In This Strange Labyrinth, by Mary Wroth

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Mary Wroth alludes to mythology in her sonnet “In This Strange Labyrinth” to describe a woman’s confused struggle with love. The speaker of the poem is a woman stuck in a labyrinth, alluding to the original myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The suggestion that love is not perfect and in fact painful was a revolutionary thing for a woman to write about in the Renaissance. Wroth uses the poem’s title and its relation to the myth, symbolism and poem structure to communicate her message about the tortures of love. In the title “In This Strange Labyrinth”, the labyrinth is symbolic of love’s maze-like qualities. The speaker describes her predicament by saying, “In this strange Labyrinth how shall I turn/Ways are on all sides” (1-2). A …show more content…
Evidence of Wroth’s allusion to Adriane and Theseus lies in the lines “ Yet that which most my troubled sense doth move/ Is to leave all, and take the thread of love” (13-14). In the myth, Theseus travels through the maze with Ariadne’s thread as a guide. Though the thread leads Theseus through the labyrinth safely, the speaker struggles to decide whether she is going to take the thread of love and risk the fall.
The speaker’s decidedly abusive romance is affected by fire, danger, suspicion, shame, mourning, doubts, and troubled sense. Each path she could possibly take is impeded by something negative. In line three, Wroth says, “If to the right hand there in love I burn”(3), and refers to love as fire, whether symbolic of passion or literal burning. In the symbolic sense, Wroth is speaking of “burning” as sexual desire, which for a woman of her time would ultimately lead to the “shame” mentioned in the sixth line. In the Renaissance, women referred to love as virtuous and romantic. They did not refer to romance as abusive and torturous, making Wroth’s sonnet revolutionary and scandalous. If “burn” is taken literally, considering Wroth is already comparing love to a strange, intricate made to trap sacrifices as food for a monster, it makes sense that she would also explain it as burning; more or less torture and pain (Abrams 1692).

The statement, “Let me go forward, therein danger is;” (4) explains that her choice to go forward is thwarted by
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