Astrophil And Stella Summary

Sir Philip Sidney

Astrophil And Stella

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Astrophil And Stella Summary

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Astrophil and Stella is a series of sonnets written by Sir Phillip Sidney and thought to have been published around the 1580s. The sonnets are a series of love poems between the man Astrophil and his star, Stella. Many believe the sonnets are Sidney’s response to the discovery that his childhood love has been married to another.

Astrophil has fallen in love with Stella. Many of the sonnets are speeches delivered to Stella. We learn a lot about the internal world of Astrophil but little of Stella, aside from a few clues in her actions and reactions to the speeches.

For the first thirty sonnets or so, Stella does not return Astrophil’s love, but does not snub his affections either. She tries to be kind, or at least he believes that she is. Eventually, she marries another man. This does not deter Astrophil, but rather makes Stella more attractive because her marriage is an unhappy one, and he admires her sacrifice.

She does eventually return his affection, but she is never overcome by it. Astrophil, on the other hand, is increasingly more in love and tries to convince her to make love to him despite her vows. He even steals a kiss from her while she is sleeping. She realizes that even though she loves him, she cannot continue in the affair. Because Astrophil will need to consummate his passion, she ends the affair before any improper behavior can happen.

We know that approximately the first thirty sonnets were written while Sidney’s real love, Penelope, was still unmarried and he was still at court. She never gave Sidney any overt encouragement, but just like Stella, never snubbed his affections. These thirty sonnets most likely comprise a year altogether as Sidney left the court, visited his sister’s estate, saw “Stella” at mutual family’s house, and then returned to court.

Sidney discovers her marriage to Lord Rich somewhere between sonnets thirty-one and thirty-three. They were engaged to be married in their childhood, but this was broken off. Penelope’s marriage does not make her happy, a thing Sidney notes, but this does not diminish his passion for her. Rather, her selfless dedication to a marriage that brings her no satisfaction is something that Sidney admires and finds attractive.

He is often jealous of Lord Rich’s access to her, though he knows that she is not happy. He does not feel that her husband can appreciate her, and so he vows to win her heart. Around the sixtieth sonnet, she begins to return his love, but only platonically. She is unwilling to risk her reputation and her husband, and so tells Astrophil that the only way she will return his love is if they never consummate it.

He is content with this for a while, but as his passion grows deeper, we see his behavior change. He cannot help but want to be with her physically, and this desire overrides his rational behavior. He steals a kiss while she is sleeping, and this begins the downfall of their affair. She is incredibly angry that he broke her trust; the sonnet describes it as a sort of rape.

She pulls away, and her absence torments him. It takes a toll on him, and he loves her more deeply than ever. Around sonnet ninety-three, he admits to having wronged her, and his guilt and sorrow are overwhelming in the next few sonnets.

We do not have much detail, other than the kiss, for why he feels this way, but he makes it clear that the relationship is doomed forever. She falls ill, and he serenades her under her window to make her feel better. It has the opposite effect. She is so angry that he would continue to pursue her even after she has asked him not to that she ends the relationship entirely. At the end of the series, he is alone and isolated.

He retains some measure of happiness, despite how things turned out, knowing that his love for Stella is genuine and that she once loved him in return.

Sidney mimics a rhyme scheme from a famous poem by Petrarch to tell the story of his love. Just as Stella torments Astrophil, so was Petrarch tormented by his own love, a love that also causes him much joy. He touches on themes of love versus reason, as well as the conflicting desires of purity and desire.

It is clear that although Astrophil’s love for Stella was fruitless and ended, it brought him an enormous amount of joy as well. He remains happy that Stella once loved him. His inability to keep his love chaste ends their relationship, a point he makes in the sonnet after he steals a kiss. Love, for Astrophil, is something that cannot be contained, though he tries for a long time to keep Stella in his life.

Sidney introduced a new style of poetry into England during the Renaissance, changing the way literature was produced. In the end, he understands that although reason is well and good, he is happier having loved Stella with abandon and knowing that she once loved him as well.