Philip Sidney – The Defense of Poesy (ctd.)

Sidney goes through the whole list of literary genres to find out whether one of them can be particularly offending to moralists. It is not the pastoral, because it paints the miseries and happiness of the poor shepherds and puts the world affairs in perspective – when they are dead, Alexander and Darius are as much worth as dead peasants. It can’t be the elegy which shows the compassion to human woes or teaches how not to give in to human passions. It is not the iambic, which was used by Greek poets to attack vices directly, or the satire, which attacks vices through irony. Even the comedy, which got the worst rep, presumably because of its naughty jokes, can’t be called immoral, because even if portrays human vices, it shows them satirically and in such a way that surely no member of the audience would like to imitate them. And of course it’s not tragedy which, as Plutarch records, inspired even a bloody tyrant Alexander Pheraeus with compassion for the fate of Hecuba. If it didn’t make him a better man, Sidney argues, it’s because he left the theatre quickly, being ashamed of his tears.

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