The Phoenix and the Turtle

This most enigmatic poem of Shakespeare is placed at the end of Robert Chester’s Love’s Martyr (1601) without title. It talks about the death of Amy Robsart, and the love of Elizabeth Tudor and Robert Dudley. Major clues are in line 1, 17, 19, and 53.


Queen Elisabeth and Robert Dudley are in love. Dudley’s wife Amy Robsart has no power to fight the Queen. Suicide is sinful and will have no Christian burial. Amy could be murdered and look like a natural death, which satisfies the woman who steals her husband. She lives in hell and may lose everything.

Amy’s best solution is to die suspiciously as a Love’s Martyr. What happened after her death showed that it was done that successfully, and changed England’s history. The Queen remained unmarried all her life. To achieve such precision of a death between accident and murder is hard. The best guess would be she got some professional support, possibly from William Cecil’s men or Dudley’s enemies.

The first clue is Threnos in line 53, then Number in line 28; line 19 hints at suicide; line one seals the identities of the Phoenix and Turtle.

1601 Text

Let the bird of lowdest lay, [1]
On the sole Arabian tree,
Herauld sad and trumpet be:
To whose sound chaste wings obay.

But thou shriking harbinger, [5]
Foule precurrer of the fiend,
Augour of the fevers end,
To this troupe come thou not neere.

From this Session interdict [9]
Every foule of tyrant wing,
Save the Eagle feath’red King,
Keepe the obsequie so strict.

Let the Priest in Surples white, [13]
That defunctiue Musicke can,
Be the death-deuining Swan,
Lest the Requiem lacke his right.

And thou treble dated Crow, [17]
That thy sable gender mak’st.
With the breath thou giu’st and tak’st,
Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.

Here the Antheme doth commence, [21]
Loue and Constancie is dead,
Phoenix and the Turtle fled,
In a mutuall flame from hence.

So they loued as loue in twaine, [25]
Had the essence but in one,
Two distincts, Diuision none,
Number there in loue was slaine.

Hearts remote, yet not asunder; [29]
Distance and no space was seene,
Twixt this Turtle and his Queene;
But in them it were a wonder.

So betweene them Loue did shine, [33]
That the Turtle saw his right,
Flaming in the Phoenix sight;
Either was the others mine.

Propertie was thus appalled, [37]
That the selfe was not the same:
Single Natures double name,
Neither two nor one was called.

Reason in it selfe confounded, [41]
Saw Diuision grow together,
To themselues yet either neither,
Simple were so well compounded.

That it cried, how true a twaine, [45]
Seemeth this concordant one,
Loue hath Reason, Reason none,
If what parts, can so remaine.

Whereupon it made this Threne, [49]
To the Phoenix and the Doue,
Co-supremes and starres of Loue,
As Chorus to their Tragique Scene.
Threnos. [53]

Beautie, Truth, and Raritie, [54]
Grace in all simplicitie,
Here enclosde, in cinders lie.

Death is now the Phoenix nest, [57]
And the Turtles loyall brest,
To eternitie doth rest.

Leauing no posteritie, [60]
Twas not their infirmitie,
It was married Chastitie.

Truth may seeme, but cannot be, [63]
Beautie bragge, but tis not she,
Truth and Beautie buried be.

To this vrne let those repaire, [66]
That are either true or faire,
For these dead Birds, sigh a prayer.
William Shake-speare. [69]


Let the bird of loudest lay, [1]
On the sole Arabian tree,
Herald sad and trumpet be:
To whose sound chaste wings obey.
[1] the bird: bird has the definition of a young man or woman. The bird here indicates the author of this poem, i.e. the Herald in line 3, and hints at the identity of Phoenix in line 23. lay: to produce and deposit eggs; a short lyric; the song of birds; to lodge, lie down. the bird of loudest lay: the one with the highest sound (herald) or power (the Queen). loud: powerful voice; full of noise. The first line can spell names of the two major characters, Elisabeth Tudor and Robert Dudley, saying that this Lay is about their story.

Let the Bird of Loudest Lay--Elisabeth Tudor,Robert Dudley

[2] sole: unique, lonely; describing the unique author, and never married lonely Queen Elizabeth. Arabian: a hint on phoenix, a mythical bird dwelled in the Arabian area, that burns itself and revives from her own ashes every 500 years. Arabian tree: the term can spell Britain, a hint on the location of this story. the sole Arabian: the term can spell Elisabeth and Britain; sole provides the needed letter s and l.

Arabian tree--Britain the sole Arabian--Elisabeth,Britain

[3] herald: one who makes royal proclamations. Herald is this poem’s author, one of the Wilton House poets. trumpet: a horn; a tool to alert people; a trumpeter. sad and trumpet: the term can spell Edmund Spenser, one of the Wilton poets. Spenser died in 1599; Loves Martyr was published in 1601 with poems by Wilton House poets. The same story is sealed in Dido and Lobbin in The Shepheardes Calender (1579).

sad and trumpet--Edmund Spenser

[4] chaste wings: a group of people undefiled; wing suggests that they are not within the power center of the Queen’s ruling. obey: to comply with; to salute respectfully, bow to. This line implies that unchaste people wouldn’t salute and comply with the herald’s words in this poem.

But thou shriking harbinger, [5]
Foul precurrer of the fiend,
Augur of the fever’s end,
To this troupe come thou not near.
[5] shrike: a variant of shriek, to make a shrill loud sound. harbinger: a forerunner, an entertainer. shriking harbinger: the term may be inspired by the Knight of Garter.

thou shriking harbinger--knight garter

[6] precurrer: a forerunner. Precurrer can be a variant of pre-curer, one who cures something in advance; to cure is to take care of, to repair, to fix. precurrer of the fiend: the fiend’s forerunner; or one who can pre-cures the fiend. Robert Dudley is sealed in harbinger and fiend. fiend: the other self of Dudley.

thou harbinger,foul fiend--Robert Dudley

[7] Augur: one that tells the future with omens derived from acts of birds. fever: the morbid condition of Dudley and his wife Amy Robsart. the fever’s end: the death of Amy Robsart.

[8] troupe: a variant of troop, meaning a party, band, indicating the group of “chaste wings” in line 4. Troupe is also a variant of trope, meaning an improper figure of speech or figurative language. Here “troupe” can be a wordplay of a group of people using figurative language.

From this Session interdict [9]
Every fowl of tyrant wing,
Save the Eagle feathered King,
Keep the obsequy so strict.
[9] Session: a group of people in a ceremony; or meeting for judgment. interdict: to prohibit, forbid; it can be a perfect anagram of inter-dict; to inter is to bury; dict is a saying or maxim. this Session interdict: the group of people who bury and forbid sayings.

[10] fowl: any feathered animal; the original spelling is “foule,” an obsolete form of fowl. tyrant wing: under the protection of the sovereign power.

[11] Eagle: a person having the nature of an eagle, indicating the Queen or her representative Margrey Norris in Amy’s funeral. feathered: decorated with feathers to cover one’s true image.

From,Session,Eagle--Margrey Norris

[12] obsequy: funeral rites or ritual services; ready compliance with the will of a superior. This funeral ceremony must follow the will of the Queen.

Eagle feathered King,obsequy--Elisabeth Tudor,Queen

Let the Priest in Surplice white, [13]
That defunctive Music can,
Be the death-divining Swan,
Lest the Requiem lack his right.
[13] Priest: the priest of Amy’s ceremony was done by Francis Babington, one of Dudley’s chaplains. Priest can be a both-way anagram of pry-jest. Surplice: a loose vestment by clerics in church services. The original spelling “Surples” can be an variant or anagram of surplus, something superfluous. white: blank, void. Surplice white: alluding to a void, superfluous ceremony.


[14] defunctive: dying; derived from defunct. Music: the original spelling “Musicke” can be a both-way anagram of “sick Muse”; muse has the definition of profound meditation, or a poet. The term “sick Muse” appears in Shakespeare’s sonnet 79, “And my sick Muse doth give an other place,” which can spell Mary Sidney and Shakespeare.

Musicke--sick Muse sick Muse doth,another place--Mary Sidney,Shakespeare

[15] Be the death-divining Swan: the Priest knowing the “defunctive Musicke” plays the role of “Swan” to prevent this requiem missing the right way.

[16] Requiem: a mass for the dead. Requiem can be a perfect anagram of quire-’em or quier-’em; quier is an obsolete form of queer, meaning odd or bad; quire is an obsolete form of quere, i.e., to inquire. Requiem plays for a mass to inquire them, and an odd mass. his: equal to its in Shakespeare’s time, indicating the requiem, or the Priest in line 13. his right: the correct way of the requiem, or the Priest’s authority.

Requiem--quier-'em Requiem--quire-'em

And thou treble dated Crow, [17]
That thy sable gender mak’st.
With the breath thou giv’st and tak’st,
Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.
[17] date: to affix a time that some thing will happen. treble dated Crow: a reference to Bible that Peter denies Jesus three times: “Iesus sayde vnto him, Verely I say vnto thee, that this night, before the cocke crow, thou shalt denie me thrise.” (MAT 26:34)

[18] sable: mourning garment; sable contains able. gender: sort, class. thy sable gender: it can be a wordplay of “this able gender” to cope with next line, saying that Amy Robsart is able to kill herself.

thy sable gender--this able gender

[19] the breath thou giv’st and tak’st: One gives breath when one is alive; one takes one’s own breath means suicide. This line may be inspired from the anagram of Amy Robsart’s name, that she may rob her start.

Amy Robsart--may rob start

[20] Mongst our mourners shalt thou go: go has the definition of to leave, depart; This line can mean “you shall go together with our mourners,” or “you, among our mourners, shall leave us.”

Crow,thy sable,mak'st--Amy Robsart breath,givest,Mongst--Amy Robsart

Here the Anthem doth commence, [21]
Love and Constancy is dead,
Phoenix and the Turtle fled,
In a mutual flame from hence.
[21] Anthem: a formal composition. Anthem can be a perfect anagram of anth-’em, or a both-way anagram of ant-them; anth- or ant- is a variant of anti-. Anthem plays for the composition against the Phoenix and Turtle. commence: to start, begin; commence is close to comments in sound and spelling, a hint that the composition makes comments to against the two lovers.

anthem--anth-'em anthem--ant-them

[22] Love and Constancy is dead: The singular form is suggests hendiadys; the constant love of Amy and Robert Dudley is gone after Amy’s death. The husband is free to pursue another woman now, and then comes the Phoenix.

[23] Phoenix, Turtle: first time two characters appear in this poem, right after “Love and Constancy is dead.” Phoenix projects Queen Elizabeth; Turtle Dove is derived from Robert Dudley. The known first usage of turtle as tortoise is recorded in mid-17th century.

Robert Dudley--Turtle Turtle Dove,bird--Robert Dudley

[24] mutual flame: the passion between Elizabeth Tudor and Robert Dudley. from hence: from this issue, time, or place; the flame of love started after the death of Amy Robsart.

So they loved as love in twain, [25]
Had the essence but in one,
Two distincts, Division none,
Number there in love was slain.
[25] they: the Phoenix and Turtle, i.e., Elizabeth Tudor and Robert Dudley. twain: a couple; a disunited pair. After Amy’s death, they can love as a couple.

[26] essence: nature, the basic substance; the two had one nature substance, a child. The last word of the four lines show the descending (slain) of number: twain (2), one (1), none (0), slain.

[27] Two distincts: two independent man and woman, not as husband and wife being related. Division none: the two lovers did not keep the distance they should, morally and physically. none: a hint that at the end the two lovers were separated, and their one illegitimate child was not admitted, none was left.

[28] Number: class, level. slay: to terminate, destroy; to amuse others greatly. The class in their love was destroyed, which amused some. Number hints at the wordplay of twain, one, and none to match with two-lovers, one-child, and none-left. Number there in love was slain: number in this quatrain, just like their love, is slain from two to none. The same number slain appears in line 45 to 47.

Hearts remote, yet not asunder; [29]
Distance and no space was seen,
Twixt this Turtle and his Queen;
But in them it were a wonder.
[29] remote: indifferent, distant, cool. asunder: torn apart; separated. yet not asunder: Their hearts cool down, but not cut off totally.

[30] Distance and no space was seen: They maintained the same distance after Amy’s death, and there were no space for their love to grow. Dudley still served the Queen as before. In 1578, Dudley married Lettice Knollys (1543–1634) secretly. Lettice was banned from the court forever.

[31] this Turtle: this turtle may pun for a speedy turtle-dove, or a tardy crawling tortoise. Queen: a hint on Queen Elizabeth.

[32] wonder: an astonishing event mingled with bewildered curiosity, implying not known exactly what to do next. The last two lines can spell Queen Elisabeth Tudor and Robert Dudley, a hint on the identities of the Turtle and Phoenix.

Turtle,his Queen,but a wonder--Elisabeth Tudor,Robert Dudley

So between them Love did shine, [33]
That the Turtle saw his right,
Flaming in the Phoenix’ sight;
Either was the other’s mine.
[33] shine: to make a brave show; to stand out clearly. The truth of their love showed clearly in following lines, power for Dudley and passion for the Queen.

[34] right: legal title to the possession of authority or power. Turtle saw his right: Dudley saw his right for marring the Queen.

[35] flaming: burning passion. sight: aspect, appearance; or an obsolete form of sigh. Flaming in the Phoenix’ sight: burning passion in the Queen’s appearance.

[36] mine: source, treasure. Either was the other’s mine: The Queen was Dudley’s treasure of power; Dudley the Queen’s source of love.

Property was thus appalled, [37]
That the self was not the same:
Single Nature’s double name,
Neither two nor one was called.
[37] Property: the things owned by the Phoenix and Turtle. appalled: shocked, terrified; the Queen and Dudley’s illegitimate son terrified them.

[38] the self: child can be seen as parents’ second self. not the same: an illegitimate is not the same as a legitimate child.

[39] Single: lonely. Single Nature: loneliness being the nature of an illegitimate child. double: false, deceitful. double name: the illegitimate child here has a false name, not being recognized by his parents.

[40] Neither two nor one was called: the illegitimate child Francis Bacon was not named after Tudor or Dudley.

Reason in itself confounded, [41]
Saw Division grow together,
To themselves yet either neither,
Simple were so well compounded.
[41] Reason: the word appears also in line 47 twice; all three are capitalized. Reason can be a perfect anagram of ear-son, a son by hearing or rumor. itself: personified Reason. confounded: confused, disordered. The illegitimate son himself is confounded.

Reason itself,confounded--Francis Bacon Reason itself,confounded--Francis Dudley

[42] Division: separation, the state of being divided; the divided state of the illegitimate and his natural parents. Saw Division grow together: Reason (the son) saw the divided state being recovered.

[43] themselves: a family of three. either neither: the illegitimate son cannot be grown together either with his father alone, neither with his father and mother; “either neither” hints at one-way anagram based on the spelling of neither containing either; besides that, either is like the neither’s son.


[44] Simple: a simplified solution, that the illegitimate is grown from a foster family. compound: to mixed, combined; to agree, bargain; to settle a dispute. well compounded: the confounded issue of the illegitimate is well settled.

Reason--ear-son reason itself,confounded--Earl Leicester,Francis Dudley

That it cried, how true a twain, [45]
Seemeth this concordant one,
Love hath Reason, Reason none,
If what parts can so remain.
[45] it: the personified Reason in line 41. cry: to shout; to weep. twain: two parts; an asunder pair. how true a twain: a true couple; the two lovers are truly separated. The last word of line 45, 46, 47 (twain, one, none) equal to line 25, 26, 27; the slain in line 28 is changed to remain in line 48, a hint that something is remained after the slain.

[46] seem: to befit; to appear to exist. concordant: harmonious, being in agreement. Seemeth this concordant one: to fit the conflictless agreement between the two lovers.

[47] Love hath Reason: this love event has reason. The Queen needs heir, and Dudley wants power. Reason none: without reasonable acts, illogical; to be reasonable in this love event will lose everything. The two lovers cannot marry after Amy’s suspicious death.

[48] what parts: the things left after the separation of the Queen, Dudley, and their illegitimate son. remain: to maintain. “Reason none” can maintain the best state for all involved persons.

reason--none-son Reason--ear-son

Whereupon it made this Threne, [49]
To the Phoenix and the Dove,
Co-supremes and stars of Love,
As Chorus to their Tragique Scene.

[49] Threne: its spelling contains three; Threnos contains threne; or three is a one-way anagram of threne, and threne of Threnos. it made this Threne: the term can spell Mary Sidney, a hint of the Threnos’ author.

threne--three.jpg Threnos--threne

The whole line can spell Edmund Spender and Mary Sidney. The pronoun it may indicate Shakespeare, code name of Wilton poets.

Whereupon it made this Threne--Edmund Spenser,Mary Sidney

[50] Phoenix: a person of unique excellence; to cope with supreme in the next line. Dove: a gentle person; a simpleton. Dove appears only once here, to cope with Love in the next line.

[51] supreme: one having the highest position. co-supreme: the two lovers raise themselves to the highest level. stars: fortune. stars of Love: two stars on the sky that can never meet, which is their fortune.

[52] As Chorus: a both-way anagram of asch-hours; asch is an obsolete form of ash; As Chorus can spell ash-hours, a wordplay of ash-hours chorus. Tragique Scene: The term can spell Queen’s sin, a wordplay of tragic scene of the Queen’s sin. Scene sounds like sin.

As Chorus--asch-hours As Chorus--ash-hours Tragique Scene--Queen's sin

Threnos. [53]
Beauty, Truth, and Rarity, [54]
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclosed, in cinders lie.

[53] Threnos: Threnos is a perfect anagram of shorten, a hint to shorten this poem from quatrains to tercets. Threnos can spell Threne, and Threne can spell Three. Threnos is also a perfect anagram of thrones, as a threne for thrones, and a hint that the poem is related to the Queen and her lover. The subtitle marks a separation to alert readers, that anagrams may be used to solve this poem. It’s odd because the poem itself has no title, but other poems before and after this poem all have titles.

threnos--shorten Threnos--threne threne--three Threnos--Thrones

[54] Beauty: any thing beautiful; a beautiful story or event; can be used to indicate their illegitimate son Francis Bacon. Truth: the existence of the illegitimate is a truth, hinted in line 63. Rarity: something uncommon, unusual and valuable. The story of their love is a rarity; the illegitimate is unusual and valuable.

[55] Grace: title of sovereign; the Queen. simplicity: simple-minded people under the Queen’s ruling. Grace in all simplicity: the Queen’s grace to all her simple-minded people. This line can spell illegitimate.


[56] Here enclosed: this poem enclosed their love story. cinder: a piece of burnt coal that can be combusted further in later time. lie: to settle; to cheat. Here enclosed, in cinders lie: the story enclosed here will be disclosed in the future.

Death is now the Phoenix’ nest, [57]
And the Turtle’s loyal breast,
To eternity doth rest.
[57] Death: the loss of vitality or life. nest: shelter. Death is now the Phoenix’ nest: Elizabeth Tudor (1533–1603) never married. She lost her vitality in love passion.

[58] And the Turtle’s loyal breast: this line can spell Elisabeth Tudor and Robert Dudley. loyal: Robert Dudley (1532–88) never revealed his affair with Elizabeth Tudor. breast: heart, affection, private thought. loyal breast: loyal is close royal; the term can spell royal breast; Dudley’s heart with royal rank.

And the Turtle's loyal breast--Elisabeth Tudor,Robert Dudley

[59] rest: what is remained; arrest of persons; relief; death. To eternity doth rest: Dudley’s royal dream is dead forever; the story will remain forever to be solved. Amy Robsart died in 1560. Dudley secretly married Lettice Knollys (1543–1634) in 1578; he died in 1588. The Queen died in 1603.

Leaving no posterity, [60]
’Twas not their infirmity,
It was married Chastity.
[60] leave: to allow to remain; leaving contains most letters needed to spell illegitimate except m and t. posterity: all succeeding generations. Leaving no posterity: They allowed no descendant to be known to the public.

[61] infirmity: physical unhealthiness; inability; weakness. not their infirmity: they’ve no descendant not because of their physical weakness.

[62] marry: to unite intimately; Chastity: ceremonial purity; purity from unlawful sexual intercourse. married Chastity: joined with sacred purity. They have no posterity not because their physical inability, but they must keep purity lawfully.

Truth may seem, but cannot be, [63]
Beauty brag, but ’tis not she,
Truth and Beauty buried be.
[63] may: a perfect anagram of Amy. Truth may seem: a seemly truth of the story of Amy Robsart. but cannot be: but this truth of Amy cannot become the truth.

may--Amy brag,not she--Robsart cannot be--Bacon

[64] Beauty: any thing beautiful; a beautiful story or woman. brag: to boast, vaunt. not she: the beautiful thing here is about Amy Robsart, not the Queen.

brag,not she--Robsart

[65] Truth and Beauty buried be: this poem buries a true and beautiful story. The author must be close to Dudley or the Queen to know the detail of the story. To write this story risks the author’s life too. William Shakespeare the front man functioned as a firewall.

To this urn let those repair, [66]
That are either true or fair,
For these dead Birds, sigh a prayer.
William Shake-speare.
[66] urn: a vessel for lots; a container to preserve the ashes of the dead. Urn is perfect anagram of run, to escape. The original spelling urne is a perfect anagram of rune, an obsolete form of roun; roun has the definition of a secret, speech, or discourse. Run is also be an obsolete form of roun. repair: to repair the broken pieces of the truth via this poem. To reveal the truth of this poem is like taking lots from an urn.


[67] fair: free from injustice, unbiased; pleasing, beautiful. either true or fair: story of this poem cannot be both true and fair. it can be true and unjust, or untrue and beautiful. The death of Amy Robsart is unjust from Shakespeare’s view.

[68] dead: without vitality; without future. Birds: all persons involved in this story, Elizabeth Tudor, Robert Dudley, Amy Robsart, and Francis Bacon. prayer: the next line can be treated as the prayer. Shakespeare fits the rhyme of repair, fair, prayer. Prayer is a one-way anagram of Shakespeare.

[69] William Shake-speare: the name can be a perfect anagram of Will may shake a spere, or Will may shake speare; or a both-way anagram of Will may shake a sphere; spere is an obsolete form of sphere.

William Shake-speare--Will may shake a spere
William Shakespeare==Will may shake a spere

William Shake-speare--Will may shake a sphere
William Shakespeare==Will may shake a sphere

William Shake-speare can also be a perfect anagram of “Will Amy shake a spere?” Amy Robsart did somehow change the fate of Queen Elizabeth.

William Shake-speare--Will Amy shake a spereWilliam Shakespeare==Will Amy shake a spere?

Love’s Martyr
Loves Martyr.Color
Love’s Martyr: or, Rosalin’s Complaint. Allegorically shadowing the truth of Love, in the constant Fate of the Phoenix and Turtle. A Poem enterlaced with much variety and rarity; now first translated out of the venerable Italian Torquato Caeliano, by Robert Chester.
The book’s title, Love’s Martye (1601), can spell Amy Robsart except letter b, which can be get from the author’s name Robert. The same can be applied to its subtitle, Rosalin’s Complaint. The name Rosalin never appears in the book. Rosalin is taken from Rosalinde, Colin’s mistress in The Shepheardes Calender (TSC, 1599). It’s Mary Sidney’s code name. Dido and Lobbin of TSC tell the same story.

Loves Martyr,Robert--Amy Robsart Love's Martyr--Amy Robsart Rosalin's Complaint--Robsart,Amy

No record of Robert Chester and Torquato Caeliano can be found. Robert can be a perfect anagram of rob-ert; to ert is to inside, encourage, hurry. Chester can mean the one who puts a body in a coffin; it’s also a both-way anagram of chest-ert. Leicester can spell Chester except letter h. Robert Chester hints at Robert Dudley.

Leicester--Chester Robert Chester--rob-ert chest-ert

Torquato Caeliano can be a perfect anagram of “quarto to ceal anoy”; ceal is an obsolete form of seal; anoy of annoy.

Torquato Caeliano--Quarto to ceal anoy

The book is dedicated to Sir John Salisburie. Salisburie can be a perfect anagram of slay’s-burie, to cope with Chester as the one who puts a corpse to a chest. Wilton House is situated at Wilton near Salisbury in Wiltshire.


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