What does Sidney say about the condition of English drama in his time?

Introduction: Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1486), a well-known critic in English literature, makes some objections to contemporary English drama in his famous work ‘An Apology for Poetry’. Though he was not a dramatist himself, he knew the construction theme and the rules of writing a drama.

Condemns on tragi-comedy: Sidney does not allow a tragicomedy. According to him, a play should be pure comedy or pure tragedy. According to Sidney,

“The ideal tragedy is an imitation of the noble action in the representation of which it stirs, admiration and commiseration”.

Weighty character of tragedy: Sydney censures the contemporary drama that it outrages the grave and weighty character of tragedy, its elevated style, and the dignity of the personages represented by mingling ‘kings’ and ‘clowns’ introducing the most inappropriate buffoonery. Sydney gathered his material, from different sources. While basically he adheres to the medieval tradition that,

“Tragedy deals with the fall of king and mighty tyrants and teaches the uncertainty of the world”.

Faults of English Comedies: Sydney distinguishes delight from laughter and says that the great fault of English comedy is that it stirs laughter concerning things that are sinful. According to Sydney, comedy not only produces delightful laughter but also it should mix with delightful teaching. Human follies or errors rather than human vices and wickedness are the proper theme of comedy. But the English comedian wrote their comedy only to produce laughter.

Read More: Discuss Sydney’s view on the antiquity and universality of poetry.

Violating of the three unities: Sydney makes his objection against English drama for violating the three unities. Sydney has found that English comedy and tragedy violated the two unities: unity of time and unity of place.

Objections to the English stage: Sidney also objects to the English stage, when on one side is Asia and on the other Africa and where in an hour a youth may grow from boyhood to old age.

Conclusion: Thus, being a strong supporter of classical drama, Sydney finds faults with the contemporary drama. After Sydney’s comment on English drama there came so many changes in English drama writing. So he is considered to be the reformer of English drama.

Mottaleb Hossain
Mottaleb Hossain

This is Motaleb Hossain, working on studying, a researcher on English literature and Theology.

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