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The Epic. English IV Mr. Musgrove. Defining the Epic. Defining the Epic. An epic is one of the earliest forms of literature. It is a long narrative poem that recounts the adventures of a legendary hero in pursuit of a goal of national importance.

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the epic

The Epic

English IV

Mr. Musgrove

defining the epic1
Defining the Epic

An epic is one of the earliest forms of literature.

It is a long narrative poemthat recounts the adventures of a legendary hero in pursuit of a goal of national importance.

The hero’s accomplishments usually reflect the values of his culture and usually figure prominently in the history of his people.

elements of the epic1
Elements of the Epic

Epic Hero


Valorous Deeds

Divine Intervention

Great Events

elements of the epic2
Elements of the Epic
  • Epic Hero:
    • The central character of an epic
    • A larger-than-life figure, typically of noble or semi-divine birth, who pits his courage, skill, and virtue against opposing, often evil, forces
    • In the early English epic Beowulf, for example, the hero Beowulf is a young warrior of high standing who battles a brutal and bloodthirsty monster.
elements of the epic3
Elements of the Epic
  • Quest:
    • Along, dangerous journey or mission undertaken by the epic hero.
    • The quest is the hero’s opportunity to prove his heroism and win honor and underlying renown.
    • Beowulf embarks on a quest to aid a neighboring kingdom by defeating the hideous monster Grendel.
elements of the epic4
Elements of the Epic
  • Valorous deeds:
    • These actions demonstrate the hero’s courage, strength, or virtue and make up most of the action in the narrative.
    • For example, Beowulf’s superhuman strength is shown when he fights the savage Grendel with his bare hands—and wins!
elements of the epic5
Elements of the Epic
  • Divine intervention:
    • In many epics, the hero receives help from a god or another supernatural force who takes an interest in his quest.
elements of the epic6
Elements of the Epic
  • Great events:
    • Important events from the history or mythology of a nation or culture often provide the backdrop for the epic narrative.
types of epics1
Types of Epics

Folk Epics

Literary Epics

types of epics2
Types of Epics
  • Folk Epics:
    • In ancient times, stories about heroes were recited or sung as entertainment and passed down orally from one generation to the next.
    • These stories were eventually unified into folk epics and written down long after they were first composed.
    • Examples include: Beowulf (Anglo-Saxon); Gilgamesh (Sumerian); Mahabharata (Indian); Sundiata(West African).
types of epics3
Types of Epics
  • Literary Epics:
    • Written by individual authors, drawing on the style and conventions of the folk epic
    • Examples include: Iliad or Odyssey by Homer; Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri; Aeneid by Virgil; Paradise Lost by John Milton
epic conventions1
Epic Conventions

Epic conventions are: certain literary or formal characteristics that most epics share.

Setting: vast in scope, often involving multiple nations

Plot: complicated by supernatural beings or events and may involve a long and dangerous journey through foreign lands

Theme: reflects timeless values such as courage and honor, and encompasses universal ideas, such as good and evil or life and death

epic conventions2
Epic Conventions
  • An epic opens by stating the subject or purpose
  • The plot begins in medias res—Latin for “in the middle of things.” In other words, the reader joins the story in the thick of action.
  • Most epics are serious in tone and lofty in style, a technique meant to convey the importance of the events.
  • Dialogue includes long speeches by the characters suggest an impressive formality, as do the lists of battles, weapons, and royal gifts.
literary elements1
Literary Elements

Stock Epithets




literary elements2
Literary Elements
  • Stock Epithets:
    • Adjectives that point out special traits of particular persons or things
    • Often compound adjectives, such as “swift-footed Achilles”
  • Kennings:
    • Poetic synonyms found in Germanic poetry
    • Descriptive phrase or compound word that substitutes for a noun
    • In Beowulf, “the Almighty’s enemy” and “sin-stained demon” are two kennings used in the place of Grendel’s name
literary elements3
Literary Elements
  • Alliteration:
    • The repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words
    • Example: So mankind’s enemy continued his crimes
  • Caesura:
    • A pause dividing each line, with each part having TWO accented syllables
    • Helps maintain the rhythm of the line
    • See example on pg. 37