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The Phoenix and the Turtle

The Phoenix and the Turtle (also spelled The Phœnix and the Turtle) is an allegorical poem about the death of ideal love by William Shakespeare. It is widely considered to be one of his most obscure works and has led to many conflicting interpretations. It has also been called “the first great published metaphysical poem”. The title “The Phoenix and the Turtle” is a conventional label. As published, the poem was untitled. The “turtle” is the turtle dove, not the shelled reptile. The poem describes a funeral arranged for the deceased Phoenix and Turtledove, respectively emblems of perfection and of devoted love. Some birds are invited, but others excluded. It goes on to state that the love of the birds created a perfect unity which transcended all logic and material fact. It concludes with a prayer for the dead lovers.

William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s greatest dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon” (or simply “the Bard”). His extant works, including collaborations, consist of some 39 plays, 154 sonnets, three long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. They also continue to be studied and reinterpreted.

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