Phineas Fletcher was the son of Giles Fletcher the Elder and was born at Cranbrook in Kent. He was educated at Eton and at King's College, Cambridge, as had been his father, and remained there for several years studying Theology.
He was ordained in 1615 and became the rector of Hilgay in Norfolk in 1621, in which living he remained until his death. Like his younger brother Giles, who also became a rector and a poet, he wrote in imitation of Spenser, his principal work being The Purple Island, an allegorical poem on the continuous struggle between the baser instincts of the human body and the loftier ideals of the mind. Britain's Ida, an erotic tale ascribed to Spenser to protect Fletcher's religious status, is generally believed to be his other major work.