Prologue Definition

The prologue, Greek prologos (meaning: before word), is an opening of a story that establishes the setting and gives background details.

Generally speaking, the main function of a prologue tells some earlier story and connects it to the main story. Similarly, it is serves as a means to introduce characters of a story and throws light on their roles. In its modern sense, a prologue acts as a separate entity and is not considered part of the current story that a writer ventures to tell.

Prologue Examples from Literature

Example #1

Prologue on Greek Stage

The prologos in Greek dramas incorporated the above mentioned features but it had a wider importance than the modern interpretations of the prologue.  Greek prologos was more like a preface i.e. an introduction to a literary work provided by a dramatist to tell how the idea of a story developed. Therefore, in Greek dramas, prologue was a complete episode or the first act which was succeeded by the remaining acts of a play.

The invention of prologue is attributed to Euripedes. He prefixed a prologue to his plays as an explanatory first act in order to make the upcoming events in a play comprehensible for his audience. Other dramatist followed in his footsteps and prologue became a part of the traditional formula for writing plays. Almost all Greek prologues told about events that happened much earlier in time than the events depicted in the play.

Example #2

Prologue on Latin Stage

Plautus, a Latin playwright, has written examples of prologues in his plays that were more elaborate than Greek prologues. His prologues were admired for their romantic quality. His prologues were usually performed by characters that did not make appearances in the play. A prologue to Rudens is a perfect manifestation of his genius in writing prologue. Later, Moliere revived prologue on Latin stage by prefixing it to his play Amphitryon. Furthermore, we notice Racine introducing his coral tragedy Esther with a prologue with Piety as its speaker.

Example #3

Prologue on Elizabethan Stage

The early English dramatists were influenced by the traditions of prologues in Greek and Latin plays. Even the early forms of drama, mystery and morality plays, always began with a homily i.e. which was a religious comm

mentary on the biblical story that was to be performed in those plays. Elizabethan dramatists took inspiration from the Greek and Latin tradition of prologue and held it as a compulsory ingredient of their plays. In 1562, Sackville wrote Gorboduc which is believed to be the first English play. He prepared a pantomime that acted as a prologue for his play. Later, he wrote Induction that was a prologue to his Miscellany of short romantic epics.

A prologue to Elizabethan plays usually served to quieten and settle down an audience before the commencement of a play. It then introduced the themes of the play and other particulars to audience making them mentally prepared for the events they were to witness in the performance. Also, it was considered necessary to beg their leniency for any error that might occur in the writing of a play or in the performances of actors on stage. Usually, the character who uttered the prologue was dressed in black in order to differentiate him from the rest of the actors who wore colorful costumes during their performances. For instance, read the following lines from the prologue in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”:

“Two households, both alike in dignity
(In fair Verona, where we lay our scene),
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life,
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-marked love
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, naught could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage—
The which, if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.”

The Chorus in the extract not only introduces the theme but also requests the audience to be attentive “with patient ears attend.”

Example #4

An Example of Non-dramatic Prologue

In English literature, a prologue was employed in non-dramatic fiction as well. One of the earliest prologue examples is Chaucer’s A Prologue to Canterbury Tales. His prologue was built on the conventional pattern. He used it to introduce all his characters or pilgrims in dramatic details before each of them told their story on their way to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Beckett.

Function of Prologue

As previously mentioned, the primary function of a prologue is to let the readers/audience be aware of the earlier part of the story and enable them to relate it to the main story. This literary device is also a means to present characters and establish their roles.

Writing A Book Review

Book review is both a description and an evaluation of a book. It should focus on the book’s purpose, contents, and authority.

Scan the Book’s Preliminaries

Before beginning to read, consider the following:
  1. Title – What does it suggest?
  2. Preface – Provides important information on the author’s purpose in writing the book and will help you to determine the success of the work.
  3. Table of Contents – Tells you how the book is organized and will aid in determining the author’s main ideas and how they are developed – chronologically, topically, etc.
Read the Text
Record impressions as you read and note effective passages for quoting. Keep these questions in mind:
  1. What is the general field or genre, and how does the book fit into it? (Use outside sources to familiarize yourself with the field, if necessary.)
  2. From what point of view is the work written?
  3. What is the author’s style? Is it formal or informal? Does it suit the intended audience? If a work of fiction, what literary devices does the author use?
  4. Are concepts clearly defined? How well are the author’s ideas developed? What areas are covered/not covered? Why? This helps to establish the book’s authority.
  5. If a work of fiction, make notes on such elements as character, plot, and setting, and how they relate to the theme of the book. How does the author delineate his characters? How do they develop? What is the plot structure?
  6. How accurate is the information in the book? Check outside sources if necessary.
  7. If relevant, make note of the book’s format – layout, binding, typography, etc. Are there maps, illustrations? Do they aid understanding?
  8. Check the back matter. Is the index accurate? What sources did the author use – primary or secondary? How does he make use of them? Make note of important omissions.
  9. Finally, what has the book accomplished? Is further work needed? Compare the book to others by this author or by others. (Use the listing in the bibliography.)
Consult Additional Sources
Try to find further information about the author – his/her reputation, qualifications, influences, etc. – any information that is relevant to the book being reviewed and that would help to establish the author’s authority. Knowledge of the literary period and of critical theories can also be helpful to your review. Your professor and/or reference librarian will be able to suggest sources to use.
Prepare an Outline
Carefully review your notes and attempt to unify your impressions into a statement that will describe the purpose or thesis of your review. Then, outline the arguments that support your thesis. Your arguments should develop the thesis in a logical manner.
Write the Draft
Skim your notes again; then, using the outline as a guide and referring to notes when necessary, begin writing. Your book review should include the following:
  1. Preliminary Information – the complete bibliographic citation for the work ie. title in full, author, place, publisher, date of publication, edition statement, pages, special features (maps, colour plates, etc.), price and ISBN.

    Rory Maclean
    Under the Dragon
    Travels in a betrayed land
    London: Harper Collins, 1998
    224pp. $37.50
    0 00 257013 0
  2. Introduction – Try to capture the reader’s attention with your opening sentence. The introduction should state your central thesis, and set the tone of the review.
  3. Development – Develop your thesis using supporting arguments as set out in your outline. Use description, evaluation, and if possible explanation of why the author wrote as he/she did. Use quotations to illustrate important points or peculiarities.
  4. Conclusion – If your thesis has been well argued, the conclusion should follow naturally. It can include a final assessment or simply restate your thesis. Do not introduce new material at this point.
Revise the Draft
  1. Allow some time to elapse before going over your review, to gain perspective.
  2. Carefully read through the text, looking for clarity and coherence.
  3. Correct grammar and spelling.
  4. Verify quotes for proper foot-noting.