Mock epic poetry is a genre of poetry that sought to satirize serious epic poetry. It not only lampooned this genre of poetry, but also mocked heroic subjects and themes to caustically address a plethora of other grand themes. Mock epic poetry does not strictly adhere to the conventions of serious epic poetry. It takes liberties to make its point and observations in a sardonic manner. Mock epic poetry was written during a period when serious epic was in a stale and stagnating state.
The main features of Mock epic include:
a) A sarcastic (mocking) tone.
b) The heightened or elevated style and form of the serious epic poem.
c) Ridiculing a trivial or inconsequential subject.
d) The use of invocation (prayer and supplication elements), battles, and epic similies.
e) The use of “deus ex machina” or “ex-machina”.
Ex-machina is an ancient theatre convention whereby a plotted (contrived) character is introduced into a play to miraculously rescue the hero. This convention was also used to solve a plotline that was complex. Therefore, Mock epic poetry borrowed this convention and made it a part of this type of writing as it sought to satirize different subjects and themes.
The power of Mock poetry is the contrast of an unimportant or insignificant subject with the elevated style and form employed to present the trivial subject to the reader. This lends to Mock epic poetry a certain humor or comic relief.
Examples of Mock epic poetry include “The Rape of the Lock” by Alexander Pope as well as his poem The Dunciad (1743), and “Mack Flecknoe” by John Dryden.