The Rape of the Lock: A Comedy!
The inspiration for The Rape of the Lock was an actual incident among Pope's acquaintances in which Robert, Lord Petre, cut off lock of Arabella Fermor's hair, and the young people's families fell into strife as a result. John Caryll, another member of the same circle of prominent Roman Catholic, asked Pope to write a light poem that you put the episode into a humorous perspective and reconcile the two families, since it was hard enough being Catholic's in a Anglican country during the early 1700's. Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock is an outstanding English example of a mock epic.
What is a mock epic? A mock-epic or (mock-heroic) in terms of a literary form that burlesques the epic by treating a trivial subject in the "grand style" of uses that epic formulas to make a trivial subject ridiculous by ludicrously overstating it. Usually the characteristics of the classical epic are employed, particularly the formal statement of theme; the invocation to a deity; depictions of warriors (especially their dress and equipment); the grandiose speeches (challenges, defiance, boastings) of the heroes; battles; and the involvement of supernatural machinery (gods directing of participating in the action). Pope's The Rape of the Lock uses highly polished verses, satirical heroic couplets, wit, and intelligence within the epic formula to satirize the absurdities and follies of his society and this is where we find the most delicate humour within the poem.
The opening of the poem establishes its mock epic style with the formal statement of theme and invocation. Pope introduces the conventional epic themes of love and war and invocation in the following passage, "What dire offence from amorous causes springs, What mighty contests rise from trivial things, I sing-This verse to Caryll, Muse!"(I. 1-3), which are quite similar to the formal statement of theme and invocation Virgil's Aeneid (I. 1-16) and Milto...