2 The Epic Poem A long, narrative poem that celebrates a hero’s deeds Came into existence as spoken words and were retold by poet after poet from one generation to the nextMany epics based on historical factEpics provided both entertainment and education for audience
3 2 Types of Epics Folk Told out loud first (usually by scops) Unknown authorUnknown dates(E.g.—Beowulf is a folk epic because we don’t know who wrote it)LiteraryKnown author(E.g.– Paradise Lost, by John Milton is a literary epic because we know who wrote it.)
4 Characteristics of Epics Epic hero– a character with a trait or characteristic that is valued by his society.Quest– A journey through which the character or the reader learns something.Divine Intervention– The hand of God (or gods) help the hero, proving his value.Great events– The hero has a hand in something important in the history or mythology of a culture.Setting- The setting is vast in scope, often involving more than one nation.
5 Literary Structure of Epic Poetry The poet uses formal diction and a serious tone.Major characters often deliver long, formal speeches.The plot is complicated by supernatural beings or events and may involve a long and dangerous journey through foreign lands.The poem reflects values such as courage and honor.The poem treats universal themes, such as good and evil or life and death.
6 Literary Structure of Epic Poetry Stock epithets – adjectives that point out special traits of particular persons or things (e.g., “swift-footed” used to describe Achilles)Kennings – poetic synonyms that may be a descriptive phrase or compound word that substitutes for a noun (e.g., in Beowulf, “the Almighty’s enemy” and “sin-stained demon” are used in place of Grendel’s name)
7 Literary Structure of Epic Poetry Alliteration – repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words, used to heighten moods, emphasize words or images, or create musical effectsCaesura – Old English poetry has a strong rhythm, with each line divided in two parts by a pause, called a caesura
8 3 Epic Conventions Invoke a muse Muse– inspiration provided by the godsPlot begins in medias resIn medias red– “In the middle of” the actionSerious tone
9 Characteristics of Epics The hero is of noble birth or high position, and often of great historical or legendary importance.The hero’s character traits reflect important ideals of his society.The hero performs courageous deeds that reflect the values of the era.The actions of the hero often determine the fate of a nation of people.
10 Characteristics of Pagan Hero Good FighterLoyalPersevering (Never Gives Up)Wins “Fame” (in Songs in a Mead Hall)
11 Characteristics of Pagan Hero Little Regard for Danger or Self: BraveBattle as a Way of LifePersonal Vengeance as Familial RequirementFATE: Revenge and/or Death
12 Characteristics of Christian Hero Recognizes God as CreatorHumility in the presence of God’s PowerAltruism in Action
13 Characteristics of Christian Hero Contrast between Good and Evil RulersPersonal Vengeance transmuted into Fighting EvilGood is Rewarded and Evil is Punished (Evil in the World)
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