Icarus  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Icarus is a character in Greek mythology. He is the son of Daedalus and is commonly known for his attempt to escape Crete by flight, which ended in a fall to his death.

Icarus' father, Daedalus, a talented craftsman, attempted to escape from his exile in Crete, where he and his son were imprisoned at the hands of King Minos, the king for whom he had built the Labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur. Daedalus, the master craftsman, was exiled because he gave Minos' daughter, Ariadne, a clew of string in order to help Theseus survive the Labyrinth.

Daedalus fashioned a pair of wings of wax and feathers for himself and his son. Before they took off from the island, Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, nor too close to the sea. Overcome by the giddiness that flying lent him, Icarus soared through the sky curiously, but in the process he came too close to the sun, which melted the wax. Icarus kept flapping his wings but soon realized that he had no feathers left and that he was only flapping his bare arms. And so, Icarus fell into the sea in the area which bears his name, the Icarian Sea near Icaria, an island southwest of Samos.

Hellenistic writers who provided philosophical underpinnings to the myth also preferred more realistic variants, in which the escape from Crete was actually by boat, provided by Pasiphaë, for which Daedalus invented the first sails, to outstrip Minos' pursuing galleys, and that Icarus fell overboard en route to Sicily and drowned. Heracles erected a tomb for him.

Classical tradition

Ovid's treatment of the Icarus myth and its connection with that of Phaëton influenced the mythological tradition in English literature as received and interpreted by major writers such as Chaucer, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Milton, and Joyce. In Renaissance iconography, the significance of Icarus depends on context: in the Orion Fountain at Messina, he is one of many figures associated with water; but he is also shown on the Bankruptcy Court of the Amsterdam Town Hall - where he symbolizes high-flying ambition. The 16th-century painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, traditionally but perhaps erroneously attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder, was the inspiration for two of the 20th century's most notable ecphrastic English-language poems, "Musée des Beaux Arts" by W.H. Auden and "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" by William Carlos Williams. Other English-language poems referencing the Icarus myth are "To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph" by Anne Sexton, "Icarus Again" by Alan Devenish and "Mrs Icarus" by Carol Ann Duffy.

Icarus in modern culture

Icarus is widely regarded as a metaphor for a social fall, and this is taken into its full extreme in Walter Tevis' novel The Man Who Fell to Earth. Both it, and the subsequent film reference Icarus, and the hero, a slowly corrupted and disillusioned extraterrestrial, has Brueghel's painting of the story on his wall.

Namesakes

I as in Icarus , French film




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Icarus" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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