Epic Definition Long narrative poem (sometimes called heroic poem) Developed orally Celebrates heroic deeds / legendary events Earliest forms of literature Includes legendary hero (epic hero)
Beowulf In comparison to the standard of Homeric epics (15,000 lines) … Beowulf is relatively short (3,200 lines) Composed (first written down) between 700-750 in Old English by a monk in Scandinavia Believed to be composed by a monk due to the Christian elements in the epic
Epic Characteristic#1 The hero is a great leader who is identified strongly with a particular people or society.
Epic Characteristic#2 The setting is broad and often includes supernatural realms, especially the land of the dead.
Epic Characteristic#3 The hero does great deeds in battle or undertakes an extraordinary journey or quest.
Epic Characteristic #4 Sometimes gods or other supernatural or fantastic beings take part in the action.
Epic Characteristic #5 The story is told in heightened language.
Epic Hero Characteristics #1 The epic hero is a “LARGER THAN LIFE PERSON” who embodies the highest ideals of his culture
Beowulf as the epic hero In Beowulf, the epic hero Beowulf is considered “larger-than-life” He embodies LOYALTY, COURAGE, SENSE OF JUSTICE, DIGNITY, PERSISTENCE, and many other traits of the Anglo-Saxon culture
Epic Hero Characteristics #2 The epic hero usually undertakes a QUEST/ JOURNEY to achieve something of great value to themselves or society
Epic Hero Characteristics #3 Epic heroes “LIVE ON AFTER DEATH”… meaning they are forever remembered by those who live after them… achieving a type of IMMORTALITY
Epic Hero Characteristics #4 Not a “Superman” with magical powers But a “REGULAR” human whose aspirations and accomplishments set him/her apart
Epic Hero Characteristics #5 Overcomes great obstacles/opponents but maintains HUMANITY
Epic Hero Characteristics #6 Epic hero experiences typical HUMAN EMOTIONS/ FEELINGS, yet is able to master and control these human traits to a greater degree than a typical person
Epic Hero Characteristics #7 It is often necessary for the epic hero to connect/make contact with “LESSER” humans in order to succeed
Beowulf main characters • Beowulf • the Geatprotagonist • faces and conquers evil • classic hero who is courageous, generous, and compassionate • Grendel • a demon • first antagonist Beowulf faces • descendant of Cain • outcast who epitomizes bitterness and evil
Beowulf main characters • Grendel’s Mother • she-wolf • unnamed demon who lives in the gob • second antagonist • Dragon • animal-unlike many other dragons in northern legends, it does not speak • becomes enraged and seeks vengeance when a thief takes something from his treasured hoard • third antagonist