This is Carol Ann Duffy's poem, "Mrs Icarus".

I'm not the first or the last
to stand on a hillock,
watching the man she married
prove to the world
he's a total, utter, absolute, Grade A pillock.

Clearly, Duffy makes reference to Greek mythology and the story of Icarus and Daedalus' wings. However, the speaker in the poem refers to "the man she married" - is the speaker perhaps a friend of Mrs Icarus? Also, the original story states that Icarus is a boy, so it seems counterintuitive for him to have a wife, could "the man" be referring to Daedalus instead? On the other hand the last line seems to describe Icarus' overconfidence in flying too close to the Sun, so the poem appears very ambiguous about who is who. Is there an authoritative interpretation on the identities of the characters in the poem, or has the poet deliberately left it ambiguous?

2 Answers 2


I think you’re taking it too literally. The speaker is an imaginative invention by the poet, and is not intended to represent any specific character within the classical Icarus myth. She is a woman – any modern wife – who is embarrassed by her husband doing something idiotic in public. She is imagining herself as ‘Mrs Icarus’ and comparing Icarus’s very public demonstration of his foolishness with that of her own husband.

The poet is not being ambiguous at all. Bear in mind that the poem comes from a collection called The World's Wife which, according to Wikipedia, "focuses on the unheard perspective of female counterparts of famously known male figures; it gives a voice to the wives of famous and infamous 'great men' of world literature and civilization". Her speaker, as in all these poems, is an 'everywoman' character whose words shed light on female experience generally.


As no account claims that Icarus was married, it's a metaphor. Her husband has proven his folly as thoroughly as Icarus had when he crashed owing to his own folly, ignoring what Daedalus had warned him of in advance.

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