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Sir Philip Sidney is more of an eclectic critic than a genuine one. Discuss with...

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shewa55 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted December 25, 2012 at 3:37 AM via web

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Sir Philip Sidney is more of an eclectic critic than a genuine one. Discuss with reference to his Defence of Poesie.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 26, 2012 at 7:42 AM (Answer #1)

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It is difficult to claim that Sidney is anything but a critic in this essay. He draws upon the examples of a wide range of literature, yes, and this could expose him to attacks of being merely "eclectic" in his tastes. However, he uses each mention of other poets and works to support his argument and to deepen the reader's understanding about what he is saying. It is clear when he turns his attention to contemporary art towards the end of his essay that he is very critical about the poets and dramatists of his day, and he supports his points through the use of a number of rhetorical strategies and through various appeals to great thinkers in the past. Consider, for example, his critique of the failings of contemporary drama:

...where you shall have Asia of the one side, and Afric of the other, and so many other under kingdoms, that the player, when he cometh in, must ever begin with telling where he is, or else the tale will not be conceived.

Sidney uses this humorous example to support Aristotle's arguments about the three unities that are necessary in drama: time, place and action. At each point he makes clear his immense learning and capacity for critical thought through his wide-ranging and perceptive references to other critics and to their works. Although he makes many references, each, when closely examined, are supported and used effectively to argue his point, showing without a doubt that he is a critic of the highest order rather than merely eclectic in his tastes.

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