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Rape of the Lock & Absalom and Achitophel

Rape of the Lock & Absalom and Achitophel

Both Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock and John Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel are mock epics. Exactly what makes them a mock epic as opposed to epic is the very fact that they satirize the elements of epic poetry like Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. A typical epic consisted of a very long narrative poem that offered some grand adventure or tale on a heroic scale. The different episodes of the narrative embody the themes or foundations of a culture or nation. There are many elements in epic works, including but not limited to: the invocation of a deity, divine intervention, interference of the gods, major battles, journeys to the underworld, dreams, grandiose speeches, and so forth. The mock epic, in contrast, is a literary form that satirizes or burlesques the Classical epic. It does so precisely by bringing forth these elements from above BUT concerning a trivial subject like the cutting off of a lock of hair!

Both The Rape of the Lock and Absalom and Achitophel are mock epics and share similarities when it comes to the elements characteristic of Classical epics which they mock. Pope’s The Rape of the Lock uses heroic couplets, highly polished verse, and satire in order to deflate its subject and characters by using epic form to demonstrate them. The Rape of the Lock concerns the antics and fuss that ensue when a lazy young lord cuts a small lack of hair from the head of a young beauty. By using elements of epic, Pope is able to make the whole affair look ludicrous but also to a degree tragic. In doing this, Pope is reminding all of us of how silly and ludicrous we can appear but also at times how tragic. Epics are generally broken into books or cantos and so it is with The Rape of the Lock. In Canto I we see that the dream element from epics is employed in Pope’s verse “The Morning Dream that hover’d o’er her Head. / A Youth more glitt’ring than a Birth-n...

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Rape of the Lock & Absalom and Achitophel. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 18:42, February 26, 2017, from