Sidney, Sir Philip

Sidney, Sir Philip

biographical name

(born Nov. 30, 1554, Penshurst, Kent, Eng.—died Oct. 17, 1586, Arnhem, Neth.) English courtier, statesman, soldier, and poet. Born into an aristocratic family and educated to be a statesman and soldier, Sidney served in minor official posts and turned to literature as an outlet for his energies. Astrophel and Stella (1591), inspired by Sidney's passion for his aunt's married ward, is considered the finest Elizabethan sonnet cycle after William Shakespeare's sonnets. The Defence of Poesie (1595), an urbane and eloquent plea for imaginative literature, introduced the critical ideas of Renaissance theorists to England. His heroic romance Arcadia, though unfinished, is the most important work of English prose fiction of the 16th century. None of his works was published in his lifetime. Wounded in action while soldiering in the Netherlands, he died from an infection, and he was widely mourned as the ideal gentleman of his day.

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