An epic is an extended narrative poem in elevated or dignified language, celebrating the feats of a legendary or traditional hero. The main characteristics of an epic as a literary genre is that it is a long poem that tells a story, it contains an epic hero, its hero searches for immortality (but doesn't find it physically, only through fame), gods or other supernatural beings are interested and involved, and it delivers an historical message. The Epic of Gilgamesh is classified as an epic because it fits all the characteristics of an epic as a literary genre.
The Epic of Gilgamesh can be justly classified as an epic because it is a narrative poem. Because it is a long poem that tells a story, it fits the main definition of an epic. Although the translation from the tablets was written mostly in prose, the original story of Gilgamesh was an epic poem. Evidences that lead to this conclusion include the fact that it was a story that was carried on orally before it was finally recorded. The reason this is significant is because it would be a lot harder to remember a prose story of such length rather than a poetic story. Such poetic devices as rhyme, alliteration, contrast, and repetition were used as mnemonic devices in order for the teller to remember the story thoroughly. It is divided into "verses," or lines, which are often connected by parallel meaning or otherwise into couplets. Because The Epic of Gilgamesh is very repetitious, it falls under the literary genre of the epic. Along with telling a story, it is also written in a poetic style that includes a lot of repetition. This makes the story easier to remember. There are several instances in ...
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...s that we shouldnâˆ(tm)t dwell on the fact that we are going to die, but instead, âˆœ..fill your belly with good things; day and night, night and day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice. Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water, cherish the little child that holds your hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace; for this too is the lot of man.âˆ
In conclusion, The Epic of Gilgamesh clearly fits into the literary genre of an epic because it fits the definition, contains an epic hero, the hero searches for immortality, gods are involved, and it delivers a timeless message. Because it is an epic, the story of Gilgamesh was written and told in poetic form, not prose. It is evident that the title of this work does fit because it is in fact an epic.
Sandars, N. K., trans. The Epic of Gilgamesh. London: Penguin, 1972.
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