The studied passage is from Ovid’s eighth book: Daedalus and Icarus. This book treats about heroes. This study aims to analyse several literary devices, which announce the death of Icarus, their function within the story, and the purpose they serve.
Daedalus is trapped in the labyrinth of Minos, king of Crete. As the king controls the earth and sea, Daedalus decides to craft a pair of wings for himself and his son Icarus.
Daedalus is inspired by the birds: ‘ut ueras imitetur aues’ .Ovid here changes the common word order. As Kenney(1973) points out, Ovid can be very liberal in matters of syntax. This freedom is used here to keep the form sustaining the content. By inserting imitetur between ueras and aues, Ovid juxtaposes two almost contradictory words; imitation being from the realm of illusion, as opposed to the real. Ovid underlines as well the paradoxical enterprise of Daedalus; as realistic as the crafted wings appear, they remain a mere imitation, a ‘close copy of an anatomical feature belonging of another specie.’
Furthermore, Daedalus ‘alters nature’s law,’ he thus threatens the equilibrium of nature. When Daedalus fixes the wings on his son, Ovid uses the adjective ‘strange’, in order to emphasise the unnatural nature of the wings.
The thought of crafting those wings appears in the first part of the poem as a sign of bad omen. Icarus ‘plays with own peril’ , by metonymy, the components of the wings becomes peril, thus enhancing the feeling of danger. The climax during the crafting of the wings appears when Icarus soften (mollibat) the wax; not only we are reminded of the fragility of the components, but the used verb introduced a fatal prolepsis. Indeed, ironically, the same verb is applied to the sun, which soften (mollit) the very same wax Icarus was playing with. Before the wings were even crafted, it seems Icarus was already condemned.
The danger does not only come from the wings, but as well from the psychology of the characters. The first time we are introduced to Icarus, Ovid does so by putting the emphasis on ‘Puer’ before introducing the name of Icarus. Ovid then draws a parallel between the son and the father in the same line, under the form of an oxymoron: ‘lusuque suo mirabile patris’. Such devices, underline Icarus’ immaturity. Hence, when Daedalus gives important advises to Icarus as how to fly, the reader’s response is directed to doubt on Icarus’ ability to put them in practise. In contrast with the description of Daedalus’ precision crafting the wings; when he ‘kissed his son’ , his ‘hands trembled’, those hands are not the ones of an artisan anymore. By doing so, Ovid suggests the emotion and the concerns of Daedalus.
Ovid uses a simile to represent Daedalus as a...