Astrophel, the young lover in whose voice the sonnets and songs are cast. Although Stella is married and he describes her as virtuous, he still pursues her, begging her to love him. Whether the sonnets express the true feelings of their author, Sir Philip Sidney, the character of Astrophel clearly is meant to represent him. The last syllable of “Astrophel” echoes the name “Philip”; sonnet 30 identifies Astrophel’s father as the governor of Ireland, the post Sidney’s father held; and sonnet 65 describes Astrophel’s coat of arms, which matches in every detail the Sidney family crest. Astrophel considers himself superior to other writers of love poetry, to whom he frequently contrasts himself: They imitate one another, and only he is original, because his inspiration is his beloved Stella. He presents himself as the servant not only of Stella but also of love, personified as the boy Cupid.
Stella, Astrophel’s beloved, to whom the sonnet sequence is addressed. She differs from the stock character of the Petrarchan sonnet sequence in two key respects. First, her rejection of the lover’s advances is not attributed to coldheartedness, the standard complaint of the Petrarchan sonneteer, but to her virtue, as she is married to another. Second, although her hair is the standard Petrarchan gold, her eyes are not the standard blue, but rather black. This is probably because the author of the...
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