Astrophil and Stella

by Sir Philip Sidney

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Last Updated on October 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 317

The collection of sonnets and songs titled "Astrophil and Stella" by Sir Philip Sidney is a collection of musings about his forbidden love, from whom the main character is forever separated. The narrative flows from many different emotions and has quite a few themes that it explores. Here are several of those themes.

Forbidden Love

One frequent trope in literature is the idea of forbidden love—from Romeo and Juliet to Tristan and Isolde and many others, it is a fertile ground from which to draw poignant and moving stories. This collection of poetry is no different. Astrophil pines for his love, Stella, from whom he is intrinsically separated. It is never clearly stated what has set them apart, but the poetry makes frequent references to Nature and the Fates who have separated them. Their names suggest this separation, as Stella is a Star and can't be approached, even by Astrophil—the Star Lover. This is one of the main themes that makes scholars believe the sonnets are about Sidney's broken engagement to Lady Devereux.

Love Overriding Reason

In many of the sonnets, Astrophil states that various groups such as Reason, Nature, and even the Church have encouraged him to leave his love behind, but, much in the same manner that Romeo and Juliet's rationale was overtaken by emotion in their last moments, Astrophil's rational mind is overruled by his overwhelming desire to be with Stella.

Physical and Emotional Strife

Finally, the text explores the theme of physical pain being caused by emotional strife. Throughout many of the sonnets, Astrophil describes being unable to sleep as he lies groaning and aching. Additionally, he frequently references heavy burdens, chest pains, and more when he describes his discomfort related to thinking about Stella. This is a common refrain in many stories of unrequited love or separated lovers, and it belies the true emotion that was present behind these sonnets.

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