To which Greek mythological character is Doctor Faustus compared in the prologue?

In the prologue, Doctor Faustus is compared to Icarus, who flew too close to the sun.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the prologue to Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, the chorus says of the protagonist,

His waxen wings did mount above his reach,

And, melting, heavens conspired his overthrow.

This is a reference to the myth of Daedalus and Icarus. Though the myth is Greek, the most famous version appears...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In the prologue to Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, the chorus says of the protagonist,

His waxen wings did mount above his reach,

And, melting, heavens conspired his overthrow.

This is a reference to the myth of Daedalus and Icarus. Though the myth is Greek, the most famous version appears in the Metamorphoses of the Roman poet Ovid. Daedalus and his son, Icarus, were imprisoned on Crete by King Minos, for whom Daedalus had built the labyrinth. They escaped by using wings Daedalus had built by gluing feathers together with wax. As they flew away from Crete, however, Icarus went too high, and the wax holding the feathers in place melted in the heat of the sun. The wings disintegrated, and Icarus fell to his death.

Faustus, therefore, is being compared to Icarus: a "high flyer" who flew too high and fell because of his ambition. The comparison is an apt one. Faustus, like Icarus, overreaches himself through high spirits and lack of seriousness. He does not seem to understand the danger in which he has placed himself as he uses and abuses his new powers. Icarus was and remains a common symbol of overweening ambition, and his story is often used as a warning, even though, in Ovid's version, the boy is careless and forgetful rather than proud or intentionally ambitious.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team