"Directing threds-- through the labyrinth" : the moral use of Platonic conventions and patterns of imagery in Sidney's Astrophil and Stella

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Virginia Acheson Tucker (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Christopher Spencer

Abstract: Upon examination, the widely recognized stylistic discontinuity of Sidney's Astrophil and Stella resolves itself into a pattern. What some critics have seen as immaturity in many of the early sonnets proves to be conventionality, and many of the final sonnets exhibit the same trait. But while the conventionality of the early group (1-51) is enlivened by Sidney's wit and originality, that of the final group (87- 108) is often sterile and lifeless. Furthermore, the vigor of the middle sonnets (52-86) springs less from a break with convention than it does from a positive attack upon it; convention is constantly the measure. Actually there are two conventions—of literature and of love—and both are essentially Platonic. Although neither Platonism nor Neo-Platonism rejects the role of sexual love for purposes of procreation within the bounds of law or custom, Astrophil's love for a married woman can be morally and ethically justified only if it remains Platonic. As a Platonic lover, he must sublimate his passion and direct his own thoughts and those of his lady to the higher beauty. As a poet, his duty, as prescribed by Sidney in The Defence of Poesie, is similar. He must transform the "brasen world" of nature into the "golden world" of the Ideal.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1973
Sidney, Philip, $c Sir, $d 1554-1586. $t Astrophel and Stella
Sidney, Philip, $c Sir, $d 1554-1586 $x Criticism and interpretation

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