Date of Award

Spring 1984

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Languages & Literature

First Advisor

Henry Burgess

Second Advisor

John Semmens

Third Advisor

Richard Lambert

Abstract

Poesy...is an art of imitation, for so Aristotle termeth it in the word "Mimesis”—that is to say, a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forih —to speak metaphorically, a speaking picture— with this end, to teach and delight. The above quotation from Sir Philip Sidney's Defense of Poesy expresses well his intentions for writing the sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella. In this lengthy series of poems, Sidney satisfies his characteristics of poetry—a representation of a real-life situation which both instructs and delights. The situation is that of a Renaissance lover caught between reason and passion; the delight arises in Sidney's masterful use of the sonnet But the real art of the sequence, and the area of concern in this paper, is the instructive aspect. Sidney's story of Astrophel and Stella instructs us in the philosophy of Christian Neoplatonism. By introducing us to Astrophel»s conflict of reason and passion, his deliberate choice of the latter, and the consequences of such a decision, Sidney has outlined an entire lesson. As we witness Astrophel's failure and the suffering which results from it, we realize the truth behind those Neoplatonic conventions which Astrophel had rejected. Sidney has succeeded in his intent to teach through poetry.

What follows, then, is a study of the didactic aspect of Astrophel and Stella as examined under Christian Neoplatonism. The Neoplatonism referred to is that particular form presented by Marsilio Ficino and Baldassare Castiglione, With which I will attempt to familiarize the reader in the first chapter. In Chapter Two, I hope to show how Astrophel, in the earlier sonnets, struggles for Ideal Love in the true Neoplatonic sense. Chapter Three will analyze Astrophel's rejection of Neoplatonic conventions and the suffering he consequently undergoes. Chapter Four will clarify my particular interpretation of Astrophel and Stella as opposed to that of other critics.

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