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A brief analysis of Sir Philip Sidney’s Sonnet Essay

Sir Philip Sidneys Sonnet 7 is from the sonnet sequence Astophel and Stella dating from the sixteenth century. It is a lament by one of the central figures, Astophel, a man who is in love with the other central figure, Stella, who is ultimately unattainable because she is married to another man.

In the first few lines of the poem, Astrophil talks about Stellas black eyes and how they beam so bright (ll. 2) and how in beamy black (ll. 3) she radiates beauty. The excerpt chosen begins with Or did she else that sober hue devise,/ In object best to knit and strength our sight, (ll. 5-6) meaning that perhaps her eyes are not only black but she is actually wearing black, and uses this color as an object to help make her more noticeable among other shades and light (ll. 4). The image given here is one of black versus white specifically, beamy black (ll. 3) versus luster shades and light (ll. 4). However, as one would more traditionally see the sparkling shades and light as way of strength[ening] our sight (ll. 6), in this case it is in fact black, that makes her stand out and more noticeable, because she makes it more beautiful than anything else in comparison. In the next two lines Astrophil says, Lest if no veil these brave gleams did disguise,/ They, sun-like, should more dazzle than delight? (ll. 7-8) meaning that if nothing was to cover her black sun-like (ll. 8) eyes it would only further intensify ones confusion rather than just being a source of enjoyment for the onlooker.

In the next two lines Astrophil again reiterates how with her miraculous power (ll. 9) she makes black beautys contrary (ll. 10) a source for all beauties [to] flow (ll. 11). Coming to the end of the poem, last three lines suggest that perhaps Stella also has some sort of feelings towards Astrophil, or at least respects the fact that he loves her because it is out of her minding Love (ll. 12) that she wears black her mourning weed (ll. 13) and that she wears it to honour all their deaths who for her bleed (ll. 14) meaning for all of the men who have loved and desired her but could not have her, leaving them emotionally dead.

These last lines also help establish not only the ultimate truth that Astrophil and Stella will never in reality be together, but also that the only thing left for Astrophil to do is to desire her and long for her as emotionally otherwise, he is dead and not capable of much else. This theme of men falling in love with the unattainable, or in this case unavailable, woman is quite common in romantic sonnets. For example, Wyatts Whoso List to Hunt, or even Marlowes The Passionate Shepherd to His Love also describe this longing desire that men have for these women, and ultimately reveals the trials and tribulations they will go through in order to pursue them.

~ The only work consulted during the composition of this essay was the sonnet itself.

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