How Performers Memorize an Epic Poem?

Homer’s Odyssey is a renowned work of literature that has created a lasting impression of the character of Odysseus. Despite the countless plays based on this epic poem, the question of the difficulty of memorizing it still remains. The poem has numerous characters, including Odysseus, his son Telemachus, his wife Penelope, and various gods such as Athena, Poseidon, and Zeus. The events of the story take place in multiple locations and cover a period of ten years.

To perform this story, actors must memorize numerous books and lines word for word, which can be a challenging task. They must learn their own parts, as well as those of the other actors. Actors need to understand and remember the lines to bring the characters to life convincingly. To aid in memorization, they read the books several times to understand the depths of their characters and the simple words used.

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In order to make the memorization process easier, actors begin by focusing on the supernatural elements in the play and its poetic language. This includes memorable events such as Odysseus’s encounter with the cyclops, the beautiful nymph Calypso, and the list of blind gods. They also remember the antagonist, vengeful Poseidon, and similar fantastic elements. By doing this, actors can better remember the series of events in the story.

Another aid in memorizing the play is by recognizing the rhyme, rhythm, and repetition of certain words. Homer’s use of dactylic hexameter, a poetic structure with six dactyls made up of one long and two short syllables, also helps with memorization. This structure provides a formal and complex literary style to the story, engaging the viewer and aiding the performer in remembering the lines.

The epic poem also includes a whole segment of repetitive epithets, which describe the characters. This formal literary style was not considered official in the past, but it adds to the overall performance. Actors need to speak actively and vividly, especially when it comes to the narrator, who represents the entire plot and has the most lines to memorize. Finally, the ability to improvise with the epic poem’s structure also makes it easier for an actor to perform, even if they forget the words.

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