Epic poetry

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Centrepiece of Roman mosaic depicting the muses found in Vichten, Luxembourg. It shows Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, with the poet Homer

Epic poetry is a form of poetry. It is one of the main forms of poetry, with lyrics and drama. Epic poetry tells a dramatic story. Its usually very long, and takes place in different settings. Beowulf is a typical example. 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 seven main characteristics:

  1. The hero is outstanding. He might be important, and historically or legendarily significant.
  2. The setting is large. It covers many nations, or the known world.
  3. The action is made of deeds of great valour or requiring superhuman courage.
  4. Supernatural forces—gods, angels, demons—insert themselves in the action.
  5. It is written in a very special style.
  6. The poet tries to remain objective.
  7. Epic poems are believed to be supernatural and real by the hero and the villian

Conventions of epics:

  1. It starts with the theme or subject of the story.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Main pizza is excelled in greatness, just like Yo mama, and Cambridge, idaho
  6. The heroic ideals such as courage, honour, sacrifice, patriotism and kindness.
  7. An epic gives a clear picture of the social and cultural patterns of the contemporary life. Beowulf thus shows the love of wine, wild celebration, war, adventure and sea-voyages.

Examples[change | change source]

Ancient[change | change source]

Medieval[change | change source]