Delight, Laughter, and What Makes Good Poesy

Irisdelia Garcia

Word Count: 392

Sidney makes the argument that “delight” and “laughter” can exist as concepts exclusive of one another instead of being co-dependent. He states that “delight hath a joy in it, either permanent or present.  Laughter hath only a scornful tickling…we laugh at deformed creatures, wherein certain we cannot delight. We delight in good chances; we laugh at mischances.” (Sidney 47) We can find delight in things without it coupled with laughter. We can laugh at things and find little to no delight in it. Then, what is delight, if not with laughter? Laughter, as Sidney points out, is sometimes fueled by “sinful things” (48) while delight is “power[ed] by love” (48). He even goes on to mention Aristotle who, too, spoke to the delights and pleasure received from art.

“And the great fault even in that point of laughter [in reference to what induces laughter], and forbidden plainly by Aristotle, is that they stir laughter in sinful things…” (48).

How does this relate to poesy and how does this fit in with poesy being good? Based in Aristotle’s rhetoric, “poesy…is an art of imitation, for so Aristotle termeth it in the word mimesis…a representing, counterfeiting or figuring forth….with this end: to teach and delight.” (10). If art, in its essence, is imitation that brings pleasure and delight, and poesy is a craft built in imitation, representation, and metaphor, then poesy’s purpose is to bring delight. Aristotle speaks to how the idea of art being imitation gives pleasure to audience because it speaks to our embodied knowledge without necessarily having said audience experience it directly. When we see a painting of a flower, we find pleasure in comparing that painting to what we know of flowers and even marveling at the representation of such a thing in this particular form. For Sidney, poesy does the same thing in its form, crafting worlds in metaphor and imitation that, coming back to the differences between delight and laughter, is coupled with care, love, and “leisure,” a concept he critiques historians and philosophers alike in lacking. Poesy is the art of imitation and, in good imitation, its end goal is to teach and delight in its representation. Eliciting laughter is only but a bonus in delight but, in its essence, is often not needed and actually a signifier for some form of scorn with the art presented.

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