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 different path on every side surrounds her, and every way seems to be the wrong way. She is confused about which way she should go. Wroth is conveying the theme of love in a decidedly negative way, for according to myth, the Labyrinth was where the Minotaur lived and before it’s demise, death was evident for all visitors of the maze. The speaker is struggling with every choice she may make and cannot rest or find aid until she finds the best way: “Go forward, or stand still, or back retire;/ I must these doubts endure without allay/ Or help, but travail find for my best hire” (10-11). She has several choices and each one is confusing and leaves her feeling helpless.
The title of Wroth’s poem alludes to the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Theseus was an Athenian prince who promised to slay the Minotaur, which was located in the Labyrinth designed by Daedalus in Crete. The Minotaur was a half-man, half-bull hybrid monster that was fed fourteen human tributes from Athens every year. King Minos, the king of Crete, had a daughter named Ariadne who fell in love with Theseus and guided him through the maze with a thread. 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,...