Dante both uses and departs from the epic tradition. In a paragraph, give at least one example of each kind and explain why he uses or modifies each part of the tradition. Your answer should be at least one hundred words.

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Ten common traits can be found in the tradition of epic poetry. Dante's Inferno, the first of The Divine Comedy trilogy of poems, is an epic poem that records the allegorical journey of Dante into hell. The story of Dante's harrowing journey through hell colored much of what we think about hell in popular culture. Though the Inferno is considered an epic, there are parts where it departs from the earlier tradition established by works like the Illiad, The Odessey, and Aneid.

The Inferno follows the epic tradition in a few ways. Dante includes elements of the epic tradition through the use of epic catalog, formal speeches, and the descent into hell. One specific example of the use of epic catalog is when Dante is listing the great poets who exist in the first circle of hell. He lists many of them by name: Homer, Lucian, and Ovid, among others. This list creates a record of names worth remembering, which is a common element from the epic tradition.

Some instances where Dante departs from this tradition are his initial invocation of the muses and beginning in medias res. Dante does not begin the poem with an invocation of the muses—he doesn't invoke any muse until the second canto of the poem. Then, the muse he invokes is the Holy Spirit rather than the nine muses of Greek and Roman mythology. However, the change of invocation later in the text is a departure from earlier epic tradition.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on October 3, 2019
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