Epic poetry is an ancient form and centers on a hero but one of significant importance whose actions are often beyond measure, remarkable and life-altering. Matters of great importance are decided and the subject matter is accordingly usually serious and most often involves a journey of some description. There is a lot of ceremony in epic poetry and the gods are lauded and are an integral part of the story, affecting the plot development. Examples include The Odyssey and The Iliad, both by Homer.
Mock-epic poetry often satirizes the serious and elevated situations in which mankind finds himself as he strives to be or pretends to be something that he is not. Satire sets out to expose stupidity and human failings and sometimes established conventions which exist purely because they are ingrained and accepted without question. The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope is a good example of a mock-epic poem. Pope was asked to write the poem in an attempt to mend a rift between families in a light-hearted manner but, for Pope, it was an opportunity to draw attention to the fickle nature of people and comment on, "What mighty contests rise from trivial things."
By using burlesque and imitating a serious artistic form to express seemingly flippant occurrences, Pope is able to use a style usually preserved for classical, serious pieces and his heroic couplets (pairs of rhymed iambic pentameter lines), belie the true nature of his work. The ability to take the trivial things in life and express them in this time-honored way, is what gives mock-epic its place.
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.
A mock epic is a type of poem using the style and conventions of epci poetry. A mock epic poem is used to describe a series of events and is seen as a type of satire (sarcasm) that mocks the subject of the poem. Usually it mocks in an inappropriate manner and makes fun of the structure and conventions of epic poetry. Epic poetry usually consists of topics surrounding battles, epic similies, or funeral rites for soldiers and warriors. Some examples of mock poetry are Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock and Lord Byron's Don Juan.