Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur, Tourterelle des bois.

60 occurrences (24 dove, 13 doves, 3 dove's, 7 turtle, 5 turtles, 1 turtle's, 1 turtle-dove, 1 dove-cote, 2 dovehouse, 1 dove-drawn, 1 dove-like, 1 dove feather'd)

In Shakespeare's time, there was only one species of doves, the turtle dove, which is migratory. In 1955 the collared dove, Streptopelia decaocto, Tourterelle turque, started colonizing Britain and is now sedentary, more numerous and more conspicuous than the turtle dove.

The migratory behaviour of the turtle dove was a wonder at the time:

The turtle has that name of the voice; ....he seeketh not company of any other, but goeth alone, and hath in mind the fellowship that is lost, and groaneth alway, and loveth and chooseth solitary places, and flieth much company of men. He cometh in the springing time and warmeth of novelty of time with groaning voice. And in winter he loseth his feathers, and then he hideth him in hollow stacks.

(SEAGER quoting Batman uppon Bartholomew, Bk. 12 § 9)

The turtle dove is the bird that Shakespeare mentions the most. It "has been noticed by poets in all ages as an emblem of love and constancy". (HARTING, p. 191).

Shakespeare has:

And the Turtle's loyal breast

(PHT 57)

When arm in arm they both came swiftly running,

Like to a pair of loving turtle-doves

(1H6 2 2 29-30)

Your hand, my Perdita: so turtles pair,

That never mean to part.

(WT 4 4 154-5)

Therefore doves are associated by Shakespeare as often as possible with such words as love and heart (7 times).

He eats nothing but doves, love, and that breeds hot blood,

(TRO 3 1 123)

Cry but `Ay me!' Pronounce but `love' and `dove',

(ROM 2 1 10)

my heart upon my sleeve / For doves to peck at:

(OTH 1 1 65)

And in the true Elizabethan tradition of world ordering:

As true as steel, as plantage to the moon,

As sun to day, as turtle to her mate,

(TRO 3 2 176)

Another common association (11 times) is that of the dove and whiteness, either directly expressed:

More white and red than doves or roses are:

(VEN 10)

or more indirectly, in contrast with a black raven (or crow) or a gaudy coloured jay:

We'll teach him to know turtles from jays.

(WIV 3 3 42)

Who will not change a raven for a dove?

(MND 2 2 113)

Shakespeare links the dove with some other more unusual stories:

Was Mohammed inspired with a dove?

(1H6 1 2 140)

It is related that Mohamed had a dove which he used to feed with wheat out of his ear, which dove, when it was hungry, lighted on Mahomed's shoulder and thrust its bill in to find its breakfast, Mahomed persuading the rude and simple Arabians that it was the Holy Ghost that gave him advice. (HARTING quoting Sir Walter Raleigh's History of the World, 1614, Bk. I. Part i. c. 6)

"Venus's dove" as well as "Venus's pigeon" (MV 2 6 5) are frequently mentioned by Shakespeare:

By the simplicity of Venus' doves,

(MND 1 1 171)

But nowhere as frequently as in Venus and Adonis, where Shakespeare gives in the last stanza an account of the story he intends to recall when using both this expression and "dove of Paphos" (PER 4 ch. 32).

Thus weary of the world, away she hies,

And yokes her silver doves, by whose swift aid

Their mistress mounted through the empty skies,

In her light chariot quickly is convey'd,

Holding their course to Paphos, where their queen

Means to immure herself, and not be seen.

(VEN 1189-94)

But it is not only the story Shakespeare wants to recall, it is the atmosphere of purity and melancholy.