[open-literature] P.S.

Open Shakespeare open-shakespeare at okfn.org
Tue Jun 15 10:18:35 UTC 2010

In fact, for ease of access, I append it below.


The Phoenix and the Turtle (published untitled)

·        Creator: Shakespeare, William

While the poem is largely literally understood, it is the symbolism
that has perplexed readers and been the subject of much speculation.
While I believe the explanation offered here is conclusive it should
be understood that it outside of the mainstream of scholarly thought.

The poem can not be read purely in isolation, some of context must
come from Shakespeare's other poems, particularly the Sonnets.  While
this would not have been possible when the poem was published the
meaning of the poem was likely apparent to many at the time.  In
addition the context of this poem's origin becomes a very important
key to the contextual clues within.  That context being, that it was
written in the aftermath as of the Essex Rebellion, a point often
made.  Using this information and additional analysis it is now
possible to reveal the symbolic meaning.

Examining what we do know from the poem however reveals that it is not
the Phoenix that is in the Arabian tree, the Phoenix's home.  This
turns out to be a bit of theater, and we learn that the death has been
heralded by the bird who has been referred to as that of "loudest
lay".  Through more poetic theater we are introduced to the character
of the "treble dated crow" who is called to join the mourners.
Important characters both, as the persons they symbolize also play
other roles as will be discussed.

In Shakespeare's Sonnet 14, Shakespeare foretold that his subject's
end was Truth's and Beauty's doom and date.  And we learn in this poem
in the beginning of the last stanza, Truth and beauty buried be.
Shakespeare also introduced us in Sonnet 19 to the Phoenix, a female,
though the connection has been thought isolated to the sonnet alone.
It has however, been correctly understood by many that Queen Elizabeth
I is represented by the Phoenix.  And it is well known that she was
associated with this mythical figure.

It has also been observed that the Phoenix in this poem burns, but
fails to reproduce.  What is not understood is the reason for the
phoenix like nature of QE I.  While it has been conjectured that the
poem resides inside a context of Jacobean succession amongst and along
with the other poems it appears with.  This has been an error as well
the nature of the love between the phoenix and turtle.

Also it is not Robert Devereux for whom the turtle dove represents, as
often been speculated but his compatriot in the Essex Rebellion, Henry
Wriothesley.  To whom Shakespeare had dedicated his two narrative
poems.  This identification stems partly from the source of QE I's
phoenix nature, her ability to resurrect herself through a truth.  But
as we learn in this poem that Truth has finally died with Beauty and
both are "in cinders".  Previously the poem told that Truth may seem,
but cannot be and Beauty brag, but 'tis not she.  Both clues that the
truth would not be told and that QE I could not be the Beauty.

What that "truth" is has been lost to us.  At the time however, it was
the subject of a large political and literary movement.  A truth
hinted at by the "bird of loudest lay".  A play on the notion of the
bird's birth (and thus egg laid) which has been most proclaimed.

For it was not only Shakespeare, but many of his literary
contemporaries, who were sympathizers and contributors to a literary
movement that celebrated the entity represented by this bird and its
truth.  Typically read generically as pastoral poetry of the era, it
runs deep with political allegory inspired by this truth.
Shakespeare's plays also feature allegorical and representative art
that operated as direct appeals to QE I.  While Willobie his Avisa
should be read as Shakespeare instructing Wriothesley (Willobie) how
to woo QE I.

Perhaps a more startling revelation, a close reading of Shakespeare's
sonnets will reveal that the chronology of the sonnets is actually
reversed from the order presented.  This can be seen partly in clues
provided by the age of poet.  And this was deliberate and revealed in
transposing the initials of the dedicatee, the only begetter.  What is
more the Sonnets are vary much concerned with the topics of Truth and
Beauty.  However it must be realized that the supposed "Fair Youth"
sonnets are a continuation of "Dark Lady" sonnets with an emphasis on
the metaphorical procreation (this Truth).

This because the reason and nature of the bird of loudest lay, was a
secret heir to the throne.  It represented a child not only of Queen
Elizabeth I but of Shakespeare.  And that child was Henry Wriothesley.
As the true purpose of the Sonnets was an argument and direct appeal
to QE I for bringing this Truth to light and making this Beauty QE I's
heir.  As well the treble dated crow is also a familiar character to
Shakespeare's Sonnets, as we met this bird as the "Dark Lady" of the
sonnets (also QE I).  Wriothesley was himself to make the argument for
his love and dedication to QE I in Willobie.

Thus the death in this poem is a metaphor for the death of QE I as the
poet is likely Edward de Vere commenting on the now impossibility that
the child he mutually sired would never be able to continue QE I's
legacy.  Because Wriothesley is now at this time, in the Tower of
London and likely to be executed.  And while this explanation might
sound like pure fiction there were very real people and a quite
impressive group who were very much dedicated to this idea and put
their lives at risk as supporters of the Essex Rebellion.

As an indicator of the legitimacy of this claim, the consistency of
Shakespeare's purpose and motivation should considered, with the
illustration provided demonstrating how virtually all of his literary
efforts involved and related to Wriothesley.  There are however many
other indications, too numerous to list in such a short summary.

Let me point out one that is not typically considered.  A translation
of entitled The Most Delectable and Pleasant History of Clitophon and
Leucippe was dedicated to Wriothesley in 1597.  Of significance in
this Achilles Tatius story is a father who attempts to marry his son
to his son's half-sister but who's son refuses.  Which if the version
of events I’ve outlined is correct, is analogous to William Cecil
(acting over Wriothesley) attempting to marry Wriothesley to de Vere’s
daughter Anne Cecil and Wriothesley famously rejecting the bond.  This
connection then suggestively indicates de Vere's paternity of

Lastly, all of this should be considered in relation to what I believe
is the already impressive evidence for Edward de Vere's authorship of

Contributed by Alan Tarica

'The Marriage of Text and Technology'

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