The story of Icarus is commonly understood as a tragic tale, warning against the perils of arrogance and excessive pride. There is room for thinking regarding its actual message. To gain a deeper understanding of the myth, we must explore it further.
The myth of Daedalus and Icarus tells the story of how Daedalus made wings for himself and his son, Icarus, using feathers, threads, and beeswax. Daedalus warned Icarus about the dangers of flying too high or too low, but Icarus ignored these instructions and flew too close to the sun.
As a result, the beeswax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea, drowning. This wise tale gave rise to the expression “fly too close to the sun.” In some versions of the story, Daedalus and Icarus managed to escape by ship.
Françoise Frontisi-Ducroux, a French hellenist, conducted a study on the Daedalus myth and its connection to Icarus. In the field of psychology, there have been studies exploring the Icarus complex possible link between a love for fire, bedwetting (enuresis), having high ambition and Ascensionism.
We tend to forget that Icarus was also warned not to fly too low, because seawater would ruin the lift in his wings. Flying too low is even more dangerous than flying too high, because it feels deceptively safe. Each study and analysis of the myth agrees Icarus was too ambitious for his own good.
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Ovid’s version of the Icarus myth
The Greek mythology found in the works of Chaucer, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Milton, and Joyce was influenced by Ovid’s telling of the Icarus myth and its relationship with Phaethon.
Icarus is one of many figures connected to water in the Orion Fountain at Messina, but his significance in Renaissance iconography varies depending on the context. He is also seen on the Bankruptcy Court of the Amsterdam Town Hall, where he represents ambitiousness gone wild.
Many Versions of Icarus and Daedalus myth
Two of the most famous ekphrastic English-language poems of the 20th century, “Musée des Beaux Arts” by W. H. Auden and “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” by William Carlos Williams were inspired by the 16th-century painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. Several other poems in the English language make reference to the myth of Icarus.
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These include “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph” by Anne Sexton, “Icarus” by John Updike, “Icarus Again” by Alan Devenish, “Mrs Icarus” by Carol Ann Duffy, “Failing and Flying” by Jack Gilbert, “It Should Have Been Winter” by Nancy Chen Long, “Up like Icarus” by Mark Antony Owen, “Age 10, 3am” by Sheri Wright, and “Yesterday’s Myth” by Jennifer Chang.
Icarus is a metaphor for difficult modern young men in Norwegian author Axel Jensen’s 1957 novel Icarus: A Young Man in Sahara, even though the tale is a prominent subtext throughout Hiromi Yoshida’s Icarus tetralogy poetry chapbooks. In addition, Adam Wing’s 2017 book Icarus is centred around him.