Icarus - Classical Tradition

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.

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