Sir Philip Sidney, in his work of literary criticism “An Apology for Poetry,” discusses the functions of poetry, arguing that it serves a variety of important roles in society, including moral and ethical education, entertainment, and emotional expression.
Sidney begins by arguing that poetry can serve as a powerful tool for moral and ethical education. He contends that poetry has the ability to convey important moral and ethical lessons in a way that is memorable and impactful. He writes, “Now for the poet, he nothing affirmeth, and therefore never lieth. For, as I take it, to lie is to affirm that to be true which is false; so as the other artists, and especially the historian, affirming many things, can, in the cloudy knowledge of mankind, hardly escape from many lies.”
Sidney also argues that poetry has an important role to play in entertaining and delighting audiences. He writes, “Now therein of all sciences (I speak still of human, and according to the human conceit) is our poet the monarch. 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.” He contends that poetry can provide an escape from the mundane realities of daily life and can offer a source of pleasure and enjoyment.
Additionally, Sidney argues that poetry has the ability to capture and convey the full range of human emotions. He notes that poetry can express both the joys and sorrows of life, and can provide a means for individuals to express their own emotions. He writes, “So that, as Plutarch saith, ‘to be entertained with poets’ stories is like drinking of the sweet and luscious liquor of a great tree, that is most pleasant to the taste, and, though it be full of spirit, yet worketh no disturbance to the head.'”
Moreover, Sidney contends that poetry can serve as a means for individuals to explore and understand the world around them. He writes, “So that poetry is, as I said before, a speaking picture, with this end, to teach and delight.” He argues that poetry can provide a means for individuals to examine and contemplate the complexities of the world, and can offer insights into human nature and the human condition.
Overall, Sidney’s view on the functions of poetry highlights its ability to serve as a multifaceted and versatile art form. He argues that poetry has the power to educate, entertain, and inspire, and can provide a means for individuals to explore and express the full range of human experience. Sidney’s defense of poetry has helped to establish its place in the canon of literature, and has inspired generations of writers and readers to appreciate and value this important art form.