General English

Information & Library Science

  • noun the introduction to something such as a play, book, film or long poem
  • noun events which lead up to more serious consequences


  • An introductory speech or scene given before the main play.Euripides introduced the use of a prologue to recount theevents leading up to those presented in the play, thereby avoidingthe need for too much exposition in the first act. Some Roman dramatists,such as Plautus, turned out elaborately written poems to introducetheir plays - a practice continued by Molière in, forexample, his Amphitryon (1668).

    In medieval England, mystery and miracle plays were oftenintroduced by homilies, while in the Elizabethan theater the prologue,when it occurred, was usually called the 'chorus'. It was during theRestoration period that the prologue, along with the closing epilogue,truly came into its own. Spoken by the leading actor or actress, thesepieces were always in rhymed verse and often full of sharp witty commentson topical issues. John Dryden wrote numerous prologues forhis own and others' plays, which are not only fine poems in theirown right but also a valuable source of information about the theatricalworld of the time. David Garrick was a noted writer of prologues inthe 18th century. George Bernard Shaw replaced the prologue with a'preface' for readers, creating long polemical pieces that were usuallyprovocative and entertaining. The critic James Agate went so far asto remark "Shaw's plays are the price we pay for Shaw's prefaces".