Literary Term Epic

Literary Term Epic

An epic is a long narrative poem that typically recounts the deeds and adventures of a hero. Epic often focuses on the hero’s bravery, valor, and significant events. Epic is composed based on national or international themes. Examples include the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey” by Homer.

There are two types of Epic. They are,

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  • Primary/ Oral/ Folk Epics: These epics come from the traditions of a particular culture or community. They’re passed down orally from generation to generation. Examples include the Indian epics like the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and Homer’s “Iliad” and the “Odyssey”.
  • Secondary/ Literary Epics: These are written by specific authors and often follow a poetic structure. They’re usually the work of a single person and are written down. Some famous literary epics are Virgil’s “Aeneid” and Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”

Here are the characteristics of an epic poetry:

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  • Heroic Figure: Epic stories often revolve around a brave and strong hero or heroine.
  • Invocation of the Muse: Epics commonly start with an invocation to a muse for inspiration and guidance.
  • Vast Setting: Epics tend to cover vast geographical areas, involving multiple nations, worlds, or realms.
  • Quest or Journey: The hero engage himself in a long and adventurous journey or quest.
  • Supernatural Elements: Epics often include Gods, Magic, or Mythical creatures.
  • Valour and Courage: Heroes display extraordinary courage and bravery in facing challenges.
  • Epic Battles: There are often grand battles or conflicts between good and evil.
  • Elevated Language: Epics use formal, poetic language, sometimes with elaborate descriptions.
  • Cultural Significance: Epics often hold immense cultural significance. Epic reflects societal values, beliefs, and ideals. They may serve as foundational stories for a culture or civilization.
  • Epic Similes: These are extended comparisons, often elaborate and ornate, used to describe characters, events, or situations.
  • Eternal or Universal Themes: Epics often deal with timeless and universal themes such as the struggle between good and evil, fate, mortality, and the human condition.
  • Moral Lessons: Epics often convey moral lessons or teach values to the audience.
  • Multiple Episodes: They are usually lengthy narratives divided into several parts or episodes.

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  • Immortality and Legacy: Heroes seek to achieve everlasting fame or leave a lasting impact.
  • Written or Oral Tradition: Epics are passed down through generations orally or in written form as timeless tales.

These characteristics collectively contribute to the grandeur and enduring appeal of epics. This makes them resonate across various cultures and periods.

Riya Akter
Riya Akter
Hey, This is Riya Akter Setu, B.A (Hons) & M.A in English from National University.


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