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Paradise Lost as an Epic

  • Date Submitted: 12/06/2011 10:42 PM
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Discuss Paradise lost as an epic

Name: Cheshta Arora
Roll no: 0443

The word epic is, in a strict sense used for works that incorporate following characteristics:   a long verse narrative on a serious subject, told in a formal and elevated style, and centered on a heroic or quasi-divine figure on whose actions depends the fate of a tribe, a nation, or (in the instance of John Milton’s Paradise Lost ) the human race. The epic as a genre is usually associated with poetry called epic poetry or a heroic poem. Any poem can be heroic, but the epic is separated from other heroic narratives through its magnitude and style. In simplest terms, epics are very long and written in a highly elevated style.

Epic as genre is of two types: Traditional epic and Literary epic. “Traditional epics” also called “folk epics” or “primary epics” were written versions of what had originally been oral poems about a tribal or national hero during a warlike age. The original Homeric epics, sometimes called primary epics, were orally recited by bards and involved ritualistic presentations. The few examples of traditional epic are Iliad and Odyssey that the Greeks ascribed to Homer: the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf; the French Chanson de Roland and the Spanish Poema del Cid in the twelfth century; and the thirteenth century German epic Nibelungenlied. Individual poetics artisans using the traditional form composed “Literary epics”. Of this kind is Virgil’s Latin poem the Aeneid, which later served as a chief literary epic model for Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667). Paradise Lost in turn became a model for John Keats’ fragmentary epic Hyperion.

Aristotle ranked epic only secondary to tragedy while many renaissance critics ranked it as the highest of all genres. M.H.Abrahams states that the literary epic is certainly the most ambitious of poetic enterprises, making immense demand on poet’s knowledge, invention, and skill to sustain the scope, grandeur, and authority of a poem that...


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