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Epic Conventions According to Websters Dictionary an epic is a narrative poem of some length telling of heroic deeds or events While this is an accurate definition there are also several other characteristics that tie them together as a literary format Virtually all epics demonstrate an invocation of the gods have a statement of the theme and begin in medias res This can be demonstrated in Homers Iliad Miltons Paradise Lost and Dantes Inferno from The Divine Comedy First of all most epics begin with an invocation of the gods The invocation of gods began with early Greek writers who would seek the aid of Calliope the muse of epic poetry In doing so the writers believed the gods were leading them as they wrote their epics In line 1 of The Iliad Homer writes Rage---Goddess sing the rage of Peleus son Achilles While the gods referred to often differ the invocation is essential to the writers of this literary format Next most epics usually have a statement of the theme near the beginning This is necessary so that the audience may be informed of what the work is about John Milton demonstrates this epic convention in lines1-5 of book 1 in Paradise Lost He writes Of mans first disobedience and the fruit Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste Brought death into the world and all our woe Clearly Milton is tell the reader that the story is about mans first sin in the garden of Eden Finally epics usually begin in medias res or in the midst of things Dante Alighieri exemplifies this epic convention in Inferno of The Divine Comedy In lines 1-3 of Canto 1 Dante writes When I had journeyed half our lifes way I found myself within a shadowed forest for I had lost the path that does not stray In other words Dante is beginning the tale at mid-life He is thirty-five when his journey into
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