Astrophel And Sidney Critical Analysis

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Sir Philip Sidney, who has written poetry, prose and critical essays, is known as the most influential writer of the Elizabethan period. Author of Arcadia, Astrophil and Stella, and The Defence of Poesy, Sir Philip Sidney was born in 1554 and died in 1586. Grandson of the Duke of Northumberland, Sidney grew up with a strong motherly influence, given his father’s absences. Due to this fact, it is believed that he gained a unique understanding of the womanly world, as evidenced in many of his poems.
According to Alexander (2010, p. ix), “Sidney was ahead of his time as a writer and he died before his time”, meaning that he died at a very young age – 31 years old, after being injured in combat – when his work was only registered in manuscripts.
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It belongs to a sequence of sonnets that reflect upon Astrophel’s love for Stella, a painful and frustrating love. The persona, feeling depressed, wonders whether the moon feels the same, i. e. whether love is as painful for heavenly bodies as it is for human beings.
As far as form is concerned, With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies!, for the most part, is a Petrarchan sonnet with rhyme scheme ABBA-ABBA-CDCDEE, except for lines 10 and 12 in which we have a slant rhyme. It does not quite align with a Petrarchan sonnet in the last sestet though, which typically would be CDCDCD or CDEEDE. The rhyme scheme CDCDEE is more typical of a Shakespearean sonnet. In the first octet, the persona talks about how the moon looks like – quiet and sad – and wonders whether the cupid has assaulted it. In the final sestet, there is a small turn: the persona asks a series of rhetorical questions, wondering whether heavenly bodies treat their beloved ones with the same
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Moreover, the sonic effect of the assonance in lines 12-13 promotes a hypnotic sensation. All these sound elements reiterate the persona’s state as if running around in circles, not being able to understand the beloved’s indifference. This connection between love and pain can be sensed throughout the poem. When it comes to analyzing the poem’s content, the first image that calls our attention is the personification of the moon, a heavenly body that is capable of feeling the same love pain as the persona feels. The sequence of questions in the last sestet also compose an interesting symbol: since Astrophil cannot really comprehend Stella’s behavior, he keeps asking questions to the moon so as to understand whether all women behave like that regardless the realm they live in. Therefore, we can understand that the persona projects his own feelings onto the moon. It seems as if the poem takes place in another world where heavenly bodies can act like human beings: they can fall in love, not be reciprocated, and get
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