Why does Sidney prefer poetry to history and philosophy in Defence of Poesie?

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Poetry is set forth by Sidney as the most supreme form in comparison to history and philosophy, as its purpose is "to lead and draw us to as high a perfection as our degenerate souls, made worse by their clayey lodgings, can be capable of." Sidney looks at the way in which philosophy and history are restricted by their need to report the truth, which actually hinders their role as a force for education, as both history and philosophy must therefore look at the bad examples of characters as well as the good ones. In addition, poetry is superior, Sidney argues, in its form, as it encourages the audience to listen to it and therefore learn from it:

For he doth not only show the way, but giveth so sweet a prospect into the way, as will entice any man to enter into it.

Poetry is therefore superior to philosophy, which can often be very difficult to understand, and it is also superior to history, as the poet is able to make what he or she writes far more attractive to the listener. In short, poetry is superior because it is more concrete than philosophy and more comprehensive than history. It suffers no limitations, except the imagination of either the poet or the audience.


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