A brief scene, speech, or short poem at the end of a play.It often explains the moral of the drama or begs the audience's indulgencefor any shortcomings, - a function made fun of in Shakespeare's AMidsummer Night's Dream, where Theseus appeals to Bottom at theend of the play-within-a-play Pyramus and Thisbe:
No epilogue, I pray you; for your play needs no excuse. Neverexcuse; for when the players are all dead, there need none to be blamed.
John Dryden was an accomplished writer of epilogues.At the end of his Tyrannic Love (1669), he specified that theepilogue should be "spoken by Mrs Ellen [Nell Gwynn]when she was to be carried off dead by the bearers". In therole of Valeria, slain daughter of the Roman Emperor Maximin (whohas executed St Catharine of Alexandria), Nell says to the bearer:
Hold, are you mad? you damned confounded dog,
I am to rise, and speak the epilogue.
The poem ends with Nell directly informing the audience thatshe will trust no poet to write her own epitaph, but will do it herself:
Here Nelly lies, who, though she lived a slattern,
Yet died a princess, acting in St Cathar'n.
see also prologue.