I don't even remember that poem--my knowledge of Shakespeare's poetry is mostly limited to a few of his well-known sonnets. So I looked it up. Wikipedia, bless their hearts, has an entry on the allegorical poem. they call it one of Shakespeare's "most obscure works" (making me feel better for not having remembered it), and one that is open to multiple interpretations. The one thing I do remember is that the "turtle" of the title is the "turtledove," not the reptile everyone used to have as a pet before fears of salmonella made ownership of turtles a health risk.
|The "Phoenix" portrait of Queen Elizabeth I|
Some scholars have identified "the Phoenix" as Queen Elizabeth 1 and the turtle as John Salisbury, who was a married courtier from a powerful Welsh family.
The language of the poem is gorgeous:
Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead;
Phoenix and the turtle fled
In a mutual flame from hence
but you'll need footnotes all along the way. The Conversation essay makes a persuasive case for a Shakespearean influence on Greer's work, and it's just one more example of how Shakespeare's work continues to resonate almost half a millennium later.
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