Sir Philip Sidney: An Apology for Poetry & Astrophel and Stella

Sir Philip Sidney: An Apology for Poetry & Astrophel and Stella


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In 16th century Europe, poetry had lost much of its cultural value. It became known as a narrow and frivolous activity, much like it is now, and it was under attack by religious authorities because it was seen as licentious or subversive. So Sidney prepared "a legal defense" of poetry, trying to restore this sacred practice to its former glory. Sidney tried to argue that poetry was not the frivolous activity that many contemporary poets were practicing. Instead, he argued that it was an ancient epistemological tradition. He tried to prove that it was a serious intellectual endeavor that embodied the Renaissance principle of "reason," every bit as important as history or philosophy. He further argued that poetry was not subversive. It supported traditional didactic, moral, and religious purposes.

The poetic work of Petrarch and Sidney represented a proto-Romantic preoccupation with the heroic sufferings of the poet in love, and they expressed their romantic ideas through formulaic verse. But did the form of the Petrarchan sonnet sequence, and the romantic philosophy of Petrarch, fit Sidney's lofty definition of what poetry and the poet should be? Did Sidney live up to his own exalted philosophical vocation of the myth-poetic prophet? Or was Sidney's adoption of the Petrarchan sequence more of a verbal exercise, a formulaic offshoot of the Scholastic Latin tradition, which was heavily entrenched in Early Modern Europe?

Like many poets, Sidney set himself an impossible task and he became the protagonist of a tragedy, rather than a classical hero quest. Sidney's glory comes not through triumph, but only through the artistry of his self-inflicted pain, and through the pity of a sympathetic audience. But in this pain, Sidney does move his audience with a poetic truth that captures an important message about the human condition. Thus, Sidney does seem to embody, at least in part, his lofty poetic philosophy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781482724035
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 03/09/2013
Pages: 134
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.29(d)

About the Author

J. M. Beach is a lecturer at the University of Texas, San Antonio.

He has advanced degrees in English, History, Philosophy, and Education. He has been a teacher and educational administrator for over fifteen years. Beach has taught many subjects in the Humanities to a broad range of students, from pre-school all the way to university, in public and private schools, in the U.S., South Korea, and China. Previously Beach was a Lecturer at Oregon State University, the University of California, Jinan University in Guangzhou, China, and at several community colleges in Southern California and Central Texas.

Beach's scholarly research focuses on several distinct, but interrelated subjects: The philosophy of knowledge, the science of culture and social institutions, the history and philosophy of education, and literature. Beach is also a published poet.

Links to his books, articles, and conference papers can be found at his website at Follow his blogs at and

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