Epithet is a descriptive literary tool that describes a place, a thing, or a person in such a way that it facilitates in making its characteristics more distinguished than they absolutely are. Also, it is called a “with the aid of-call,” or “descriptive title.”
One can locate many examples of epithet, can also of which have been Shakespeare’s very own coinages, in Shakespeare’s works. For example:
“Thou mad mustachio purple-hued maltworms! (Henry IV)
“Death lies on her like an premature frost. Upon the sweetest flower of all the field…” (Romeo and Juliet).
Types of Epithet
Kenning as Epithet
Kenning examples may additionally be taken into consideration as epithet examples. Kenning is a type of an epithet, that is a two-phrase phrase that describes an object by using employing metaphors.
The Fixed Epithet
Fixed epithets are found in epic poetry that entails the repetitive use of a word or phrase for the identical object. Such as in Homer’s Odyssey, the spouse is defined as “prudent,” Odysseus himself as “many-minded,” and their son Telemachus as “sound-minded.”
Expert orators use argumentative epithets. Short arguments use this sort of epithet to provide hints.
Epithet used as Smear Word
An epithet used as a smear phrase way a derogatory phrase or call for a person or some thing.
Misuse of Epithets
Contemporary writers and speakers take greater care when they use epithets. They do not need to misuse this tool and be accused of using racial or abusive epithets.
Examples of Epithet in Literature
Example #1: Brendon Hills (A. E. Housman)
“Here of a Sunday morning
My love and I would lie,
And see the coloured counties,
And hear the larks so high
About us inside the sky.”
Here, “coloured” is an epithet used to explain the great and beautiful spring season in the ones countries in which the poet wishes to enjoy his beloved’s company.
Example #2: Beauty and Beauty (By Rupert Brooke)
“The earth is crying-sweet,
And scattering-brilliant the air,
Eddying, dizzying, remaining round,
With gentle and drunken laughter…”
In this excerpt, the description of the air and earth is enhanced by the usage of epithets: “crying-sweet,” “scattering-vivid,” and “smooth and drunken laughter.” These epithets help in growing imagery within the minds of readers.
Example #3: Ulysses (By James Joyce)
“God! He said quietly. Isn’t the ocean what Algy calls it: a tremendous candy mother? The snot-inexperienced sea. The scrotum-tightening sea! I ought to teach you. You should study them in the original. Thalatta! Thalatta! She is our incredible candy mother…”
In this passage, Joyce uses several epithets to describe the ocean. These epithets include “a notable candy mother,” “snot-green sea,” and “scrotum-tightening sea.”
Example #4: In Blue Evening (By Rupert Brooke)
“My stressed blood now lies a-quiver,
Knowing that always, exquisitely,
This April twilight on the river
Stirs agony inside the heart of me…”
Brooke makes use of epithets (“a-quiver,” and “April twilight at the river”) to explain the suffering and agitation he feels deep interior him.
Example #5: The Odyssey (By Homer)
As you surmise, with comrades on a ship,
Sailing across the wine-darkish sea to men
Whose fashion of speech may be very different…”
In these lines, the phrase “wine-dark’ is used as an epithet as a way to explain the colour of the ocean. This epithet complements the outline of the shade of the sea.
Example #6: In Lycidas (By John Milton)
“What time the gray-fly winds her sultry horn,
Blind mouths! That scarce themselves know a way to hold
A sheep-hook, or have learn’d aught else the least
That to the faithful herdman’s art belongs!”
Milton employs epithets (“gray-fly,” and “blind mouths”) in this excerpt, describing first insects, and later regarding the choice of feeding the mouths.
Function of Epithet
With the usage of epithets, writers are capable of describe their characters and settings greater vividly, for you to supply richer meanings to the text. Since they are used as a literary tool, epithets help in making the description of someone or something broader and consequently simpler to understand. With the assist of epithets, writers and poets develop appropriate pictures in fewer words. Besides, the metaphorical use of epithets allows in making poetry and prose vibrant and strong.
Popular Literary Devices
- Ad Hominem
- Deus Ex Machina
- Double Entendre
- Flash Forward
- Half Rhyme
- Internal Rhyme
- Line Break
- Non Sequitur
- Pathetic Fallacy
- Poetic Justice
- Point of View
- Red Herring
- Tragic Flaw