prologue


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prologue

(often US), prolog
1. 
a. the prefatory lines introducing a play or speech
b. the actor speaking these lines
2. in early opera
a. an introductory scene in which a narrator summarizes the main action of the work
b. a brief independent play preceding the opera, esp one in honour of a patron

Prologue

 

the introductory part of a literary or dramatic work that provides information about the work’s meaning, plot, or themes or that briefly summarizes the events preceding the main action.

In the drama of classical antiquity, the prologue was a scene or monologue summarizing the situation or myth on which the plot was based. In the medieval mystery play, miracle play, and morality play, the prologue was a prayer or sermon containing the parable that was the basis of the play. In the dramas of Shakespeare, Goethe, and Schiller, the prologue often expressed the author’s aesthetic intention, in addition to setting forth the motivation for the succeeding events.

The prologue in its modern meaning and its use in a wide variety of genres took form in the 19th century; examples are found in Pushkin’s narrative poem The Bronze Horseman and in Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair. Gradually, the prologue became an element of the plot. Examples may be seen in the prologues to N. V. Gogol’s novella The Terrible Vengeance, H. Longfellow’s narrative poem Hiawatha, and I. G. Ehrenburg’s novel The Extraordinary Adventures of Julio Jurenito. In narrative genres, such a prologue is sometimes called a Vorgeschichte (prehistory). Unlike the preface, the prologue is always a product of literary imagination.

V. A. KALASHNIKOV

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