Astrophil and Stella

by Sir Philip Sidney

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 318

Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella is a collection of sonnets and songs expressing a love story between two individuals. Sometimes spelled “Astrophel,” the title is a moniker derived from the text and originally written in Italian, and it speaks to the nature of the poetry at hand.

These sonnets were written to convey a deep message of love, as Astrophil claims an undying affection for his dear Stella. Many of the sonnets are joyful, expressing great admiration and hope at the unification of Astrophil and Stella, while some are much more somber, relating the idea that the two are disconnected and can’t be united. As there are a grand total of 108 sonnets and 11 songs, the different poems express vivid and wildly different concepts and emotions, but all are centrally tied to the relationship between Astrophil and Stella.

Astrophil is a Greek conglomeration meaning “Star Lover,” as “astro” relates to the stars and “phil” is a common addition meaning love, lover, or lover of. Stella, on the other hand, is a Latin word meaning “Star,” so the text is literally meant to be about a Star and her lover. In some ways throughout the text, their distance is touched upon. While Astrophil deeply cares for Stella, he can never seem to properly approach her at times because she is a distant star.

This title implies that there is some disconnection in their love, and many believe that the sonnets are actually from Sir Philip Sidney to his lifelong love and former fiancée, Lady Penelope Devereux, who was married off to another man after their union dissolved. It appears that Sidney still deeply pines for her and knows of the discord in her marriage—he writes many sonnets expressing a continued, burning desire for her. The sonnets are full of the deeply intimate, flowery language of love, which suggests a very deep connection between the two.

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