Epic poetry is a form of poetry. It is one of the main forms of poetry, with lyrics and drama. Epic poetry is usually very long, and takes place in different settings. There are characters in the story. Well-known people who wrote epics were Homer, Virgil, Ovid, Dante, Edmund Spenser and Milton. William Wordsworth's Prelude plays with epic ideas though the poem is autobiography.
Characteristics[change | change source]
Epics have six main characteristics:
- The hero is outstanding. He might be important, and historically or legendarily significant.
- The setting is large. It covers many nations, or the known world.
- The action is made of deeds of great valour or requiring superhuman courage.
- Supernatural forces—gods, angels, demons—insert themselves in the action.
- It is written in a very special style.
- The poet tries to remain objective.
Conventions of epics:
- It starts with the theme or subject of the story.
- Writer invokes a Muse, one of the nine daughters of Zeus. The poet prays to the Muses to provide him with divine inspiration to tell the story of a great hero. (This convention is restricted to cultures which were influenced by Classical culture: the Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, or the Bhagavata Purana would obviously not contain this element).
- Narrative opens in medias res, or in the middle of things, usually with the hero at his lowest point. Usually flashbacks show earlier portions of the story.
- Catalogues and genealogies are given. These long lists of objects, places, and people place the finite action of the epic within a broader, universal context. Often, the poet is also paying homage to the ancestors of audience members.
- Main characters give extended formal speeches.
- Use of the epic simile.
- Heavy use of repetition or stock phrases.
Examples[change | change source]
Ancient[change | change source]
- 20th to 10th century BC:
- 8th century BC to 3rd century AD:
- 8th to 6th century BC:
- 1st century BC:
Medieval[change | change source]
- 8th to 10th century AD
- 14th century AD