Likely composed in the 1580’s, Philip Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella is an English sonnet sequence containing 108 sonnets and 11 songs. The name derives from the two Greek words, ‘aster’ (star) and ‘phil’ (lover), and the Latin word ‘stella’ meaning star. Astrophel is the star lover and Stella is his star.
Some have suggested that the love represented here may be a literal one – Astrophel is Sidney and Stella is Penelope Rich (1563-1607), the very attractive wife of a courtier. She was considered one of the beauties of Elizabeth’s court. She was golden-haired with dark eyes, a gifted singer and dancer, fluent in French, Italian, and Spanish. It should also be said that Mr. Sidney wasn’t the only man infatuated with her.
Her very public affair with Mountjoy Blount (whose name fascinates me) is what ultimately let to her banishment from the Court of King James.