PowerPoint Presentation - EPIC AND DRAMATIC POETRY

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					Epic Poetry

  Mr. Jessup
• One of the major forms of narrative literature.
• It retells, in a continuous narrative, the life
  and works of a heroic or mythological person
  or group of people.
• VERY LONG and best examples are
  extremely old.
• The longest epic is the Rig – Veda, written
  over 5000 years ago.
• Definition: A kind of narrative poem that
  tells the story of a hero and his companions.
  Epics are frequently set in a past thought to
  be greater and finer than the present, and
  they are usually long and of a serious nature.
                        2 types of Epics
• Primary or Folk Epic
• No single author (each is a product of the
  oral tradition)
• Written down after centuries of oral
  transmission-- e. g., Beowulf and the Iliad
                 Secondary or Literary

• A single, gifted poet such as Virgil or Milton
  composes a work that imitates a folk epic.
  The AEneid and Paradise Lost, for
  example, involved considerable research and
  have the style of earlier epics (particularly in
  setting, dignified speeches, and extended
                General Characteristics
• Primary epics were originally intended to be
  sung or recited to music: "Sing, Muse . . . .“
• There is a “Medias Res” opening– in the
  middle of things.
• The subject is often announced with an
  “Invocation of a Muse”.
• Epics often have a nationalistic bias and
• There is usually a correspondingly large scale.
• Principal characters are larger-than-life demigods
  (descendants of deities) or heroes of immense
  stature and strength .
• Heroes represent cultural ideals like endurance and
  cunning (Odysseus), all-round virtue (Achilles), fair
  play and selflessness (Beowulf).
• Single combat is a common plot device .
• If the warriors are equals, such as Achilles
  and Hector, they fight with sword and spear.
  Lesser foes are fought with lesser weapons.
• The hero often has a special weapon or
  quality (Odysseus’ disguises).
• Other stock episodes include a trip to the
                                  Epic Style
• Stately pace.
• Elevated, literary language is the norm-even
  servants speak in dignified verse.
• Long, formal speeches such as challenges,
  inset narratives, flashbacks, and points of
  debate occur within the midst of the action;
  characters are commonly revealed in
                                 Epic Style
• Speeches are often followed by such phrases
  as "thus he spoke" to emphasize that the
  words are those of a character and not of the
• The manner of address between characters is
  circumlocutious and courtly.
                                  Epic Style
• Circumlocutious - roundabout and
  unnecessarily wordy. Epics often use
• Epic conventions include the simile, the in-
  medias-res opening, the invocation, the
  climactic confrontation between mighty
  adversaries, and hand-to-hand combat.
                                 Epic Style
• The events of the poem permeate the
  national consciousness--everyone in the
  audience already knows most of the details of
  the story.
                         One More Thing
• The Epic or Homeric Simile is a protracted
  comparison beginning with "like" or "as"; the
  figure, loaded with description, often holds up
  the action at a crucial point to produce
                                 Epic Simile
• “As a mountain snake, who is maddened by
  the poisonous herbs he has swallowed, allows
  a man to come up to the lair where he lies
  coiled, and watches him with a baleful glitter
  in his eye, Hector stood firm and unflinching.”
                                        Epic Hero
• The hero is introduced in the midst of turmoil
• The hero is not only a warrior, but a polished leader.
• Possesses heirloom weapons with distinctive power
  and size.
• The hero must undertake a long, perilous journey,
  often involving a descent into the Underworld, which
  tests his endurance, courage, and cunning.
                                        Epic Hero
• He undertakes a task that no one else dare attempt.
• Whatever virtues his culture most prizes, he
  possesses in abundance.
• He establishes his aristeia (nobility) through single
  combat with a superior foe.
• The hero and his antagonist, meet at the climax,
  which must be delayed as long as possible to sustain
  maximum interest.
                                 Epic Hero
• The adversary is often a "god-despiser," one
  who has more respect for his own mental and
  physical abilities than for the power of the
• The hero may encounter a numinous
  phenomenon (a place or person having a
  divine or supernatural force) and the he must
  use his strength/power to overcome.
• Adapted from work by Philip V. Allingham

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