Characteristics of Epic Poetry and Heroes/Background/Literary Devices

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Last updated: November 24, 2019

what are the 11 characteristics of epic poetry?
1. the hero is a figure of heroic stature, of national importance, or international prominence, and of great historical or legendary significance2. the setting is vast in scope, covering great nations, the world, or the the universe3. the action consists of deeds of great valor or requiring great courage4.

supernatural forces interest themselves in the action and intervene from time to time5. poem is written in a style of sustained elevation and grandeur6. the epic poet recounts the deeds of his hero with objectivity7. poets open by invoking a muse to inspire and instruct him8. poets open by stating his theme9. poet opens in medias res10.

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poet includes a journey to the underworld for his hero11. poet includes catalogues of warriors, ships, armies: he gives extended formal speeches; and he makes frequent use of the epic simile. Often the hero will boast of past or future accomplishment

ten traits of the hero
1. hero are often of obscure or mysterious origin2. heroes are neither fools nor invincible3.

heroes are called upon to make a difficult journey4. the hero’s way is not always direct or clear to him5. the hero’s way is beset with dangers, loneliness, and temptation 6. many quest tales supply friends, servants, or disciples as company for the hero7.

the hero has a guide or guides8. the hero descends into darkness and is not the same after emerging form the darkness9. what the hero seeks is usually no more than a symbol of what he really finds10. with few exceptions, mythological heroes are male

Homer
blind bard who wrote two epic poems (the odyssey and the Illiad)

When were homer’s poems written?
around 800 BC

What is hexameter?
12 syllable lines

How is the Odyssey a continuation of the Illiad?
the Illiad is about the trojan war and the odyssey is about the journey home from the war

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