Philip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella, an Elizabethan (English) sonnet, is a group of sonnets that are thematically unified. The sonnets represent philosophical trappings of the poet in opposition of love and reason, and in relation to love and desire. The sonnet sequence contains 108 sonnets. The name of the collection comes from two Greek words; aster, phil and stella, respectively meaning star, lover and star again. Hence, Astrophil is star lover and Stella is Astrophil’s star. In The sonnet 37 in Astrophil and Stella sonnet sequence, the writer Sidney presents a riddle for the readers with making direct references to Stella’s inspired person’s real-life name, Penelope Devereux. The Sonnet describes Stella as a beautiful nymph who lives in the east. Writer Sidney describes the nymph as if she is rich in all qualities of a person can possibly be. She is not only rich in worldly things such as beauty, renown, but also, she is rich in heart and especially in virtue. Despite these qualities of the Nymph, it is a real misfortune for Astrophil.
Before starting to analyse the sonnet, a reader who reads the whole sequence of Astrophil and Stella, can recognise the themes in the sonnet. In this sonnet, Sidney especially emphasises the reason versus love theme, as Stella is married to another man, Astrophil recognises the fact that he can never be with Stella. Not only reason versus love theme, but also day versus night theme and Sidney’s poetic ability can be seen in the sonnet. As Stella is described as the sun, Astrophel thinks his emotions are connected to Stella’s attitude towards him. When Stella treats him badly (as to say when she rejects him) Astrophil experiences the night which is dark, unknowing, and unseen.
To start to analyse with, the term in the sonnet 37, “rich” possibly refers to Lord Lobert Rich, husband of Penelope Devereux. In the beginning of the sonnet, the writer excitedly announces that he will tell a riddle by using symbols such as “My mouth doth water” which is a symbol of desire, and “breast doth swell” that is a sign of pride. Not only these, but also an itchy tongue, which symbolises the fact that he cannot wait to say the words in his mouth. By using “My thoughts in labor be” sentence, the writer also emphasises that he will give birth to some of his thoughts.
In the second stanza, the writer emphasises her beauty by symbolising it by Aurora, who is the Roman Goddess of dawn that gives birth to the sun and makes the sun fall. A Nymph is a female spirit that is mostly attached to a location and in this sonnet, she lives near where Aurora holds court. At the end of the stanza, the writer uses the word “Abase” which means to bring down. She is so beautiful that men cannot find a word to describe her, thus they stuck saying that she excels.
In the third and final stanza, the writer emphasises on her beauty, as her fame is deserved, her heart is in the richness of royalty, and even she has gifts which will give her the eternal crown. She has gifts beyond worldly things; she is a person who has great attitudes. All these gifts make her worldly bliss. She has a great personality; she is rich in everything that the world holds, but she is unlucky on the fact that she is Rich, that she is married to Lord Rich.
To end with, in this sonnet, the theme of reason versus love can be seen because of Stella reflection as Lady Penelope Devereux, who is an inspiration model for Astrophil and Stella sonnet sequence. The writer mostly plays with words such as “Rich” with the aim of reducing a beloved to worldly things. He also emphasises on the fact that she is married, so she belongs to another man, and it is a beginning of Astrophil to pursue Stella in the sonnets. The sonnet additionally uses images linked to pregnancy to emphasise that he will give birth to his poetry and demonstrate his poetic ability. That is, in court; he actually gives birth to a sonnet in the form of a riddle. Not only these, but also even though pregnancy is a female characteristic quality, the writer converts the image for his own masculinity because in the sonnet he proves himself to be more fertile than women as he composed many poems. The sonnet includes literal meaning, as the writer praises Stella, and metaphorical meaning as the writer uses his poetic ability to praise himself.