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Mazes and Labyrinths


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Author Topic: Mazes and Labyrinths  (Read 2207 times)
Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #150 on: April 04, 2009, 11:58:35 pm »

and further on (Act V., Sc. i.) he puts a similar phrase into the mouth of Alonso:


"This is as strange a maze as e’er man trod:
And there is in this business more than nature
Was ever conduct of."

It is most likely that the turf mazes were in existence long before Shakespeare's time. The similarity of design between some of them and certain of the continental church labyrinths, which has already been alluded to, furnishes some grounds for supposing that they were contemporary with the latter in origin, in which case they would most probably have been constructed in the twelfth or thirteenth centuries. The fact that several of them were situated in the neighbourhood of some religious institution also lends support to the assertion that they were of monastic workmanship. There is no reason, however, to suppose that their construction and the handing on of the labyrinth tradition was confined to ecclesiastics.

According to M. Berthelot, who made a special study of the work of the ancient and mediaeval alchemists, a similar figure was employed by the latter. At any rate he found in an eleventh-century alchemistic manuscript, which he refers to as the Manuscript of St. Mark, Venice, a labyrinth drawing closely resembling the ecclesiastical type, accompanied by a commentary in Greek verse. He, however, expresses the opinion that both the labyrinth and the verses are an addition of the fourteenth or fifteenth century. The figure, he says, is referred to as "The Labyrinth of Solomon."

The name of Solomon was in use at least as late as 1844 in connection with labyrinthine figures. In that year M. Didron, a noted French archaeologist, whilst making a tour through Greece, visited the convent of St. Barlaam, a building perched high up on a huge crag and approached only by a rope. On the wall of the guest-room

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