Please explain the sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella by Sir Philip Sidney.

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Astrophel and Stella by Philip Sidney is a sequence of 108 sonnets and 11 poems in other formats referred to as songs. It is, in many ways, an attempt to create an English version of Petrarch’s Canzoniere, the sonnets addressed to his love, Laura. The sequence follows Petrarch’s model in many ways, including in its Platonizing theories of love and poetry and its use of the Petrarchan sonnet form, albeit with certain variations. The poems in the sequence describe the relationship of the male poet (who appears as Astrophel, a term meaning one who loves a star) and the woman Stella (which means star). The poems discuss love itself and love in relation to philosophy and poetry. The first, and best known sonnet, ‘Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show’ shows the narrator worrying about poetic technique, and eventually deciding that direct expression of truth is what matters.