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The Concept of Form in Sidney's Sonnets from Astrophel and Stella - Book Report/Review Example

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A reading of Astrophil and Stella in which the focus is shifted from the frustrations of earthly desire to the ideal of heavenly love is supported by the form of the sequence. Indeed, the form reveals a perspective that would render ridiculous any solely earth-bound strife…
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The Concept of Form in Sidneys Sonnets from Astrophel and Stella
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Download file to see previous pages The web of numbers around which the poems of the sequence are organized connects the tribulations of the protagonists to the harmony of heaven the common source of all beauties from celestial music to the human soul.
The number 108 is undeniably involved in the formal arrangement of the sequence, being the total for both sonnets and song stanzas (as well as the remarkable series of metrical and thematic groupings itemized by Professor Fowler in his short but impressively thorough treatment of Astrophil and Stella from a numerological perspective), but it is only part of an intricately interconnected scheme1. Both Professors Fowler and Roche, the only critics to have written on Sidney's form patterns in any detail, follow Adrian Benjamin's explanation of the presence of the many groups of 108 in the sequence--that the number is a further reference to Penelope, Lady Rich, dependent on an allusion to Homer's Penelope, her 108 suitors and a game that they played.
The form of Astrophil and Stella is arranged according to a proportional scheme, one that incorporates within the groups of 108 a series of marked points that represent perfect musical intervals. The poems thus arranged would, according to Renaissance theories, achieve an intrinsic beauty, just as a face, song, or building that partook of the same harmonious ordering would shine out amongst those that clashed with this true source of all beauty. ...
lations of the World Soul the individual manifestations of harmony, beautiful in themselves, are connected directly to the particular proportions of the fabric of the cosmos, and of the human soul constructed according to the same plan. Astrophil and Stella is, in effect, a map of the heavens, or of the soul its proportions both animate the poetic world displayed and frame the characters presented in their proper place within the divine scheme. The subject of the sequence, presented in such a manner, is not vanity but truth.
Although Plato describes his World Soul as a three-dimensional construction, the ratios involved in its construction are those initially calculated on a Pythagorean monochord--clearly, it makes no sense to attempt a three-dimensional composition when one's medium is poetry and it was the proportions that were of most importance to Plato, rather than the direction or physical orientation of their components. One may conceive of the application of these proportional divisions to a sonnet sequence in two ways: the first is to consider a group of poems, differentiated at each end by some structural mark (the ends of the sequence, say, or the ends of a series of poems in the same stanzaic pattern) to be the stretched string of a monochord, the length of the string being the number of poetic units (sonnets, stanzas, or lines). This group of poems, or 'string', might be 'stopped' at a point along its length by, for example, the beginning of a song, or some metrical anomaly, which would then represent a particular pitch above the fundamental a musical fifth, for instance, being formed when the string is plucked while held one third of the way along its length. The second way to conceive of the harmonic divisions of the sequence would be to treat the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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