What is the difference between epic and mock epic?

The main difference between an epic and a mock-epic is that the former is supposed to be serious, whereas the latter is humorous. Epics deal with important themes, heroic individuals, gods, monsters, and battles. So too do mock-epics, but in a completely different way. Mock-epics are a parody of the epic genre, presenting trivial events as if they were the stuff of legends.

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An epic is a dramatic story told in the form of a poem. Traditional epics are lengthy and take the reader on a journey through various settings and times. The Homerian epics are classic examples, but epics also exist in other languages. "Beowulf" is a famous Anglo-Saxon epic; Milton's Paradise Lost is a more recent example. The key characteristics of the epic are that the setting is grand and the hero is required to complete a number of tasks against supernatural forces, often in order to save his people or otherwise achieve something momentous. Epics usually present the hero as incredibly courageous and self-sacrificing.

A mock epic, then, is a parody of the epic. An excellent example is Jonathan Swift's "The Rape of the Lock." It is a mock epic in that it utilizes the conventions, style and format of the epic, but it is intended to be humorous. It achieves humour by subverting some of the chief characteristics of epic poetry. It might, for example, present something that is trivial or ridiculous in a very serious way. In "The Rape of the Lock," the epic format is used to describe the story of a stolen lock of hair as if this were an event of enormous magnitude. In a mock epic, it is important that the reader be able to recognize what is being mocked; what makes the mock epic satirical and humorous is the fact that it so closely mirrors the style and format of the true epic while discussing a humorous subject.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 13, 2021
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The basic difference between epic and mock-epic is that the former is supposed to be taken seriously, whereas the latter isn't. Mock-epic is a humorous take on the epic genre, parodying certain of its features for comic effect. For instance, Pope's "The Rape of the Lock" takes the most trivial incident imaginable—the theft of a lock of hair from an aristocratic lady—and makes a gigantic comic epic out of it, complete with battles, supernatural entities, and lengthy speeches, all elements taken from the epic genre.

But as these elements are put to comic use, we are not meant to take them seriously. Whereas we can only wince at the numerous brutal slayings carried out during the Trojan War in Homer's Iliad, we are meant to laugh at the “battle” that takes place in "The Rape of the Lock," which in actual fact is nothing more than a card game between aristocrats.

In essence, then, mock-epic involves the conscious exaggeration of the epic and its conventions for comic effect. The purpose behind this is usually to satirize the rich and privileged members of society in order to compare them unfavorably with their aristocratic forebears in ancient times, who, unlike their modern counterparts, don't waste their lives in the pursuit of trivial fancies.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 13, 2021
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To answer this question, let us start by defining the characteristics of an epic. Generally speaking, epics are long poems which detail the heroic exploits of one or more characters. The epic highlights the character's bravery and courage and, often, the many struggles that this character is forced to overcome. One of the most famous examples of an epic is The Iliad, a story set during the Trojan Wars.

As you can probably guess from the title, a mock epic does exactly what it suggests: it works by 'mocking' the traditional epic. In other words, it contains all of the characteristics that you would expect to find in an epic, but it is far less serious since it focuses on a silly or trivial matter.

A famous example of a mock epic is "The Rape of the Lock." This poem has all the grandeur of an epic but instead of focusing on a heroic quest, the action focuses on a baron who steals a lock of hair from a lady, a far more trivial activity.

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This is a great question. It is best to start with a definition of epic and then move to the genre of a mock epic.

An epic is a long work in poetry that tells the story of a hero and his struggles; there is usually a journey and great battles. It is also usually written in dactylic hexameter. The most famous epics are Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and Virgil's Aeneid. In the Iliad we read of the great hero, Achilles and the battle between the Greeks and Trojans. In the Odyssey, we read of Odysseus and his long journey back home and his battle with the suitors. In the Aeneid, we read of Aeneas and his call to find a new country for his people.

A mock epic is something that has the feel of an epic, but the content is pointedly not heroic. The perfect example is the poet Ovid. The Metamorphoses is written in dactylic hexameter, but the content is not about a hero. Often times it is about the amorous adventures of the gods as they seek to seduce human women.

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