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How Performers Memorize an Epic Poem?

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Homer’s Odyssey is a unique creation of literary art. The poem canonizes the image of Odysseus. Nowadays, there are countless plays based on the story of The Iliad and The Odyssey. Yet, the question about the difficulty of memorizing remains.

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Homer’s Odyssey includes multiple characters. These are Odysseus, his son Telemachus, and his wife, Penelope. There are Gods as Athena, Poseidon, and Zeus. They greatly influenced the adventure of the main protagonists. There were also the three suitors Antinous, Eurymachus, Amphinomus. All of them died in the great hall when the final fight occurred.

Some many places and events occur during the great adventure of Odysseus. All of them are described in the poem. There are tons of books actors have to memorize word for word during the play. Moreover, actors have to understand and remember the lines. They need to learn their parts, along with the edges of other actors. This is a rather tricky task. Only true professionals can only do it.

The whole story covers about ten years’ worth of storytelling. That can be hard to learn. Although the story does not retell everything day-to-day, it is still an immense period. However, to better understand the story, actors tend to read through the books several times. This helps them to comprehend the depths of their characters and learn simple words.

First, what actors tend to memorize are the supernatural elements in the play and its poetic language. It makes the process easier. They remember the clash with cyclops, the beautiful nymph Calypso, and the list of blind gods. They memorize vengeful Poseidon, Odysseus’s divine antagonist, and similar fantastic elements. This helps actors to remember the series of events with more ease.

Next, they try to catch the rhyme, rhythm, and repetition of certain words. This is the best help for an actor in memorizing a large amount of material. The formality and complexity of The Odyssey is a part of the reason for its accessible learning. Homer included specific elements to keep the viewer engaged in the story. It was also done to help the person performing to remember the lines with tremendous success.

The Odyssey is created in dactylic hexameter. Its poetic structure has six dactyls, made from one long and two short syllables. This creative style sometimes helped performers improvise. They can create unique lines in the play that fit in the rhythm. The ability to improvise with the epic poem’s structure makes the work easier for an actor. In case an actor forgets the words, he can improve his performance by improvising.

Homer also created a whole segment of repetitive epithets. These are the phrases, which describe the characters. The use of epithets creates a feeling of formal literary style. However, it was not considered official in the past. Actors have to speak actively and vividly, especially when it comes to the narrator. He represents the whole plot, and he has to memorize the most.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'How Performers Memorize an Epic Poem'. 28 January.

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