Astrophil and Stella Summary and Analysis
1. The author opens this first sonnet by explaining his motivation for composing the sonnet sequence. He believes that if his love were to read the sonnets, she would eventually return his affection. He argues that her pleasure in his pain would cause her to read his sonnets, and her reading of the sonnets would allow her to know the extent of his affection, which might make her pity the author's situation-and this pity may transform into grace and love.
The author also describes his difficulties in composing the sonnet sequence. He has struggled to express the pain and misery of his emotions and has tried to look at other poets' works in order to gain inspiration. Still, he has been unsuccessful. Finally, the author has realized that the only way to fully express his love for Stella in his poetry is to write from his heart.
Analysis: Sidney's actions of writing about how to compose a love sonnet allow him to do just that: compose a love sonnet. With this in mind, he warns the reader that the emotions expressed in the entire sonnet sequence stem directly from the heart-thus, he cannot be held rationally responsible. The statements in this first sonnet make clear that Sidney (who already can be identified with the author of the love sonnets) is conflicted in his role as a zealous lover and a self-critical poet. This sonnet demonstrates the first of many clashes between reason and passion that appear in the sonnet sequence. He already seems to know that he will never truly win Stella, but he cannot help but desire her. This conflict between contradicting forces is a crucial element of the sequence.
2. The author describes the slow progression of love into his life. Love did not come quickly or at first sight. Instead, the author's love for Stella began slowly and infiltrated his heart before he realized what was happening. He began by viewing her in a purely platonic way, and he then began to appreciate her more-and he finally fell in love with her. At first he bemoaned his loss of liberty at the hands of love, but now, his emotions run too deep to allow him to make even that small complaint about the circumstances. He praises his slavery and spends his time trying to obscure the truth of his situation.
Analysis: Sidney presents himself as a passive participant in the progression of love. He has no control over his emotions. Moreover, because of the slow and steady progression of his emotions, he was unable to guard himself in any way. He is a slave to love and has no power to escape it. By presenting himself as a slave to a sort of happy tyranny, Sidney both justifies and excuses his actions. According to his inflexible Protestant background, Sidney's desire for Stella is inappropriate and must be restrained at all times. But if he is not under his own control, existing as nothing more than a slave to love, he cannot be judged as completely responsible for his behavior.
3. The author provides examples of all of the actions the Muses can inspire, ranging from increasing wittiness to enriching poetry with exotic metaphors. But Sidney asserts that he does not call upon any of the Muses in order to write his poetry. Instead, he looks to Stella herself for inspiration. Nevertheless, all of the exotic metaphors and complex phrases that the Muses can inspire in other poets are beyond his reach because Stella affects him too personally. She holds the source of all beauty and, in the end, his poetry only can only mirror what already exists in her.
Analysis: The sonnet begins with rich imagery meant to evoke the Muses, the nine sister goddesses who were thought to embody the arts and inspire all creative imagination. In the epic tradition it was standard practice to call upon them explicitly at the beginning of the narrative. This sonnet is ironic because it describes Stella as both a stimulus and a drain on his creative power. He is unable to call upon the nine Muses for inspiration in his poetry because of his love for Stella, yet she is the only muse he can accept in his heart. Stella unfortunately cannot incite Astrophel's imagination. Worse, he only can write what already exists in her beauty; he is unable to create anything new. This seems to be an expression of traditional poetic humility.
4. Astrophel is weary of Virtue who, in his sternness, will not allow any vices. He urges Virtue to leave him alone, arguing that if Virtue does not like elements of Astrophel's character, Virtue should just ignore them. Astrophel recognizes that he has faults, but like a colt, he is too young to be driven so hard at Virtue's hands (his mouth is too tender for Virtue's bit). Still, even the old master Virtue could understand his love for Stella with a little convincing. Astrophel argues that the image of Stella in Astrophel's heart would be sufficient to make even Virtue himself fall in love with her.
Analysis: The poem depicts Virtue as a sort of stern schoolteacher. In doing so, the poem also creates a different view of Astrophel as the lover. Astrophel is young and full of life. He is contemptuous of churches, schools, and the power of thought because his will and his wit are constantly at odds with one another. He views the world in this way because he sees it through the lens of his love for Stella. In the last section of the poem, Astrophel becomes gentler as he begins to describe Stella. Stella's image is enough convince Virtue to fall in love, but Astrophel emphasizes that this is a result of her inherent virtue rather than her power.
5. Sidney lists a series of truths. First, we are born to serve reason alone. Second, lovers have only themselves to blame for succumbing to Cupid's dart. Third, virtue is beauty in its true form, rather than the superficial appearance that is usually regarded as beauty. The final truth here is that people are only pilgrims on this earth who should concentrate on their souls. Even though he recognizes the truth of all of these statements, he is unable to separate his rational understanding from the love in his heart. Despite his knowledge of all of these truths, he concludes that he still loves Stella. His love for her is truth for him even though all of the other truths contradict it.
Analysis: This poem is essentially a series of moral axioms upended in the end with a final strange conclusion. Sidney uses the term "true" frequently in the sonnet in order to play with the reader's mind and toy with the meaning of the term. All of the force he establishes with the idea of truth in the first thirteen lines is used in the last line to prove his final truth: that he must love Stella. The closing phrase is the first deeply personal note of the poem, and it gains its power from the contrast with the previous thirteen lines. Astrophel agrees to become a "rebel to Nature" and a "foole" to Cupid's power. Yet, he emphasizes that he does not have a choice in the decision; he "must" love Stella with an urgency that is beyond his control.
6. Mirroring the first sonnet in the sequence, Sidney describes why he is unable to copy other poets. He refers to the numerous conventions used to write sonnets. First, some poets view love as an overpowering force that makes lovers suffer. Second, some use contradictory terms or oxymorons, such as "living deaths" and "freezing fires." Third, some use mythology to express their ideas, for example, describing the many disguises of Jove. Fourth, some use the pastoral tradition, depicting gentlemen and ladies dressed as shepherds and shepherdesses. Finally, some use conceits to write their sonnets (these are extended metaphors with a complex logic that often dominates an entire poem). For example, there is the comparison between tears and ink. Although he recognizes all of these literary traditions for expressing love in sonnets, Sidney declares that he only can express his love through his voice.
Analysis: Sidney describes poets' various means of expressing love in their sonnets. Although he hardly employs the traditions they use, he feels his love as intensely as they do. Instead of writing poetry, however, all that he needs to do to show his love is reveal the trembling in his voice as he whispers her name. This is one of the earliest literary calls for originality in one's work. In Sidney's time, it was common for authors and poets to steal the plots of others. William Shakespeare, for one, thought nothing of "borrowing" other people's plots as well as the stories of real historical figures to use in his plays. Yet, Sidney is unable (or perhaps, unwilling) to rely on other poets to demonstrate his love. In the end, the emotion in his voice is far superior in expressing his love than any borrowed literary conventions.
7. The sonnet opens with a riddle: "What Nature made her chiefe worke, Stella's eyes, / In colour blacke, why wrapt she beames so bright?" Astrophel lists several possible answers to the riddle. It could be for the aesthetic effect (since Stella's black eyes set off her fair skin). Her eyes could act as a black veil to obscure the dazzling Platonic light. Or, her eyes could be meant to show Nature's great power by making the color black seem beautiful. Each of these responses is offered with hesitation in the form of questions. The true response is the final one: Stella's eyes are black in order to mourn all of those men who die for the love of her.
Analysis: Astrophel devotes almost the entire poem to praising Stella's eyes. Yet, nothing in the poem is certain (none of the reasons is accurate) until the witty couplet at the end of the poem. In an ironic shift, the only certain thing in the poem, other than that her eyes are black, is that her eyes have a destructive effect on Astrophel. This is a slightly skewed version of a traditional metaphor used in Renaissance poetry: the idea that the mistress's eyes can kill the lover with a glance.
8. Astrophel describes the voyage of Cupid from his native home in Greece to Astrophel's own heart. Because the hearts of Turkish lovers were too hard to be pierced with his arrows, Cupid traveled to England. Although the hearts of the British were soft and susceptible to his darts, Cupid felt cold in the new climate and tried to find a warm location in which to settle himself. He saw Stella's brilliant face and, because its beauty was so warm, he imagined that it was a source of heat. When her face turned out to be cold, Love moved into Astrophel's heart, where the flames of Astrophel's desire for Stella burned off Cupid's wings.
Analysis: Sidney describes his love for Stella as a result of Cupid's behavior. He has no control over Cupid because Love is now literally trapped in his heart; Cupid cannot fly away without his wings. Ironically, Cupid is trapped in Astrophel's heart because of his own actions: it was he who first stoked the flames for Stella that eventually burned Cupid's wings. Ultimately, even Love has no power over Stella. Despite Cupid's best efforts, he was unable to live in her face. Astrophel fears that perhaps Stella is immune to love.
9. Astrophel describes the different elements of Stella's beautiful face. Her forehead is alabaster; her hair is gold; her mouth is made of red porphir; her teeth are pearls; and her cheeks are a combination of red and white marble. The windows of this palace, Stella's eyes, look over the world, but anyone looking will discover that there is nothing in the world that is as beautiful as Stella's face.
Analysis: Astrophel depicts Stella's beauty as a sort of architectural design of Nature. Not only does her face possess all of Nature's best "furniture" (or facial features), it is equipped with the very best materials: gold, alabaster, pearl, marble, and so forth. Compared to this wealth, Astrophel is nothing but a pauper who tracks in ink and paper. He recognizes that he is unworthy of entering "Queen Virtue's Court."
10. Astrophel mocks Reason for its attempt to cultivate his loving mind. He urges Reason to climb the Muses' hill or seek the inside of Heaven rather than waste time attempting to instill rationality in Astrophel's mind. Even if Reason did continue to fight, Astrophel declares, as soon as he was faced with Stella's eyes he would fall to his knees. Immediately, even Reason would be so overcome by Stella's beauty that Reason would give himself up in her name.
Analysis: This sonnet mirrors Sonnet 4 in its presentation of Reason as a sort of grumbling old schoolmaster. Astrophel possesses a tone of familiar contempt for Reason, declaring that Reason is well served in his defeat. Astrophel only lessens his contemptuous tone when Reason succumbs to Stella and falls to his knees. In the final couplet of the sonnet, Sidney describes the truth behind the conflict between reason and love. Even the most intelligent person can succumb to rationalizations, putting reason in the service of desire. As in Sonnet 4, Astrophel emphasizes that public standards of reason and virtue are irrelevant in the private world of love.
11. Astrophel bemoans Cupid's failure to obtain Stella's heart. He describes Cupid as a little boy who pretends to go about the action of love with seriousness but actually misses the crucial elements. Astrophel compares Stella to a beautiful book with gilded pages. Like a foolish boy, Cupid plays with the beautiful outside of the book, but he fails to delve inside and obtain the full meaning of the book. Cupid's behavior with the book, Astrophel laments, is mirrored in his behavior with Stella. He plays with her exterior beauty, setting bird traps in her cheeks and crouching in her breast, but in doing so, he forgets to go inside and capture her heart.
Analysis: Astrophel continues to worry that Stella's heart will never be touched by love. He blames Cupid for this failure, presenting Love as a sort of asexual figure who, literally, does not know what he is supposed to do with a beautiful woman. Without Cupid, another traditional poetic fallback is unavailable for use. Astrophel laments the irony of his situation. As an adult man, he would not play boyish games with Stella's exterior; he would try to catch her heart. Yet, the only individual who actually has access to her and the ability to steal her heart is Cupid, who is too young or naÃ¯ve to do it.
12. Astrophel spends the majority of the sonnet describing the different ways in which Cupid is present in Stella's person. Cupid shines in Stella's eyes, and he catches larks with her golden hair. He provokes flames of love in others and then fans them using Stella's breath. All of his wrongs are justified by Stella's grace, and Stella's voice can persuade anyone to fall in love. Yet, Astrophel declares, Cupid is mistaken in believing that he has conquered Stella for his own advantage. Her heart is a fortress, heavily guarded against Love's infiltration.
Analysis: Cupid is still fooled into believing that he wields power over Stella. In fact, Stella is in control of Cupid, using him to ensnare lovers for herself but never allowing him to access her heart (even if he knew he should do so). The poem emphasizes the ideas of woman as fortress and lover as besieger. This metaphor was common in medieval and early modern poetry. Yet, as Astrophel acknowledges, Stella's heart is an impenetrable fortress which, if Cupid himself has failed to conquer it, Astrophel will never be able to penetrate it.
13. Phoebus was directed to judge between Jove, Mars, and Love to determine whose coat of arms was the best. Jove's shield displayed eagles carrying Ganymede into the skies, and he carried thunderbolts on his crest. Mars's shield depicted a golden spear thrust through a bleeding heart, and he carried the net of Venus on his crest. Cupid used Stella, positioning her face as his shield and her golden hair as his crest. Phoebus instantly crowned Cupid the winner of the challenge, swearing that Jove and Mars were scarcely worth a comparison.
Analysis: Stella is who elevates Cupid above Jove and Mars. As a result of her presence on his shield and crest, the two other gods are "scarcely gentlemen," barely worthy of a coat of arms at all. Significantly, the phrase "roses gules are born in silver field," meaning red roses on a silver background, is a direct reference to the arms of the Devereux family, which consisted of three red disks in a silver field. Compare this contest with the judgment (which indirectly caused the events of the Iliad) that Paris had to make regarding which of three goddesses, Hera, Athena, or Aphrodite, was the most beautiful.
14. The speaker presents two different views of love. In the first eight lines, love is a fierce bird of prey and, according to Astrophel's friend, is made up of desire and sinful thoughts. In the final sestet, Astrophel responds to his friend's criticism, expressing a new definition of love. He attempts to show that his friend's view of sin is inflexible and conventional but not true. And if love really is sin, Astrophel will gladly be sinful.
Analysis: In the sonnet, the friend views love as lustful desire. In this perspective, love is sin. Sidney views love in terms of what it can accomplish: enlightenment and attainment of a higher plane of emotion. The sestet of this sonnet, lauding the virtues of love, foreshadows other sonnets that will occur later in the sequence. But of the two views of love in the sonnet, it is the first view of love as a sin that dominates in the first third of the entire sequence. Even so, Astrophel is happy to accept that view and embrace his sinful state.
15. Astrophel directs this sonnet to other poets, specifically those who strive to write their sonnets with far-fetched metaphors and florid language. Whether these other poets try to channel imagery from ancient mythology or use the dictionary to find rhymes, Astrophel asserts that they are taking the wrong route in writing. If they need to use these alternative paths, they clearly do not possess the inner love that inspires poetry and, ultimately, they will plagiarize other poets. All that a poet needs for original inspiration, Astrophel declares, is a single look at Stella.
Analysis: Sidney also critiques plagiarism and imitation in sonnets 1, 3, and 6. As in the other sonnets, Sidney maintains that inspiration is only lacking in poetry if it does not stem directly from the heart. His muse is Stella, and he does not need to use the methods of other poets (the dictionary, mythological images, and so on) in order to express his true feelings. This sonnet is simultaneously tongue-in-cheek because, although he may not plagiarize, Sidney does utilize classical mythology and florid language in other sonnets in this sequence.
16. Astrophel describes his loves before he first beheld Stella. He saw beautiful women and, as a hot-blooded young man, he became attracted to them. Believing that this emotion was love, Astrophel mocked the other men who claimed to be filled with such suffering from love. Since he did not feel the flames of love, he believed that the other men were simply cowards or weak. But then Astrophel saw Stella, and suddenly he learned the truth of the love that the others had suffered.
Analysis: Astrophel is unable to determine whether his first glimpse of Stella was a curse or a blessing. Although he finally learned the true meaning of love through his sight of her, he also now undergoes terrible suffering because of it. Love is described as a sort of poison that appeals to lovers even as it drains their lives away. Astrophel also describes the situation as a lesson in a classroom. He was ill educated about love before Stella, and she opened his eyes to a new world and a new knowledge. But, he asks, what was the price of that knowledge?
17. Venus fears that Mars's affection for her is waning, and she asks Cupid to shoot him with his darts. Fearing Mars's anger at him if he agrees, Cupid refuses his mother's request. In a violent rage, Venus pushes Cupid from her lap and breaks his bow and all of his arrows into pieces. Cupid's grandmother, Nature, takes pity on him and gives him two new bows, formed from Stella's eyebrows, and a multitude of arrows, formed from Stella's eyes. Happy with his new weapons, Cupid immediately begins to test them out and, as Astrophel sheepishly admits, Astrophel gets in his way.
Analysis: Astrophel uses a theme from classical mythology in order to praise Stella's beauty. Stella's eyebrows become Cupid's new bows while her eyes become the arrows, a fact that elevates her beauty to a celestial level; her eyebrows and eyes are heavenly enough to constitute the primary weapon of Love. Ironically, Cupid uses his new weapon to pierce Astrophel's heart and make him fall in love with Stella. The weapon of his love and the object of his affection both involve the same woman.
18. The sonnet begins with a sense of regret for Astrophel's loss of reason and rationality. Then he remembers his love for Stella and wishes that he had more than his reason to give up for her. Meditating on his emotions, Astrophel imagines himself as a prodigal son who is bankrupt. He states the case for reason, rationality, and virtue and realizes that he has lost himself. Yet, he asserts himself through the voice that appears in the thirteenth line of the poem and abandons any hope of regaining himself.
Analysis: The sonnet does not present its case for love in a dramatic way. Astrophel acknowledges that he has lost his reason and rationality, and he accepts it. There is only a gentle movement away from the criticism and judgment of the world. He seems even to present a quiet, almost cheerful shrug of his shoulders.
19. Astrophel describes how his love for Stella is destroying him. His heartstrings on Cupid's bow are completely destroyed, but he continues to embrace his destruction at Stella's hands. He revels in his love but then feels shame, just as he runs willingly toward Stella, repenting his actions even as he runs. Although he knows that all of his poems will not affect her feelings toward him, he will continue to write them at Love's urging.
Analysis: Sidney uses a series of contractions to express Astrophel's lack of control over his love for Stella. Even though he recognizes that his efforts are in vain (even the words he writes in his poetry warn him of this), he is unable to stop loving Stella. Moreover, through his love for Stella, he is beginning to fall into a moral decline. The love poetry he writes for her is evidence of this decline.
20. In this sonnet, Astrophel describes the process of falling in love with Stella, an action that begins with the poet's first sight of her. He is ambushed by Cupid, hiding in Stella's lovely, black eyes. Through each of Stella's glances toward him, Astrophel is attacked by Cupid's darts. Though he sees the darts coming toward him ("motions of lightning' grace"), he is unable to escape before they pierce his heart.
Analysis: Sidney takes the common Renaissance understanding of love (that love is transmitted through the eyes) and redirects the tone via a hunting scene. With his first sight of Stella, Astrophel warns his hunting companions to flee. He dramatizes love as a sort of ambush; he is no longer the hunter, having become the hunted. Yet, this ambush is still playful; Astrophel welcomes the betrayal at the hands of Cupid.
21. Astrophel is concerned with his difficulty in maintaining reason in his life. An outside speaker begins to criticize his behavior, arguing that his love for Stella directly challenges his training and expectations for life, as well as his intelligence. The speaker describes love as "coltish" and irrational and emphasizes that Astrophel's behavior will be detrimental to his public position. At the end of the poem, Astrophel gives his reply. It has little to do with the rest of the poem and his friend's criticism, remaining independent of outside judgment.
Analysis: The sonnet ultimately defends Astrophel against the attack of an outside observer. In this case, the attacker is a friend who is concerned about Astrophel's behavior and seeming loss of reason in his love for Stella. The defense is informal, with its casual "sure" and "my friend," while Astrophel stands firm behind his love. Love may be disorderly and outside of the realm of nature but, as Astrophel innocently asks, "Is there anyone in the world as beautiful as Stella?" Similar to Sonnet 18, this sonnet does not argue violently for love; Astrophel simply listens to the criticism of the outside observer and then moves on, unchanged in his affection.
22. On a day when the sun was at its hottest and not obscured by any clouds, several ladies of the Court went for a walk. Each of the women was protected from the sun with fans, with the exception of Stella, who went outside completely unprotected. Astrophel questions Stella's decision to face the sun unprotected; he suggests that it is either because Stella wished to mirror the sun in its openness or because she was careless of her own beauty. All of the ladies became sunburned except for Stella. As Astrophel explains, while the sun burned all of the other women, it merely kissed Stella.
Analysis: In this sonnet, Astrophel continues to praise Stella's beauty and compare it to transcendental forces. In this case, Stella's beauty is unique in comparison with the other ladies of the Court-and the sun itself is entranced. While the other ladies are common and thus are sunburned, Stella receives a gentle kiss from the sun, being a sort of kindred spirit.
23. The intellectual scholars recognize a bored thoughtfulness in Astrophel's eyes and attempt to guess the reason behind it. Some of them believe that Astrophel is becoming inspired to write a new non-poetic work. Others believe that he has political aspirations because the prince is trying his service. Still others believe that Astrophel is succumbing to his ambition and that his brain is held captive in the question for higher social or intellectual position. Yet all of the scholars are mistaken. The only thing actually in Astrophel's thoughts is Stella.
Analysis: The scholars believe that Astrophel's distraction is due to a variety of different causes, but none of them suspects love. Each group assigns a different explanation to his behavior, expressing their own anxieties about social position and political ambition. Ironically, all of their concerns are for nothing. They cannot comprehend that Astrophel is distracted by romantic love rather than ambition.
24. Astrophel discusses the rich men in the world who are morally corrupt and wicked in their activities. They strive to become wealthy and powerful, even at the detriment of all of those around them. Even these corrupt men, Astrophel asserts, are at least able to recognize the value of something that they hold in their hands. The "rich fool," on the other hand, is so blind and immoral that he is unable to recognize the beauty and worth of his wife, Stella. In a just world, his abuse of Stella would result in his exile from her presence forever.
Analysis: The term "rich" in this sonnet is a reference to Lord Robert Rich, the husband of Penelope Devereux. According to historical sources, Penelope was unhappy in her marriage with Lord Rich, a fact that added to Sidney's obvious rancor toward him. Sidney has a great deal of disdain for Lord Rich because of his inability to recognize his wife's superior qualities. As a result, Sidney suggests that the only just solution would be for Lord Rich to withdraw from his marriage.
25. Astrophel begins by citing Plato, the wisest scholar. In the Phaedrus, Plato declares that if an individual saw Virtue in a physical form, that individual would immediately fall in love with it. Astrophel acknowledges the truth of this declaration. He declares that Virtue took the physical form of Stella and that he himself fell in love with her.
Analysis: This sonnet has an interesting interplay between Love and Reason, two forces that are frequently set in opposition in the sonnet sequence. In the first eight lines, Astrophel refers to Reason through Plato, citing his work and wisdom. Plato seems to redefine the only true love as the love of Reason and Virtue. In the last six lines of the sonnet, Astrophel returns to the theme of his love for Stella. By using Plato's rational declaration about Virtue, however, Astrophel is able to justify his love for Stella, briefly combining Love and Reason.
26. Astrophel responds to scholars who deride astrology and do not recognize the wonders of the stars in the sky. He argues that Nature was not idle; there must have been an excellent reason for the formation of the stars. Even if he did not believe this statement, Astrophel argues, he is constantly reminded of the wonder of the heavens because of the two stars in Stella's face, her eyes.
Analysis: This is yet another example of Astrophel's praise for Stella through a comparison with higher powers, focusing again on her eyes. In this case, he does not refer to classical mythology but references the stars in the sky, making another pun on Stella's name. Even if his rational knowledge of astrology fails him, Stella's eyes are sufficient to convince him of the truth.
27. Astrophel describes the reactions of the Court to his behavior after he falls in love with Stella. He is often speechless in company and sits alone among many. As a result, the rest of the Court believes that he is poisoned by pride, that he is only interested in himself and despises those around him. Astrophel realizes, however, that he does not suffer from pride but from ambition, the ambition to transcend up to Stella's grace.
Analysis: This sonnet refers to an issue that was common in the early modern period: love versus politics. The replacement of politics with love as the focus of the author's world was thought to diminish the speaker's ability to function in politics. Love undermines the speaker's credibility in the Court and proves the idea that love and poetry makes a person unsuited for a political career.
28. Astrophel directs this poem at poets who interpret poetry allegorically. He does not write allegories in his poetry-he only says exactly what he means. When he says the name "Stella," for example, he refers solely to Stella, the woman he loves. He does not use any metaphorical ways to prove his love. Instead, he simply reads out the love that burns in his heart.
Analysis: Astrophel argues against the practice of interpreting poetry as an allegory. He believes that the text of a poem should always refer to the author's intention; the words should not signify any another meaning. As a result, his poetry is simple but true. Of course, this is deeply ironic if we interpret the whole sequence as an allegory in which Astrophel represents Sidney and Stella is Penelope.
29. This sonnet presents an elaborate fiction of Cupid as a mighty warlord who conquers the frontier through Stella's influence. Astrophel compares Stella's behavior to weak lords who are neighbored by powerful kings. Just like them, Stella protects herself from Love by giving him permission to conquer all the coastal towns surrounding him. So, while her heart escapes from being Love's prisoner, all of those around her are smitten. Because Astrophel lives on the coast, he in particular becomes a true slave to Love.
Analysis: Astrophel no longer recognizes any difference between Stella and Love. In this sonnet in particular, Stella has become Cupid's stronghold: his food, his tents, his armor, and so on. Once again, however, Stella is immune to Love's charms. In a political move, she makes a deal with Love that allows him to reign over her neighboring lands so long as he never attempts to reign over her.
30. People ask Astrophel questions about social and political issues that are troubling the Court. They ask his opinion about the Turkish empire and whether the Polish king will invade Russia. They ask if the three parts of France (the Catholics, the Protestant Huguenots, and the moderate Politiques) will ever unite and if the Germans (cited as "Dutch") will boast the parliament of the Holy Roman Empire. They ask how the Dutch are coping with the loss of five Dutch towns to Spain (in 1581-1582) and then refer to the unstable political situation in Scotland. But Astrophel has no interest in these questions because he only thinks of Stella.
Analysis: The moon and horns of the first two lines refer to the Islamic crescent. The Islamic Turkish Empire posed a serious threat to Europe during this period. In fact, all of the issues that are presented in this sonnet refer to matters that were of importance to England and particularly important to Sidney himself.
31. Astrophel sees the moon climbing in the sky at night, and he recognizes in its pale face the same lovesickness that he experiences. He suggests that, perhaps even in the heights of the sky, Cupid's arrows are powerful enough to shoot the moon. Then, Astrophel becomes completely certain that the moon is lovesick. He recognizes its looks and its languishing grace because they are the same looks and grace that he recognizes in himself. He asks the moon what life and love are like upon its surface. He asks: Is the faithful lover viewed as an idiot? Are beautiful women as proud as they are on earth? Do they desire love and attention but scorn those who give it to them? Do they call ungratefulness a virtue?
Analysis: Sidney's connection to the moon is an example of a "pathetic fallacy" in which elements of nature appear to experience human emotions. At first Sidney describes the moon in accordance with classical mythology, as an individual being. Yet, his insistence that the moon is lovesick does not make sense in this context because the goddess of the moon is Diana, a perpetual virgin who is not affected by love. Then, Sidney switches his perception of the moon to adhere to Copernican belief, and he describes the moon as a planet. The series of questions he asks expresses his desire for a logical explanation of Stella's behavior. He wants to know if the scorn his love receives at her hands is limited to the earth.
Astrophil and Stella Essays and Related Content
- Astrophil and Stella: Major Themes
- Astrophil and Stella: Essays
- Astrophil and Stella: Questions
- Astrophil and Stella: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Philip Sidney: Biography
- Astrophil and Stella Summary
- About Astrophil and Stella
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Sonnets 1-31
- Summary and Analysis of Sonnets 32-50
- Summary and Analysis of Sonnets 51-75
- Summary and Analysis of Sonnets 76-100
- Summary and Analysis of Sonnets 101-108 and Songs 1-11
- Astrophil and Stella: Where does it belong in the 21st century?
- Related Links on Astrophil and Stella
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources