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Read Lady Mary Wroth’s Sonnet ‘In this strange labyrinth how shall I turn?’

Read through Lady Mary Wroth’s Sonnet 1 from her 'Crown of Sonnets' on your feet.
© Alison Findlay Lancaster University

In this step we will explore Lady Mary Wroth’s sonnet ‘In this strange labyrinth how shall I turn?’ by reading its turns and twists.

Print out and read through Lady Mary Wroth’s Sonnet ‘In this strange labyrinth how shall I turn?’ You’ll find 2 versions in the downloads section below. Use version A to mark up yourself or download version B which has been marked up for you.

  • On version A, mark an oblique line on the sonnet to plot every time there is a change of direction (or print out version B which is already marked up with one interpretation).

  • Stand up and read the sonnet as a walk or journey, changing direction, according to your marks.

  • Why does Wroth use the extended idea of a labyrinth in this sonnet to convey the speaker’s feelings?
  • How do the physical actions mirror the feelings one experiences when in love?

A Crown of Sonnets – Sonnet 1

In this strange Labyrinth how shall I turn,
Ways are on all sides, while the way I miss,
If to the right hand, there, in love I burn,
Let me go forward, therein danger is. [4]
If to the left, suspicion hinders bliss;
Let me turn back, shame cries I ought return,
Nor faint, though crosses with my fortunes kiss,
Stand still is harder, although sure to mourn. [8]
Thus let me take the right, or left hand 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. [12]
Yet that which most my troubled sense doth move,
Is to leave all, and take the thread of Love.
  • Why does Wroth use the extended idea of a labyrinth in this sonnet to convey the speaker’s feelings?

Now proceed to the next step to watch Professor Gary Waller talk about the labyrinth as an image in Wroth’s writing and watch a reading of Wroth’s labyrinth sonnet at Penshurst Place.

© Alison Findlay Lancaster University
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Penshurst Place and the Sidney Family of Writers

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