Sir Philip Sidney Poetry: British Analysis
Sir Philip Sidney was educated to embrace an unusual degree of political, religious, and cultural responsibility, yet it is clear from his comments in Defence of Poesie that he took his literary role as seriously. Both this critical treatise and Astrophel and Stella are manifestos—not only of poetic but also of broader cultural practice. Both look forward to a long-needed renaissance of poetry and culture generally. For Sidney, poetry and its broader social uses were inseparable. Indeed, it is only with distortion that one can separate a “literary” from a “social” text, even with a Petrarchan love sequence such as Astrophel and Stella. Like other Elizabethan court poets, Sidney wrote his poetry within a structure of power and tried to carve out a discursive space under ideological pressures that attempted to control and direct the languages by which the court operated.
The Elizabethan court
The court was more than a visible institution for Sidney and his contemporaries: It was a felt pressure that attempted to fix and determine all that came within its reach. Sidney’s life and poetry are especially interesting examples of how the Elizabethan court’s power operated on poetry. The court poets—for example, Sir Walter Ralegh and the earl of Oxford—acted as spokespeople for the court’s values, yet inevitably the strains and tensions of their roles show through in their poetry. Poetry was both an...
(The entire section is 4636 words.)
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