Discuss Dunciad as a mock heroic epic. Dunciad as a satire

Expert Answers
amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A mock epic has all the qualities of an epic, but makes fun of the seriousness of an epic by creating a central conflict around something considered to be trivial.  For instance, there is a hero who represents his culture's beliefs, elevated language, help from the supernatural world, a visit to the underworld, and a quest of some kind.

Pope often used his sharp tongue to ridicule those who have criticized his own work--this epic is evident of that.

The mock epic begins with a request of the Muses to help with creativity, which is common in epics.  In The Dunciad, the central character, Dulness (the goddess of Chaos and Night), chooses her unlikely hero (Theobald) out of Grub Street (not very pleasant sounding or appropriate for a hero, hum?) and crowns him king of the empire.

In the next Book, the main action is detoured while the "epic games" take place.  They compete in such ludicrous competitions as book sellers racing through excrement, ditch-diving, urinating, and attempting to stay awake while dull and awful literature is read aloud.

In the third Book, the hero visits the underworld in a series of dreams, where he meets the souls of past dunces.  All of them predict the victory of the kingdom.

In Book 4 the conquest of Britain occurs, as the army of dunces have conquered all-- the arts, learning, virtue, and religion have become imprisoned, have hidden, or have died, and “Universal Darkness Buries All.”

Out of room--check links below.

Read the study guide:
The Dunciad

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question