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The Phoenix and the Turtle

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  371 ratings  ·  35 reviews
The Phoenix 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 u
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Published (first published 1601)
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Average rating 3.58  · 
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 ·  371 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Aug 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was such a good poem and very interesting! I can definitely see the ambiguity in trying to discern the message and meaning behind the poem. Very well written and I enjoyed puzzling over this one.
Jan 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, poetry
Interesting. I had never even heard of this poem until tonight. It wasn't in any of the works of Shakespeare that I own. To be honest, I thought The Bard only wrote sonnets and plays, so when I discovered that there were some other works of poetry I was intrigued. Unfortunately, The Phoenix and the Turtle is like the "American Pie" of Elizabethan England--so coded it's difficult to tell what in the heck is being said. I read it twice, but twice is not enough. I need to study this further in hope ...more
Angel Parrish
Sep 19, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Amazon freebie

One of Shakespeare's first works. After reading it, I can say with confidence: I have absolutely no idea what it's about.
Jan 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Well, that was pretty, but hard to understand.
John Yelverton
It's an elegant poem, but using a 1,2,2,1 rhyming scheme made it very clunky, and ending with a 1,1,1, rhyming scheme highlighted this clunkiness and exacerbated it. ...more
Lillian Slater
Oct 19, 2017 rated it liked it
"Beauty, truth, and rarity,
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos'd in cinders lie."
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was ok
Meh, it was okay
Rao Javed
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poem
I don't know how yo understand it that's why I love it. ...more
Jun 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
This may be the most obscure writing I have read of Shakespeare thus far. It might also be the most confusing thing I have ever read. With the help of transliteration, everything in this beautiful poem becomes clearer. (It also helped when I realized the turtle was a dove and not a reptile.) Shakespeare uses multiple historical innuendos in this poem along with abstract personification. There are a lot of repetitive explanations about the phoenix and turtle being "one in two beings." Everything ...more
Aug 08, 2016 rated it liked it
William Shakespeare's "The Phoenix and the Turtle" is a poem that may be characterized as both an allegory and an elegy. An allegory is a literary work with a hidden meaning (and sometimes several hidden meanings). An elegy is a somber poem lamenting a person's death or memorializing a dead person. ...more
Linnea Peterson
With some help from a dictionary and Google I managed to understand most of it, but I think I'll have to do a re-read to understand it further. Can't really rate it at this point. ...more
Steve Campbell
Short, sweet, and rather obscure. One needs to read it slowly to grasp the meaning.
I recently did my family tree history it shows I am related to Lady Ursula Stanley not sure how accurate that is but, I was intrigued that she had involvement in this poem somehow! I read William Shakespeare previously but in my opinion this poem sounds like it refers to deaths of a few of John Salusbury and Lady Ursula Stanley's children. And possibly a deeper relationship between Lady Ursula Stanley and William Shakespeare. That's what I got from reading it! ...more
Tom Jones
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
William Shakespeare obscure and not very well known poem 'The Phoenix and the Turtle.'

I won't reveal what the meaning and message (I think anyway) behind this poem. Took a few reads to get an idea of it. Nice piece with a deep meaning behind the writing. However, it can be seen differently from other people and up for interpretation.
Jul 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Guess what, another poem about ideal love and marriage. This poem is quite philosophical even, clarifying the importance of fulfilled love. And yes, ahh it won't be a Shakespeare without religion references: perfect love can be achieved with mythical union/spiritual marriage.

I think it's a good read seeing what the style of poems were back then, but overall not really relatable.
Callie Hornbuckle
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
And with that, I’ve finished the Complete Works of Shakespeare! This short poem was a good way to end the project, with its beautiful language about love, death, and the possibility of rebirth. I’ve been grateful to have this project to focus on during a challenging year, and am hopeful that I might get to see some Shakespeare on stage in 2021.
Ruchika Pahwa
A nice piece

I feel poetry can say what it needs to, without having complexity. Complexity of vocab ain't depth, and that's how a regular reader can't reach the woven essence. It's a nice piece though...
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was ok
Very strange. I must agree with the notes in the Yale Shakespeare set that either he was no friend of the couple and intended to slight them, or he could not be bothered to thoroughly read the assignment sent to him and so did not respond appropriately....
Jul 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, classics
poem also at
Samira Majd
A melancholically written poem. Must be read allegorically... addresses Queen Elizabeth and John Salusbury OR John and Ursula Salusbury. Talks of perfect love, truth and beauty.
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I must have read this poem over fifty times by now and every time it reveals itself a little bit more.
Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
The language is beautiful, but like most poetry, I didn not understand it.
Gabby Reed
Jan 24, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, classic
"So between them love did shine,
That the turtle saw his right
Flaming in the phoenix' sight:
Either was the other's mine."

Agh I absolutely fell in love with that line!
Highly recommended of Shakespeare language !
Eduard Gafton
Read as part of the volume: The Oxford Shakespeare, Histories.

I would definitely enjoy it more if I'd actually understand the hidden messages and all of the allegories that Shakespeare has used.
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved it, it felt absolutely magical!
Timothy Coplin
Dec 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, shakespeare
Short enigmatic poem highlighting the truth and beauty of love and companionship in life and in death. The Phoenix and the Turtle have graciously withstood the test of time.
Sam Griffiths
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simple & Elegant

Short, sweet, and beautiful! I recommend you read it aloud and feel the flow of the poem to better understand it
rodrigo rosal
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Good book with words that rhyme, it works little on the mind. Starting slow with words of flow, finished fast on ebbed stow.
Mar 13, 2019 added it
Shelves: thelist, poetry
No rating. The edition that I have is some cheap large letter affair, containing the poem, a bunch of poor quality pirated images of paintings, and then, for some weird reason, a short story by Thomas Hardy.
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William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard"). His surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been tr ...more

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“How true a twain
Seemeth this concordant one!
Love hath reason,
Reason none,
If what parts, can so remain.”
More quotes…