The UVic Writer's Guide

High Burlesque: Mock Epic (Mock Heroic); Parody

A mock-epic poem uses the elevated form and style of the epic genre to deal with a trivial subject. In "The Rape of the Lock" (1714), Alexander Pope satirizes the seriousness with which friends in his circle treated a breach of manners at a social gathering. The crime (the illicit cutting of a lock of hair) is recounted in epic style; conventions such as the arming of the hero, deeds of battle, and the intervention of the gods are applied to the heroine putting on makeup, winning at cards, and having her beauty guarded by very serious sylphs. Other examples are John Dryden's "Mac Flecknoe" (1679) and Pope's The Dunciad (1743).

A parody imitates the serious form or style of any particular genre, literary work or author, using it to deal with a mean or commonplace subject. John Gay's Beggar's Opera (1728) parodies Italian opera by using its form and style to depict the London underworld, giving arias to thieves and prostitutes. See the example of Sir Walter Raleigh's parody of Marlowe, in the section on the pastoral.

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated April 11, 1995