Difference Between Epic and Romance

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      Etymologically, romance comes from Anglo-Norman and Old French romanz, romans, which mean a story of chivalry and love. The word ‘romance’ also refers to romantic love. As far as literature in concerned, the term has entirely a different concept associated with it. It means romantic stories with chivalrous feats of heroes and knights. Romance describes chivalry and courtly love, comprising stories, which deal legends of duty, courage, boldness, battles and rescue of damsels in distress. This 14th century romance, whose writer is still unknown, revolves around the bravery of Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur, who accepts the challenge from Green Knight. Sir Gawain beheads the knight, but the knight goes away reminding him the time he would appear again. In this struggle, Sir Gawain shows his true nature of bravery, chivalry and courage when tested by a lady when he stays in the castle of that very knight. Romance serves the function of chivalry and adventure in literature. It is considered to be the only genre of literature capable of representing complex and cumulative themes. It is through romance, literature can highlight the cross-referenced as well as integrative nature of the written words. During middle ages, romance was synonymous with aristocratic literature, because romance used to teach morals through the combination of stories of adventure, courtly love and dedication. It was chivalric literature, which aim” at teaching the aristocracy the rules of behavior, bravery, courage, gentlemanliness and life in general. In addition, the principal function of romance was to maintain order in the society by presenting sources for entertainment.

      However, epic and romance are distinct literary genres that poets combine in some of the most effective narrative poems of the early modern period, such as Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. Critics refer to these sorts of poems variously as ‘romance’ or ‘romantic epics or epic romances’ or ‘chivalric epics’ or ‘heroic poems,’ with each designation emphasizing a slightly different part of, or way of looking at, the hybrid literary form. To simplify greatly, one might say that the focus of epic is war, whereas that of romance is love. Renaissance rewritings of epic often include catalogs of armies, elaborate battles, extended similes, and funeral games. In addition to love, romance narratives tend to focus on adventure, magic, disguise, and flight.

      The primary goal of Renaissance humanism, the pedagogical movement that began in Italy in the 14th century and spread out from there over the following centuries was the revitalization of contemporary culture through the recuperation of antiquity. Classical epic was a genre that humanistically inspired poets to adapt to modern literary culture to establish the value of their own respective vernacular traditions. Canonical models like Homer and Vergil, as well as more adversarial and disputed ones, such as Ovid, Lucan, and Statius, served well in this respect. There is a tradition of prose romances in antiquity, and there are many romance-like passages in classical epic, but when critics speak of the romance tradition that a poet like Ariosto used, they generally mean Arthurian romances or the Matter of Britain. This was a vast body of work codified in literary form by Chretien de Troyes in the 12th century, which was the inspiration for numerous romance works, prose and poetry, in different vernaculars from the medieval through the early modern period. The combination of epic and romance conventions and themes into a single literary work, then, is a fusion of elements of classical antiquity and literary medieval culture.

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