Discuss the historical significance of Philip Sydney's  "Defence of Poesie."

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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This work was written around 1579 (although not published until 1595, after the author's death) as a response to attacks on imaginative literature in an era of Puritan influence.  According to Puritanical thought, art was at best irresponsible and at worst morally corrupting. Poetry was becoming particularly singled out for criticism - for example in Stephen Gosson's The Schoole of Abuse. In the Defence of Poesie, Sidney replied that poetry could be used for moral purposes, that it was not vulgar entertainment but a beautiful and noble art which could improve its readers. With this work, Sidney helped stem the tide of criticism against poetry in his own time and his arguments remained influential in helping to exalt poetry to a high status, especially in the era of high Romanticism in the nineteenth century.

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