Astrophil and Stella
The Discipline of Love: A Critical Commentary on Sir Philip Sidney`s “Astrophyl and Stella”
Sir Philip Sidney produced the primary Elizabethan sonnet cycle “Astrophyl and Stella”, which was published posthumously in 1591. The stylistic elements of the sonnet with which he introduces this cycle — including overlap of phrase, sensory detail, imagery, and personification — culminate to portray a speaker’s attempt to compose a sonnet for his beloved in the style of the traditional Petrarchan conceit. Underlying this image is the speaker’s confusion, rage, despair - and eventual reconciliation with his own writing process, rendering a new understanding of what it is to write love poetry.
The poem’s speaker begins by quietly pronouncing his intention to convey his love through the raw, yet disciplined power of poetry: “Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,” (line 1). Bound into a rigid metrical ‘abab’ quatrain composed of iambic hexameter awaits an easily readable progression: “Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,” (line 3). Within the scansion, the speaker combines anaphora in both syntax, through the rhetorical device of overlap of phrase, and diction, by selecting the word “might” to hinge each phrase together. Not only is this plain speech a concise and memorable summary of his inner...
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