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An Analysis Of Sir Philip Sidney's "Sonnet 31"

860 words - 4 pages

Sir Philip Sidney’s “Sonnet 31” paints the portrait of a lover scorned. Sidney examines the subject of unrequited love through the sonnet’s male persona, Astrophel. Rather than using a precise enumeration of the sequence of events that led to Astrophel’s painful rejection, Sidney instead leaves the reader to infer the condition of the speaker based on a scene in which Astrophel projects his sorrows onto the moon. Unable to accept the cruelties the “beauties” of his world perpetrate against those who love them and moreover unable to make his particular “beauty” reciprocate his feelings, Astrophel seeks to delineate his understanding of the injustices of unrequited love to an audience devoid ...view middle of the document...

Sidney’s diction in “Sonnet 31” leads the reader to believe that Astrophel has not always viewed the moon as either an embodiment of an unrequited lover’s sorrow or a sympathetic eye that has borne witness to his unjust jilting. In lines 7 and 8 of the sonnet, Sidney writes: “I read it in thy looks; thy languished grace / To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.” The word grace has a generally positive connotation; coupled with the word languished, however, the speaker suggests that a once beautiful moon has begun to lose its former glory. Moreover, the word languished—which can be synonymous with pining as well as melancholy sentiment—more aptly describes the sonnet’s speaker who “descries” what he characterizes as a particular state of the moon that had hitherto gone unnoticed. In using the word descries, Sidney points to the fact that Astrophel has, until now, never looked at the moon with such resolute scrutiny.
In “Sonnet 31,” the moon serves as a mirror in which Astrophel might examine both himself and the world in which he lives. When Astrophel asks in line 8 if “constant love” is “deemed there but want of wit,” he is essentially asking if only a fool would allow himself to devote so much time and energy into something so mercurial as love. In the final line of the sonnet, Astrophel asks if, in the heavens, ungratefulness is deemed a virtue. This last question asked of the moon essentially presents...

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