Analysis of Philip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella, Sonnet 45

Astrophil and Stella, Sonnet 45 (Stella oft sees the very face of woe) is written by Sir Philip Sidney.


This sonnet is an appeal to his beloved Stella to return his love (show some grace) and take pity on his tortured and tormented mind and heart. The opening line itself shows the distress which his face shows. The face is ‘beclouded by storms’; the poet uses the conventional Petrarchan image by comparing his distressed face to the sky covered with clouds. In spite of the fact that she sees his face full of torment, she fails or is unable to understand his agony and anguish, the real cause of which she knows.

But the beloved shows sympathy when she reads any tale of a lover’s torments and shows pity. What the poet means is that a work of fiction containing the tale of a lover’s distress, woe and tears can easily induce her to show sympathy and pity whereas, the real case draws no words of sympathy. What a sorry state of a human affair–imagined misery and woe can bring pity and draw tears whereas a real tragedy draws no such sympathy; the torments of lovers in real life are looked upon with doubts and the beloved is not at all moved to either sympathy or pity. Frustrated as the lover is, he appeals to his beloved to read his verses as a lover’s torments perhaps then she might show some pity.

In his Apology for Poetry Sidney dwells upon the creative power of imagination which can improve upon the real world of facts. He almost echoes Aristotle when he writes: “Her (Nature’s) world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden“. He believed that a poet can create a better and more beautiful world by shaping and improving the world of facts; in his opinion, a poet is “a diviner, foreseer, or prophet”. Aristotle, too, disagreed with his master and held the view that a poet is not a mere imitator, but he recreates’ the world with creative imagination.

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