by accepting the ‘sweetened Muse’, they are accepting emotions in the place of rationality and reason, but it was the Aristotolian view of mimesis that Sidney adopted in his Defence as a basis for his view that poets ‘imitate both to teach and delight, and delight to move’ (11). By employing the metaphor of the ‘speaking picture,’ Sidney eloquently conveys that without them, poetry could without much difficulty descend into either vitriolic diatribe or pointless amusements; the vivid description’s appeal to the imagination evinces the general notion, and Sidney draws on the Horacian opinion that things seen make more of an impression on the mind than things heard in his explanation that poetry’s metaphorical nature is not only part of its pleasure but also part of its power to move. Indeed, The Defence of Poesy is itself extremely metaphorical, and Sidney incorporates his own ‘speaking pictures’ in the work as a means of illustrating his point. For example, he dramatises the argument between the figures of philosophy, history and poetry with the rhetorical prosopopoeia: ‘Among whom as principal challengers step forth the moral philosophers’ (13), setting it in a metaphorical courtroom environment in order to mimetically seal the image in the mind’s eye of the reader as they are ‘tricked into taking the sugar-coated pill.’ It would be convenient, for the purposes of study, to be able to separate ‘docere,’ ‘delectare’ and ‘movere’ into three individual categories in order to deal with each respectively, but Sidney affords the reader no such pleasure. The three ‘aims’ are intertwined in their purpose and, more confusingly, in their meaning; Sidney at no point gives us a completely lucid and logical explanation as to the precise effect of each, but he executes his argument, despite the apparent minor vacillations, by always grounding it in the idea of mimesis. Clearly, the function of teaching knowledge is ‘to lift up the mind from the dungeon of the body to the enjoying his own divine essence’ (13), but Sidney emphasises multiple times that poetry is rhetorical in its ability to transform people not by teaching them what to think, but instead by teaching them what to do. It is not, Aristotle maintained, the knowing, but the doing that is the ‘fruit’ – knowledge without action on it is pointless. In dwelling upon the steps towards virtue; ‘make to imitate, and imitate both to delight and teach, and delight to move men to take that goodness in hand, which without delight they would fly as from a stranger, and teach to make them know that goodness whereunto they are moved…’ (11), Sidney stresses the meticulousness of his argument, exploiting the rhetorical climax to create the effect of theoretical, systematic processing of a methodical series of events, each one logically leading to the next.An apposite literary illustrative example of mimesis appears in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, when the protagonist dons the rÃ´le of the tragic playwright in the ‘Mousetrap’ and contends ‘the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her features, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure’ (Act 2, scene 2; 22 -24). Through the medium of drama, Hamlet presents his court with the truth as a ‘speaking picture,’ to generate action as the ‘mirror’ in one relatively short sequence mimetically not only reflects the murder scene but also embodies far more about the corruption in the court.Sidney’s comparison between poetry and other disciplines spans most of his Defence, punctuating the work in a rhetorical manner, each time reverting to similar arguments as he challenges similar complaints, and in all of this drawing attention to the poet’s prowess in contrast to others. He stresses the precepts of philosophy and the concrete, bound nature of history, and complains that whilst both may have knowledge to deliver, neither will be truly successful in the delivery as they do not apply the triple aim of rhetoric: ‘docere,’ ‘delectare,’ ‘movere.’ Unlike poetry, neither impart information using the Aristotolian ‘figuring – forth’ (mimesis) and since one must be ‘moved to practise’ by pleasure (22), they ultimately fail in ‘winning [of] the mind’ (23). As Sidney introduces his argument against philosophers (that they teach in such an obscure way that it is indigestible for the un-learned – Sidney actually uses the metaphor of the ‘tenderest stomachs’ (18), indicative of the dynamism involved in absorbing knowledge and acting upon it, just as a stomach has to actively absorb food) and historians (that they only ‘recite’ (20)) it is clear that he has far more of a polemic unfolding than was previously realised. Not simply is Sidney defending poetry’s place in the world, but in addition, he is asserting its place over and above the other forms of learning; it is, he maintains, ‘the monarch’ of sciences (22). Of course, as critics, it is important to interpret The Defence of Poesy as itself a piece of literature, albeit a piece of literary criticism, and to bear in mind that the Philip Sidney in the Defence is a literary rhetorical construct, designed purely to present an argument, and does not necessarily bear a great resemblance to Sidney the author. This may account for a number of discrepancies and apparent contradictions in the work, which I shall examine. Also, perhaps more importantly, it serves to remind us that as literature, it too works on a mimetic level, indicating once again that the teaching, delighting and moving that Sidney writes about in his Defence he also integrates into the main body of the work, exploiting it as an illustration of his theories. The story of Sidney, Wooton and Pugliano serves as an introduction and reason for Sidney’s apology, and his provision of a parallel (the praise of horsemanship) furthermore enhances the ‘speaking picture’ that is the whole of the Defence, as Sidney continues in his effort to define what the idea of poetry really is. The fact that we know the Defence to be both judicial, in defence, and epideictic, in praise, rhetoric of poetry is significant in that it tempting to think Sidney ‘may therefore be more intent on winning the argument than on building a viable literary theory.’ This need to convince the reader of the ability of poetry to teach, delight and move, rather than any strong conviction in the argument itself, plays itself out in the general style of the work. Sidney seems to be performing a balancing act between formal oration and wanting to have fun with the reader. There is in this tension one sense that the conversational style functions to veil the didacticism of the work, lending the flippancy a studied edge, but the rather romantic interludes when Sidney expands on classical mythology and a number of witty ironies such as ‘this ink-wasting toy of mine’ (53) denote a playfulness in the writer’s approach as he treats us metaphorically as children and tries to bring us to ‘take most wholesome things by hiding them in such other as have a pleasant taste’ (23) as he describes poets doing generally.Furthermore, a number of ambiguous contradictions arise as Sidney clutches at his argument but fails (when we look closely) to be able quite to sustain that the reader experiences ‘docere,’ ‘delectare’ and ‘movere’ through the process of imitation. There are various examples of this self-contradiction, but to examine only a few contradicting statements is sufficient to ascertain that in order to defend his argument that poetry is a force for teaching, Sidney has to compromise the details of his imitation argument. In considering comedy, and defending its reputation against the charges of moral corruption, Sidney says that ‘And little reason hath any man to say that men learn the evil by seeing it so set out, since … there is no man living, but, by the force truth hath in nature, no sooner seeth these men play their parts but wisheth them in pistrinum’ (27), thus maintaining that men would turn away rather than follow any ‘evil’ actions observed on stage. He goes on to describe the way heroic poetry ‘inflameth the mind with desire to be worthy, and inform with counsel how to be worthy’ (29), but it is difficult to imply the two and still sustain the argument that imitation always moves people to virtue. That the assumption that people are inherently good is a naÃ¯ve viewpoint is actually subsidiary (due to the fact that we are dealing not with the author Sidney but with the literary construct) to the way that it undermines Sidney’s argument, as he gives no explanation for it.Ultimately, the implications of my argument are that in bestowing the ennobling function on poetry as a force for teaching, Sidney illustrates his theory with the work itself, and sets it as its own ‘speaking picture,’ incorporating many other ‘speaking pictures’ within itself, as a rhetorical method. However, the many relationships between teaching (docere), delighting (delectare), and moving (movere) in the Defence are complex because the work in which they are set is a didactic piece, it is not just a personal opinion; the author is prepared to sacrifice minor accuracies in order that the overall argument is won by the convincing nature of his rhetoric, and this affects the authority and validity of the argument. Sidney’s various rhetorical devices influence his theory of mimesis (and its tripartite aim), pulling it in the opposite direction to that of the several contradictions that also arise. Counterbalancing his rhetoric and formal style with witticisms and some more playful contradictions, Sidney concludes that pleasure experienced, in the imitation of ideas, is what makes poetry effective in propelling the reader towards virtuous living, and, in effect, nothing can teach and move to virtue as well as poetry can.
Class and Society in The Defense of Poesy
Class and Society in The Defense of Poesy Sir Philip Sidney’s The Defense of Poesy, written in 1579 and published in 1575 (Norton Anthology Volume B) is a literary composition that preserved the eloquence and sophistication of poetry, allowing poetry to continue to be a flourishing and influential form of writing. However, Sidney’s work also further upheld the supremacy of poetry, and how this form of literary work was considered to be only for the most high class and elite persons of society. The Defense of Poesy affirms the social hierarchy that determines cultural class systems by continuously enforcing features of poetry. These features that Sidney writes include themes of power, strength and intelligence, which all confirm an underlying tone of Sidney’s work that poetry is meant for the elite nobility and high class socialites. Without saying so directly, Sidney implicates through The Defense of Poesy that poetry is a sophisticated and complicated form of art that should be consumed and enjoyed by those who are educated enough to understand it and appreciate it. There is no room nor bandwidth in Sidney’s defense of poetry for the common reader, much less the illiterate and uneducated, to partake in form of writing that enforces classist values.
While Sidney’s critical piece to defend the importance of poetry was crucial to keeping poetic writing form alive and relevant, it also created a divide in readers, due to the fact that poetry was either inaccessible, unavailable or unable to be understood by anyone except the elite. Sidney enforces the elitism of poesy by stating that poetry in itself is a creative imitation of other forms of art and literary works. In doing so, Sidney claims that poetry that is based off of the works of other well-known and prestigious writers, ranging from ancient Greek philosophers to Biblical figures, the poet/ knight/ courtier/ renaissance man attempts to display the supremacy of poetry as a writing form that mimics other famous works that many poems are inspired by. Sir Sidney takes the concept that imitation is the highest form of flattery into hi definition of poesy which is as follows, “Poesy therefore is an imitation, for so Aristotle termeth it in the word mimesis… a speaking picture- with this end, to teach and delight” (Sidney 553). Sidney claims that poetry is a high class form of art because it imitates other esteemed forms of art. In that, Sidney claims that the emulations of poetry compared to other acclaimed works from throughout history are what poetry so impactful and powerful.
Sidney mentions how poetry in England specifically was based off of works from famous historical figures like King David from the Bible, which is an extremely important figure to the readers of the text due to the religious acuity of David himself. It is likely that Sidney mentions David due to the many poems he wrote that are published in the book of Psalms in the Bible (Psalms, King James Version). Not only was David the author of many different poems, the breadth and content of his poems were inspirational and significant, especially to Sidney, as he mentions in The Defense of Poesy. Sidney mentions how even Kings of old not only found poetry to be important, but they thought it was an essential form of writing, “Sweet poesy, that hath anciently had kings, emperors, senators, great captains, such as, besides a thousand others, David… not only to favor poets but to be poets;” (Sidney 576). The English knight and poet also lists Adrian, Sophocles and Germanicus, three other ancient historical figures who had great poetic contributions that are crucial pieces of art. Despite their differentiating backgrounds from ancient Israel, ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire (Norton Anthology Volume B), Sidney included all four of these figures to showcase how even the strongest of military leaders were advocates for poetry themselves. While many people who were in opposition toward the importance of poetry might have assumed that it was an obsolete form of writing that was purposeless and had no meaning, Sidney used the example of great militaristic kings and emperors who used poetry as a means to express their thoughts and feelings in a format of art that could be shared with the world. While the battles of these great kings lasted for a short time, their poems outlasted the wars, showing how poetry is in fact the opposite of obsolete but rather as beneficial and relevant. Since Sir Sidney was a knight and warrior himself, it makes sense that he would exemplify the power of military leaders who were also poets as a display of why poetry is important.These examples of military leaders and kings that Sidney uses to defend poetry are not the only ones of their kind.
Moreover, Sidney references mythical and fictional figures who are featured in important historic poems, including the likes of Hercules and King Arthur. Sidney states that poetry is the most high form of writing and that it is, “by the Greeks called architeconike” (Sidney 555), where he further explains how poetry is to be considered “chief art” (Norton Anthology 555), in that there is no other form of art or writing that is better than poetry. This egotistical defense of poetry claims that there is nothing greater than the prose of a poet, and since Sidney himself is the author of many poems, one can hardly help but wonder if this defense of poesy is also a defense of Sidney’s own works of art. Sir Philip Sidney elaborates to tell the readers of how noble the act of writing poetry is, and goes on about how poetry has the same level of nobility as knighthood does, “Wherein, if we can, show we the poet’s nobleness” (Sidney 555). Sidney continues to defend the nobility of poetry by convincing the readers that the stories of heroes that are written in poetic form are not only vital to history but are also enjoyed by so many, proving poetry’s societal relevance, “glad will they to be to hear the tales of Hercules… and hearing them, must needs hear the right description of wisdom, valor, and justice” (Sidney 562). The poems featuring such heroes are an inspiration to the readers who want to integrate values such as the ones that are listed in the quote above. Sidney exemplifies the heroic works featured in poems about these famous heroes to further defend the art form of poetry as a whole. The author justifies how poetry is intended to make the readers process their thoughts and emotions and to embrace and contemplate on the message of which the poet is trying to portray.
Sidney displays the strengths of poetry by highlighting more famous figures known for their heroism and strength. The knight-poet himself goes on to describe the character of the legendary Arthur, a legendary king of England who was epically known across the lands as a hero. Sidney goes on to tell of how even King Arthur himself was a proponent and supporter of poetry as well, “For poetry is the companion of camps… honest King Arthur would never displease a soldier” (Sidney 573). Sidney uses the example of King Arthur to appease the so called charges against poetry itself (Sidney 568), knowing that such a famous hero and king who was known for his courageousness, honor and honesty would be a trustworthy critic, and if even the great King Arthur supported his soldiers to read poetry, then it must be worthy of the highest esteem. In turn, Sidney uses the charming and revered characteristics of King Arthur, an esteemed legend in English folklore and cultural history to persuade the readers and prosecutors of poesy to cherish the form of literary work as sophisticated, essential and inspirational. Despite these seemingly wonderful features, King Arthur was also known to be conniving and iniquitous, and these lesser known features are also the same ones that classified him as an elitist. Even though King Arthur was known for his genuine and down-to-earth characteristics, he was also a key proponent to social hierarchy, and also an accomplice to making poetry a item only meant for high society. Similarly, Sir Philip Sidney exploited the legend of King Arthur to keep poetry in the hands of the elite.
To further make his claim, Sidney defends poetry by arguing that this artistic form of literary works was meant to be consumed by the educated and intelligent, which in turn also made it unavailable to anyone outside of these qualifications (which usually meant anyone was not of nobility or high society, like himself). Sidney elaborates throughout his defense on how historians and philosophers differ from poets, and how poesy is superior to both because it is both based off of the past and the future, rather than dwelling on just one of these things. Poesy is argued to be a form of art that is for the educated, as Sidney produces a piece of rhetoric to convince the reader that they must have a certain level of intelligence to understand the structure and format of poetry, “that may the poet with his imitation make his own, beautifying it for further teaching and reading… having all, from Dante’s heaven to his hell, under the authority of his pen” (Sidney 560). Sidney states that poets must be brilliantly creative in order to write their works, and is implying also that the readers must be able to properly digest the complicated structure and form of poetry with intelligence and dignity in order to fully comprehend the depth of poetry itself. Creative intellect of both the author and the reader are necessary in order for poetry to be fully understood, according to Sidney. Not just anyone is talented or wise enough to sit down with pen and paper to write a poem.
According to Sidney, a poet must create an imitation of another work as a form of art and turn it into a poem, all the while using his or her own creativity and imagination to turn the literary work into something unique and entirely their own. There is an entire world of possibility for poets, yet Sidney has an underlying tone that the poet must be wise enough to differentiate what and what not to write about. Even the text itself references a famous piece of Italian literature, that only the most educated person would know, in order to emphasize the depth of intelligence necessary to create and consume poetry. Additionally, Sidney also claims the opposite, in that those who mock or refute poetry are uneducated and do not truly understand it if otherwise. Sidney condemns the cynics and the skeptics of poetry, as he believes that those who do not appreciate poetry are too uneducated and foolish to truly understand it, “First, truly I note not only in misomousoi, poet-haters… may stay the brain from a thorough-beholding the worthiness of the subject” (Sidney 568). Sir Philip Sidney not only defends poetry with this statement, but attacks those who do not support it and is in essence questioning their intelligence, discernment and overall common sense.
Additionally, Sidney uses the argument of Plato against poetry to actually support it by exposing Plato’s argument and agreeing with the ancient philosopher on how the content of poetry is important. Plato, in this scenario, was expressing his frustration of how poets of his time would write poetry that was falsifying the characteristics of the ancient Grecian gods. Plato blames other poets for the incorrect information put out by other poets and “Plato found fault that the poets of his time filled the world with wrong opinions of the gods, making light tales of that unspotted essence” (Sidney 575). The disrespectful manner that Plato accuses the other poets of having is similar to Sidney’s feelings about why poetry must be written and read by persons intelligent enough to understand it. Additionally, Sidney argues that it is better to praise the poet than to listen and to suffer the complaints of those who speak ill-will against poetry. Sidney calls for his readers to join him in admiration of the poets and to refute anyone who speaks out against poetry, “Let us rather plant more laurels for to engarland the poets’ heads… than suffer the ill-savored breath of such wrong-speakers” (Sidney 576). Sidney is directly persuading the readers to join him in advocating poetry and to oppose anyone who does not hold this same opinion about poetry. Sir Philip Sidney’s literary piece intended to defend poetry from attack was not only effective but also successful, as it has kept poetry relevant since. However, through all of this, Sidney also created a further divide in the accessibility of poetry. By claiming that poetry is only for the powerful, the strong and the intelligent, this is basically forcing out anyone who is not from the upper class from being able to read and analyze poetry.
Sidney makes it nearly impossible for someone with no social clout, no political power and little education to be able to have access to poetry. The lack of inclusiveness Sidney has in regard to the audience of poetry is discouraging, as it would seem logical to include anyone who might be interested in reading poetry to do so. However, Sidney does quite the opposite and makes it so that he indirectly disqualifies many people from having the opportunity to read poesy. While The Defense of Poesy is a wonderful piece of literature that encourages readers to be advocates for poetry, it also creates a divide as Sir Philip Sidney reduces his audience by making poetry only available to the elite and high class, which in turn is an oxymoronic result that contradicts Sidney’s original intent of the literary piece that defends poetry.