characteristics of an epic n.
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  1. CHARACTERISTICS OF AN EPIC Heavily borrowed from Mr. Raber at Marlington High School

  2. Epic Definition An epic is a long narrative poem that relates the great deeds of a larger-than-life hero who embodies thevalues of a particular society. -Sometimes called a heroic poem -Beowulf, the Iliad, and the Odyssey are all epics

  3. Epics often… • Concern eternal human problems such as the conflict between GOOD and EVIL • Written or told on a grand scale and often in ceremonial style

  4. Two Types of Epics • Folk Epic-oral compositions passed on from storyteller to storyteller and has changed over time. Ex. -Beowulf, the Iliad, and the Odyssey • Literary Epic-written compositions that are unchanged over time. Ex. -Aeneid and Paradise Lost

  5. Beowulf • In comparison to the standard of Homeric epics (15,000 lines) … • Beowulf is relatively short (3,200 lines) • It was probably composed (first written down) between 700-750 in Old English by a monk in Scandinavia • It is thought a monk composed it due to the Christian elements in the epic

  6. Epic Characteristics

  7. Epic Characteristic#1 • The hero is a great leader who is identified strongly with a particular people or society.

  8. Epic Characteristic#2 • The setting is broad and often includes supernatural realms, especially the land of the dead.

  9. Epic Characteristic#3 • The hero does great deeds in battle or undertakes an extraordinary journey or quest.

  10. Epic Characteristic #4 • Sometimes gods or other supernatural or fantastic beings take part in the action.

  11. Epic Characteristic #5 • The story is told in heightened language.


  13. EPIC CONVENTIONS - Shared characteristics of epics that bards/scopsdrew upon to recall the stories they were recounting and that writers of epics drew upon to establish the epic quality of their poems.

  14. EPIC CONVENTION #1 • There is an INVOCATION or formal plea for aid/help. • This plea is usually to a deity or some other spiritual power.

  15. EPIC CONVENTION #2 • The action begins IN MEDIA RES… • Literally meaning “in the middle of things”

  16. EPIC CONVENTION#3 • The epic begins in media res and then flashes back to events that took place before the narrator’s current time setting.

  17. EPIC CONVENTION #4 • Epic Similes- elaborately extended comparisons relating heroic events to simple, everyday events

  18. EPIC CONVENTION #5 Kennings • Stock Epithets or KENNINGS Descriptive adjectives or phrases used repeatedly with or in place of a noun or proper name: • Whale road: the sea • Strong-hearted wakeful sleeper: Beowulf


  20. Epic Hero Characteristics #1 • The epic hero is a “LARGER THAN LIFE PERSON” who embodies the highest ideals of his culture

  21. 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

  22. Epic Hero Characteristics #2 • The epic hero usually undertakes a QUEST/ JOURNEY to achieve something of great value to themselves or society

  23. 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

  24. Epic Hero Characteristics #4 • Not a “Superman” with magical powers • But a “REGULAR” human whose aspirations and accomplishments set him/her apart

  25. Epic Hero Characteristics #5 • Overcomes great obstacles/opponents but maintains HUMANITY

  26. 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

  27. Epic Hero Characteristics#7 • It is often necessary for the epic hero to connect/make contact with “LESSER” humans in order to succeed

  28. Epic Hero Characteristics #8 • The epic hero is an ARCHETYPAL character.

  29. Archetype • An archetype is a pattern that appears in literature across cultures and is repeated through the ages. • An archetype can be a character, a plot, an image, or a setting. • In Beowulf, the hero archetype is the dragon slayer. A hero who faces death in order to save a threatened community or person.


  31. Wrap Up/Review • Define the epic Long narrative relating the deeds of larger-than-life hero

  32. Wrap Up/Review • What are two types of epics? Folk: spoken Literary: written

  33. Wrap Up/Review • Do you know the 5 epic conventions? • Invocation • In media res • Flash back • Epic simile • Kennings

  34. Wrap Up/Review • Do you know a kenning when you see one? • Describes or replaces a name Cheese-Wagon = School Bus

  35. Wrap Up/Review • What are the characteristics of an epic hero? • A larger than life person • Goes on a quest or journey (can involve a battle) • Lives on after death (story, song, poems) • Regular human with great accomplishments • Maintains humanity (expresses emotions) • Has contact with lesser humans • Is an archetype

  36. Wrap Up/Review • Archetype—what’s that? Pattern in literature