Philip Sidney


I. Biography:

1. The most beloved courtier of the Elizabethan court: legends born after his death

2. Ardent Protestantism: an eyewitness of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day, thus strengthening his Protestant faith
3. An active patron of letters: Edmund Spenser as the primary beneficiary

4. An un-favored courtier: distrusted by the Queen, banished for his strong opposition to the Queen’s intended betroth to the Duke of Anjou
5. Appointed by the Queen as the governor of a territory in the Netherlands, engaging in wars with Spain and killed.

II. Literary Achievement:

1. Arcadia and New Arcadia: an epic romance in prose

2. The Defense of Poesy: to defend imaginative literature and exalt the role of the poet, the freedom of the imagination, and the moral value of the fiction.
3. Astrophil and Stella: one of the first English sonnet cycles

III. Discussion of Sonnet:

1. An Italian poetic form: developed in Italy in the 13th century, perfected by Petrarch, introduced into Renaissance England

2. Two major forms:

Petrarchan (Italian) sonnet: octave + sestet narrative + comment Shakespearean (English) sonnet: 3 quatrains + couplet epigrammatic end Varied rhyme schemes:

3. Poetic styles:

Primarily love lyrics in its early development: the male poet enamored with his indifferent lady lover, tortured in his passion
Religious themes later introduced by John Donne and John Milton Concentrated expression of idea or passion
Use of “conceits”—uncommon figures of speech—in its early development

IV. Discussion of The Defense of Poesy:

1. The Names for the Poet: prophet (in Latin); maker (in Greek)

2. Poet: the maker of the golden second nature (p. 936-37)

3. Definition of Art: mimesis, with the end to teach and delight

4. Three kinds of poets: divine ones; philosophical ones; the right ones (the poets proper); Poetry vs. Verse: spirit vs. apparel
5. Poetry as surpassing history and moral philosophy: poetic justice; skills of moving people to goodness

6. Discussion of several “kinds” of poetry: based on didacticism; arranged according to Renaissance literary hierarchy.

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