Characteristics of an EPIC HERO The central figure in a long narrative that reflects the values and heroic ideals of a particular society.
Eight Characteristics of an EPIC HERO • Brave • Superhuman in strength (physical, mental, spiritual) • Successful in battle • Contemptuous of his wounds, even in death • Born of noble stock, maybe semi-divine • Gains fame outside his own country • His FOIL is usually a king who is weakened by flaw: • (Temporarily weakened or too old to function in protective capacity for his nation.) FOILS MAKE HERO SHINE!
Eight Characteristics of an EPIC HERO continued … • Extremely loyal • Beowulf is not a traditional “intruder-hero” who conquers and takes over. He respects the legitimacy of the Danish kingship, his “temporary king.” He has no intention of usurping Hrothgar’s kingship. Beowulf becomes king only after his King Higlac’s son (Beowulf’s cousin) dies in battle. Epic Poem
Hero Traits • Brave • Superhuman in strength • Successful in battle • Contemptuous of his wounds, even in death • Born of noble stock, maybe semi-divine • Gains fame outside his own country • Has a FOIL whose weakness makes the hero look better • Extremely loyal Back to Epic Poem
Characteristics of an EPIC POEM A long narrative about the adventures of larger-than-life characters.
Ten Characteristics of an EPIC POEM • Elevated diction (formal language) • Relative clauses - adj. clauses that start with relative pronouns: • Who • Whom • Whose • That • Which • Figurative language: • Metaphors • Kennings (COMPOUND DESCRIPTIVE WORDS) • Understatements
Ten Characteristics of an EPIC POEM continued … • Set forms (formulas) that are clues for the scop’s memory. • Begin in medias res (in the middle of things). NOT the Beowulf epic. • Epic characters hold high positions: • Kings • Princes • Noblemen • Members of the aristocracy • EPIC HERO is even more (See EPIC HERO NOTES) To Hero Traits
Ten Characteristics of an EPIC POEM continued … • Numerous speeches by hero or other characters. • Speech moves action forward, • tells something about past, • or reveals the speaker’s character traits. • Warriors deliver boasts before attacking an enemy • Genealogy important to epic warrior because … he wants us, and his enemies, to know he comes from a long line of warriors
Ten Characteristics of an EPIC POEM continued … • Taunting of hero, especially before battle. • Setting is vast, with stories about great nations, or even the universe. Beowulf has “vast scope.” • Only deals with two nations. • Beowulf’s enemies are not human, therefore: • Nonhuman enemies raise the notion of a king’s fall to a fall of cosmic dimensions • A struggle with universal evil • The fate of human life and man’s efforts
Ten Characteristics of an EPIC POEM continued … • Supernatural “forces” (not really in Beowulf, unless we consider the monsters as Satanic). • There are some indirect references to the Will of God and His control of wyrd (FATE), but not directly. • The concept of active Fate OR • “that which happens” OR • ….while a man's courage holds out, he has a hope of winning through since wyrd ‘the way things happen’ will often work to help such a man, as long as he is not doomed; conversely if a man is doomed then not even his courage can help him stand against 'the course of events'." • Moral code or religious code in Beowulf less dependent on superhuman beings than on social codes,in other words, what is good for the community.