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Ars in Ovid

            The concept of ars, or skill, is a central theme in these two stories by Ovid. In fact, in these tales the men who possess ars do so on an almost superhuman level. Daedalus is able to produce functioning wings, and Pygmalion's sculpture of a woman has a hyperrealistic quality. Yet the outcome of these two stories is starkly different--Daedalus must suffer the loss of his only son, but Pygmalion is rewarded with the breath of life for his statue. Essentially, Daedalus insulted the Gods with his skill while Pygmalion pleased them. .
             In "Daedalus and Icarus," Ovid begins a story about a man whom he had alluded to in earlier sections of The Metamorphoses as "ingenio fabrae celeberrimus artis." So already the reader is aware that Daedalus" ars has brought him much great acclaim and renown--perhaps signifying an even greater downfall. Armed with such hubris, Daedalus sets out to change the natural order of things with his new invention: ".et ignotas animum dimittit in artes naturam novat." Such a goal would obviously insult the Gods, who were supposed to be sole arbitrators of natural order, cluing the audience into the fact that Daedalus will assuredly mess up. When Icarus comes along, he fondles the wings, "ignarus sua se tractare pericla." It is clear that Icarus will bear at least part of the punishment for Daedalus" inability to harness his ars. The "damnosas artes" of flying thus led to Icarus" fatal "cupidine caeli," which in turn led to his tragic descent into the waters below. In this case, ars was purposefully used to defy divine will, so its effect was the harsh reprimanding of Daedalus.
             In "Pygmalion," the "heros" does not possess such an awesome ars as the ability to fly. And while Pygmalion's ability to create a seemingly life-like statue is impressive, he does not have the power to alter the divine will of the Gods by being able to imbue it with life. Rather, Pygmalion is a humble man who denounces the immoral women of his town just as Venus had done: "Quas quia Pygmalion.

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