The Epic English IV CP
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 or mythology of his people.
Elements of the Epic Epic Hero Quest Valorous Deeds Divine Intervention Great Events Note: on the following slides, you do not have to write down the examples.
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 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 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 Epic • Divine intervention: • In many epics, the hero receives help from a god or another supernatural force who takes an interest in his quest. • In the ancient Greek epic the Iliad, for example, the goddess Athena helps the hero Achilles.
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. • The Iliad, for example, takes place during the Trojan War, a war in which the Greeks invaded and conquered the city of Troy.
Types of Epics Folk Epics Literary Epics Note: on the following slides, you do not have to write down the examples.
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 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 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 Conventions • An epic opens by stating the subject or purpose, followed by an invocation of a muse or supernatural force who would help to tell the story. • 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 Elements Stock Epithets Kennings Alliteration Caesura
Literary Elements • Stock Epithets: • Adjectives that point out special traits of particular persons or things; poetic nicknames • Often compound adjectives, such as “swift-footed Achilles” • Kennings: • Poetic synonyms found in Germanic poetry • Descriptive phrase or compound word that substitutes for a simple noun • In Beowulf, “the Almighty’s enemy” and “sin-stained demon” are two kennings used in the place of Grendel’s name
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
Anglo-Saxon Period The Anglo-Saxon Period is the earliest recorded time period in English history!
THE STORY OF BEOWULF Beowulf marks the beginning of English literature. Beowulf is one of the earliest known pieces of literature in the English language; written in Old English.
Contains specific Motifs Motifs – a motif is a recurring theme or image in a work of literature Biblical and Christian Allusions Pagan Customs Social Customs Traits of the Warrior Beowulf Boasts
The story of Beowulf wasn’t written down until about 700 AD by “The Beowulf Poet” who is unknown. He wrote down the poem which for many years had been only sung or spoken. • Scholars believe “The Beowulf Poet” was most likely a Christian monk, thus adding a Christian perspective.
There is only one original Beowulf manuscript existing today. It is in the British History Museum in London.
This EPIC poem of BEOWULF is often divided into 3 sections; it is about Beowulf’s 3 epic battles with evil.
The Battle with Grendel… Represents evil
the Battle with Grendel’s Mother (She also represents evil.)
The Battle with the Dragon It not only represents evil but also greed.
Beowulf himself represents good: Loyalty Valor Selflessness Sense of justice
Beowulf takes place in… Geatland and Denmark (modern Denmark and Sweden)
NOTE: None of the action takes place in England!! More specifically… Beowulf takes place in a “once upon a time world” which taps into “three archetypal sites of fear.”
The reptile-taunted rock of a wilderness and cave (fire breathing dragon)
Why do we read Beowulf? It’s a very creative, imaginative, poetic masterpiece. It gives us insight into the origins of the British people, the culture, who, through seafaring conquests, founded the world we currently live in. It gives us insight into the origins of our language.
Why do we read it? It gives us insight into all people everywhere and throughout time (time, birth, death, fame/success/glory, honor, friendship, conflict, home, country, adventure, spirituality – all of these things transcend English literature and matter to all people) It’s challenging and we love a good challenge!!!
Key figurative language Alliteration Kennings Caesura
Caesura – a natural pause in the middle of a line of poetry. 2 part line – each line is separated by a pause or break in the middle of the line; each part generally has 2 strong beats.
Example: Then the Scylding warrior savage and grim, Seized the ring-hilt and swung the sword Struck with fury despairing of life Thrust at the throat broke through the bone rings: The stout blade stabbed through her fated flesh.