Document Type


Date of Award



Sidney, Philip, Astrophel and Stella

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English, General Literature, and Rhetoric

First Advisor

Mario A. Di Cesare

Second Advisor

Robert Kroetsch

Third Advisor

Elias Schwartz




Every serious discussion of Sir Philip Sidney's sonnet sequence, Astrophil and Stella, inevitably pauses at the generally acknowledged crux of the work, the fact that on the one hand some of the sonnets seem to reject rhetorical embellishment and use of traditional material, calling instead for an unadorned poetry which would find original themes and expression, while on the other hand many of the poems within the sequence are composed in an ornate style and the work as a whole is deeply indebted to a love sonnet tradition which was at least two centuries old when Sidney came to it.

This thesis attempts to examine the problem of style and stylistics in Astrophil and Stella anew and to suggest that the solution lies in considering Sidney's poetry as might the sophisticated courtly audience for which it was originally intended. Chapter I provides a fuller statement of the problem of style in the poems and an indication of the direction in which I believe this solution must be sought. Chapter II discusses the problem of style in the context of prior Sidney criticism, indicating the way in which the large number of readings which emphasize the biographical content in the poems has distorted our understanding of the sequence and thereby compounded the difficulties presented by this work. Chapter III considers the theoretical justification for the critical interpretation of the sequence I wish to propose, while Chapters IV and V consider Astrophil and Stella itself in some detail.