What are the characteristics of the classical epic tradition?
After Aristotle’s distinction in Poetics of “more than one” narrator, the classical epic (Iliad and Odyssey, and Virgil’s Aeneid) is an exhaustive narration of a great event in history, told not only in an omniscient narrator voice but also in the words of its characters. The plot of the epic is a journey—to Troy or back home or to Carthage, etc.—a jouney fraught with sbplots and conflicts, many with human foes but many with Nature or with the hero’s human shortcomings. Nature was personified in gods and goddesses, whose will conquered over the hero’s will, thereby teaching the hero (and the hearer or reader of the epic) the proper balance between human will and divine will. As such, the epic is instructive as well as a receptacle for the story of history. A “hero” is a central figure who undergoes the journey and prevails by recognizing and submitting to the will of the gods. Later epics (Moby Dick, The Divine Comedy, etc.) follow these precepts and patterns in contemporary idiom.
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