Analysis of Philip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella, Sonnet 27

Astrophil and Stella, Sonnet 27 (Because I oft, in dark abstracted guise) is written by Sir Philip Sidney.


Sonnet 27 shows Sidney as a courtier and statesman who is also overwhelmed by a passion for Stella, who is constantly present in his mind and often distracts his mind while he is in the company of many noblemen, lords and ladies in the Queen’s court.

Among such a large gathering of great men, the poet-feels, a sense of loneliness. He finds no words to respond to the queries made by other nobles, in fact, his mind is overshadowed by the thoughts of his beloved so that he cannot take an active part in political matters or discussions, as is expected of a courtier and statesman. His silence is consequently misconstrued and their judgments adversely affect his reputation as a diplomat. The pun on the word ‘doom’ which means judgment, and also his ‘doom’ as a courtier, as it engenders all sorts of rumours that he is vain or proud. But the poet says that whatever else he might be, he is not at all proud nor does he nourish any dislike towards others.

However, he confesses that he has one weakness or defect – he nurses ambition. Again the word ‘ambition’ has dual meanings: (i) ambition to rise high to get the monarch’s favour, and (ii) ambition to possess ‘Stella’ or to win her love. Thus his mind continues to oscillate between two nodal targets.

This situation causes the loss of his best friends who simply ignore him. All the same his friends remain unseen and unheard (metaphorically) while all his thoughts are inclined towards (or fixed on) Stella in an endeavour to seek her favour. Stella’s magnetic personality seems to have so mesmerised him that the poet can think of none else but Stella.

The question that we should pose to ourselves is: whether or not Stella’s influence on the poet lover (who is a courtier and an ambitious diplomat) is negative–causing hurdles in his advancement as a career diplomat.

The sonnet is self-exploratory and is autobiographical. The lover Astrophil is fully conscious of the blatant neglect of his true role as a courtier, in the chess game between reason and passion, it is the latter which triumphs.

The court throbbed with cheerful pleasantries, discourses and speeches about England’s relations with other countries, English Empire was expanding. Political matters engaged astute minds. Here was Sidney, whose thoughts were fixed on Stella. Did the passion for the lady have any constructive and positive influence on the poet? Astrophil knows it but can’t help loving the lady. Astrophil is at once inspired by and degraded by his love for Stella.

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