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Sonnet 31 Sir Philip Sidney

What is the analysis of Sidney's "Sonnet 31"?

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In Sir Philip Sidney's "Sonnet XXXI", the writer is addressing the moon.  In the first two lines, he is commenting on the pale, sad appearance of the moon, and then, in the remainder of the poem, he is exploring the question of whether even in the "heavenly place" where the moon resides, there is love, with all its vagaries, as there is on earth.  Sidney poses the question directly in the third and fourth lines, asking, "What, may it be that even in heavenly place that busy archer his sharp arrows tries?"  The archer the writer refers to is Cupid, the mythological god of love.

In the next five lines, the writer describes some aspects of the moon which make him believe that that heavenly body is a veteran of love's trials.  The series of questions that follow in the remainder of the poem outline some of the paradoxes of love that cause lovers pain.  These include the question of whether constant love is considered simply the lack of intrigue or "wit", the haughty pride found so frequently in the most beautiful of women, the fickleness of those who long to be loved, yet "scorn" or are cruel to those who would love them, and whether virtue, perhaps in the denial of "love's favors", is scorned as "ungratefulness" for the would-be lover's attention.

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emily-gl | Student

It has a sort of platonic love(spiritual love).Personification is used in the poem.The poet is extremely grief stricken and establishes commoradory with the moon.He wants to know whether the terrestial love same as on Heaven.In the octave the poet sees his own plight in Heavens.In the octave he ends up asking rhetorical questions.

jojeyaraj | Student

With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies!
How silently, and with how wan a face!
What, may it be that even in heavenly place
That busy archer his sharp arrow tries?
Sure, if that long-with-love acquainted eyes
Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case,
I read it in thy looks; thy languished grace,
To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.
Then, even of fellowship, O Moon, tell me
Is constant love deemed there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?
Do they above love to be loved, and yet
Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
Do they call virtue there ungratefulness?


Sonnet 31 uses a poetic conceit to reflect on love. The narrator asks the moon if it is sad, and says that it must be. He then goes on to discuss love in both realms (heavenly and earthly), communicating bitterness and disappointment and suggesting a lack of recognition and appreciation on the part of the beloved.

This poem expresses the sad feelings of the poet towards love.

jjrichardson | Student

Analysis/Explication of Sonnet 31

Lines 1-2:
The speaker, Astrophil, sets the scene by talking to the moon at night about his troubles and sadness.
Lines 3-4:
The speaker asks if Cupid, the "busy archer", can hit his arrows to the moon, relying on the old convention that his arrows make those struck fall in love.
Lines 5-6
Astophil states that the moon must be able to understand his sadness, because he has been looking down at forlorn lovers forever.
Lines 7-8
The speaker projects his emotions on the moon, and compares the "grace" of the moon moving through the night sky to the moon's sympathy it must have on Astrophil.
Lines 9-10
Astrophil asks the moon if his personal situation appears any better from the moon's view in the sky. He also asks if devotion and adoration of a woman are viewed as 'unintelligence' and 'lack of wit' on the moon, as it is on Earth. This alludes to the idea that Astrophil was rejected by a woman due to his undying affection towards her.
Line 11:
Astrophil describes the woman in his life as being confident and haughty, and references that the woman is almost proud that she has the 'upper hand' in the situation.
Lines 12-13:
Astrophil asks if women on the moon both desire love, and yet, when it is received, throw it away, as they do on Earth. This question, along with the previous questions, give the reader an idea into the situation that Astrophil is experiencing himself, as he is not asking the moon the questions out of pure curiosity, but is asking them out of sadness and heartbreak.
Line 14:
Astrophil reverses the questioning. Instead of questioning the woman's motives, he instead questions his own actions. He implies that he believes that his love interest may actually be exhibiting good virtue, while he instead views it as ungratefulness in love. With this line, the speaker questions his own understanding and perception of the situation.

cynthiakhan | Student

ir Philip Sidney, “Sonnet 31” 2. Conceit- an elaborate, fanciful metaphor. “ I will include this topic for my power point presentations.

kc7092 | Student
HI I HOPE IT WILL HELP YOU. PLEASE BE FREE IF YOU FIND ANY PROBLEM IN THIS ANSWERS . AS I BELIEVE THERE IS ALWAYS SCOPE FOR IMPROVEMENT FOR TEACHERS TOO. TAKE CARE GOD BLESS YOU. 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.
farid7631 | Student

Sidney's connection to the moon is an example of "pathetic fallacy" which is a special case of the fallacy of reification. The pathetic falacy is obvious in Astrophel's attribute toward moon when he asks it a number of questions in order to express his desire for a logical explanation of Stella's behaviour.

There is another point that is worth mentioning. It is the insistence of Astrophel that the moon is lovesick which does not make sense in this context because according to mythology the goddess of moon is Diana that is not affected by love. 

lit24 | Student

Lovesick Astrophel is hurt that Stella his lover has rebuffed him. He looks up at the sky to see the pale moon and begins complaining to the moon about Stella. He begins by sympathising with the moon by wondering whether it has also been wounded by Cupid's arrow and has become lovesick for it also looks pale and appears to be moving very slowly. He remarks that both of them have now become fellow sufferers: "thy languisht grace/To me that feel the like, thy state descries/Then, even of fellowship." He concludes the sonnet with four rhetorical questions addressed to the moon which serve to emphasise his plight:

1. He asks the moon whether even in the heavenly realm faithful love is regarded as foolishness.

2. Are the women in heaven as proud and vain as the women on the earth below?

3. Like the women on the earth below, do the women in the heavens desire to be loved but treat with contempt the men who are madly in love with them?

4. Are the women in the skies above as ungrateful as the women on this earth?

Astrophel seems to say that he is foolishly and crazily in love with Stella but she is very ungrateful in contemptuously rejecting him.