Astrophil and Stella

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Katalin Csilla Burkovics English Literature and Culture I Noémi Najbauer 14 03 2009

Astrophil and Stella - Sonnet 1

Sir Philip Sydney was one of the greatest poets of the Elizabethan age. Astrophil and Stella, the first sonnet of the Astrophil and Stella sequence, which containes 108 sonnets and 11 songs, was written in the 1580s. The word ‘‘sonnet’’ comes from the Italian ‘‘sonetto’’ word, which means little song. As a genre, sonnet can be defined as a fourteen-lined lyric poem, written in iambic pentameter. It means, that the whole work consists of fourteen lines and there are five feet in every line. A foot is made up of two or three syllables but just one is stressed among them. The word ‘‘iambic’’ refers to the type of the foot, which is used, and indicates that a short, unstressed syllable is followed by a long, stressed syllable. On the grounds of this definition, I have to say that Astrophil and Stella Sonnet 1, is not sonnet at all, or at least that this poem does not match the definition what I have meant. One simple reason is that there are not five, but six feet in every line, so it’s not in pentameter, but in hexameter. Another reason is that not every feet is iambic in the poem.

We can differentiate three types of sonnets. The first is the Italian, or Petrarchan, sonnet, which consists of eight plus six lines, an octave plus a sestet, having a pause, a volta, between the two parts. The rhyme scheme of this kind of sonnets is ABBAABBA CDECDE.The second type is the English, or Shakespearean, sonnet. This type is consists of four lines thrice plus two lines, three quatrains plus a couplet. The rhyme scheme of this type is ABABCDCDEFEFGG. The third type of sonnets, the Spenserian sonnet is a variation of the English sonnet. The structure of this type is the same as the English sonnet’s structure, but its rhyme scheme is ABABBCBCCDCDEE. If Astrophil and Stella would be a real sonnet it would be a combination of the Italian and the English...
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