The Defence of Poesy

The Defence of Poesy Character List

Sir Philip Sidney/Narrator

Sir Philip Sidney himself is the narrator of the essay. A gentleman by birth and a former soldier, he has "slipped into the role of poet" and feels inclined to defend his newly chosen vocation. Therefore, he seeks to decipher exactly how a poet fits into society. He defends the art of poetry against those who would discredit it. He explains how poets have the imagination to teach and improve humanity whereas historians are merely focused on facts and philosophers lack arts.

Edward Wotton

Sidney's friend who was with him during his Continental tour. Not much is said of him apart from this; however, their conversation with John Pietro Pugliano inspires the essay.

John Pietro Pugliano

An esquire in the emperor's stables, John Pietro Pugliano praises the art of horsemanship. He values horsemanship as the supreme art for a gentleman, and even tells Sidney that horses are "masters of war." He believes that, for a prince, ruling and politics are less important than horsemanship, as "(these roles were) but a pedanteria in comparison."

The Emperor / Maximilian II

The Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from July 1564 until his death in 1576. Sidney is visiting the Emperor's stables when he encounters Pugliano.


An Athenian philosopher from Ancient Greece known most famously for his work The Republic. Plato is recognized in particular for the use of philosophical dialogues.

Stephen Gosson

An English satirist, Gosson was a Puritan who decried the abuses of poetry. Although he is not named explicitly in Sidney's essay, Sidney rebuts several of his points from The School of Abuse.

David/ Holy David

During Sidney's period, David, the third king of Israel (1010-970 BCE), was thought to be the author of the Book of Psalms. Modern scholars reject this claim for his authorship.

Geoffrey Chaucer

A 14th-century English poet best known for The Canterbury Tales and considered the grandfather of English poetry.

John Gower

Gower was a 14th-century poet and contemporary of Chaucer's best known for the Mirour de l'Omme, Vox Clamantis, and Confessio Amantis.


A Roman poet born around 65 BC known for his Odes.

Nathan the prophet

Prophet from the Hebrew Bible, described especially in the book of Samuel.

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

An English nobleman, politician, and poet known for his collaborations with Sir Thomas Wyatt to adapt the Italian sonnet form to English.