Prologue: Definition and Examples | Literary Terms (2022)

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I. What is aPrologue?

Some works of literature start with a prologue (pronounced PRO-log), a short introductory section that gives background information or sets the stage for the story to come. The prologue is usually pretty short, maybe a few pages (five minutes or so in a film). But it may be the most important section of the story, and if readers skip it they may be lost for the entire story.

Not every opening scene is a prologue – prologues must specifically they explain or set the stage for what happens next. Many films and novels just start with the events of the story and don’t have any prologue at all.

II. Examples ofPrologue

Example 1

Los Angeles, 2029: The machines rose from the ashes of the nuclear fire. Their war to exterminate mankind had raged for decades, but the final battle would not be fought in the future. It would be fought here, in our present. Tonight… (Terminator)

The Terminator (1984) HD Intro

(Video) What is a prologue? How is it used in literature?

The movie Terminator opens with a short but exciting prologue that shows the world of the future. This prologue prepares the audience for the entire movie, explaining the war between humans and machines and its basis on time travel. The later Terminator movies expand on this with their own prologues about Los Angeles in 2029.

Example 2

What’s past is prologue. (William Shakespeare, The Tempest)

This has become a pretty common expression meaning “the past sets the stage” or “the past introduces the themes” for the present. Just like the prologue of a film, the past helps us understand what’s going on in the present, and if you look carefully, the past will give you a lot of clues as to what will happen in the future.

III. The Advantages and Disadvantages of aPrologue

There’s a lot that depends on the prologue! It sets the tone and prepares the audience for the entire story, so if it’s not well-written it can really damage the entire story. For this reason, many writers choose to skip the prologue altogether. (Though this, of course, has its own drawbacks!) Basically, the pros and cons of writing a prologue are:


  • Makes story less confusing
  • May be exciting
  • Requires exposition later in the story (see How to Write a Prologue)


  • Slows down the story
  • Causes awkward transition from prologue to main story
  • May cause information overload

If you do decide to write a prologue, keep these pros and cons in mind and try to write a prologue that avoids the cons and emphasizes the pros.

(Video) Prologue Literary Terms

IV.Examples ofProloguein Literature

Example 1

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. (William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)

These are the opening lines to the prologue of Romeo and Juliet. Notice how much information Shakespeare gives us in just these lines: we find out that there’s a feud between two households, that the play is set in Verona, and that things are about to come to a head in the form of some “new mutiny.” We even get a sense of ominous events on the horizon as the “unclean hands” suggest foul play, perhaps even murder…

Example 2

The book Stranger in a Strange Land has a prologue set much earlier than the main story. The book is about human beings living on Mars, with a main character who was born there and raised by aliens. But the prologue looks all the way back to the first rocket ship that ever traveled from Earth to Mars, setting the stage for all the events that happen there.

V. Examples ofProloguein Pop Culture

Example 1

The following is an interactive 360 video of the Star Wars prologues (from episode I to VI)

(Video) "What is a Prologue?": An Introduction to the Oregon State Guide to English Literary Terms

Example 2

Once upon a time in a far away land, a young prince lived in a shining castle. Although he had everything his heart desired, the prince was spoiled, selfish and unkind.

But then one winter’s night, an old beggar woman came to the castle and offered him a single rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold.

Repulsed by her haggard appearance, the prince sneered at the gift and turned the old woman away. But she warned him not to be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within.

And when he dismissed her again, the old woman’s ugliness melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress. The prince tried to apologize, but it was too late, for she had seen that there was no love in his heart.

(Video) Literary Terms II Prologue, Epilogue, Epitaph, Preface and Eclogue Explained in Hindi

The prologue in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast tells the story of how the prince was cursed and transformed into a beast. This prologue helps the audience understand what happens throughout the story – without it, we wouldn’t know the Beast’s story or why he was so desperate to earn Belle’s love.

Example 3

Into the Woods: Stephen Sondheim

Once upon a time
In a far-off kingdom
There lay a small village
At the edge of the woods

The opening scene of Into the Woods is a prologue. This prologue helps the audience quickly understand the issues the characters are facing.

(Video) Prologue vs epilogue || difference between prologue and epilogue || literary terms || ilmi dunya ||

VI. Related Terms


A prologue tells you what happened before the main story; an epilogue tells you what happened after. Sometimes, for example, a movie will end by showing various characters on screen and telling you what happened to them: this character is in prison, this character got married and is living in Montana, etc. Epilogues put a cap on the story and give readers a sense of closure.


Prologues are often used for exposition – that is, they explain by giving readers some background information about what’s happening in the story. A prologue sets the stage and lets readers know how things got the way they are. However, exposition doesn’t have to be in the prologue. More often, this information is explained later on as the story progresses. For example, imagine you’re writing a story about World War II: you could include a prologue explaining the historical context, or you could write a scene in which two characters discuss what’s been happening in the world, so that the reader gets the same information, just less directly.


Although they both occur at the beginning of a literary work, a prologue is different from a preface (also called a “foreword”). A prologue is written by the author and forms part of the story; a foreword or preface may be written by the author or someone else, and it’s more of a commentary on the story rather than a part of it.


Prologue: Definition and Examples | Literary Terms? ›

prologue, a preface or introduction to a literary work. In a dramatic work, the term describes a speech, often in verse, addressed to the audience by one or more of the actors at the opening of a play.prologue, a preface or introduction to a literary work. In a dramatic work

dramatic work
Le Père (The Father) is a play by the French playwright Florian Zeller which won in 2014 the Molière Award for Best Play. It premiered in September 2012 at the Théâtre Hébertot, Paris, with Robert Hirsch (André) and Isabelle Gélinas (Anne). › wiki › Le_Père
, the term describes a speech, often in verse, addressed to the audience by one or more of the actors at the opening of a play.

What is prologue and its examples? ›

For example, imagine you're writing a story about World War II: you could include a prologue explaining the historical context, or you could write a scene in which two characters discuss what's been happening in the world, so that the reader gets the same information, just less directly.

What is a prologue in simple terms? ›

Definition of prologue

1 : the preface or introduction to a literary work. 2a : a speech often in verse addressed to the audience by an actor at the beginning of a play. b : the actor speaking such a prologue. 3 : an introductory or preceding event or development.

What are the 3 parts of a prologue? ›

A good prologue should set the scene for the story to come.
This may include:
  • Introducing important characters and themes.
  • Setting out backstory required to follow the main narrative.
  • Telling the reader something about the story world.
Aug 7, 2021

How do you write a prologue example? ›

Understanding Prologues
  1. You need to provide background information or a backstory that doesn't fit in the main text.
  2. You want to set the tone for the rest of the work.
  3. You want to provide an important point of view that doesn't fit within the book or play.

What is an epilogue example? ›

This is a supplemental section to tell readers the fate of the main characters and wrap up any other loose ends that weren't accomplished in the main story. For example, in the Harry Potter series, the epilogue takes place 19 years later.

What is a prologue in literary terms? ›

prologue, a preface or introduction to a literary work. In a dramatic work, the term describes a speech, often in verse, addressed to the audience by one or more of the actors at the opening of a play.

What is the main purpose of a prologue? ›

A prologue is used to give readers extra information that advances the plot. It is included in the front matter and for a good reason! Authors use them for various purposes, including: Giving background information about the story.

How many words are in a prologue? ›

Some sites suggest no more than 1,000 words while others say up to 3,000 words is an adequate number. If it helps, my average chapter is about 1.5K words.

How long is a prologue in a book? ›

The length of a prologue depends on the nature of the story, but it's best to keep it trim. One to five pages should suffice. “I don't mind prologues if they fit the story, and I do like them fairly short,” says agent Andrea Hurst, president of Andrea Hurst & Associates.

Is a prologue a chapter? ›

What is a Prologue? Prologues come before chapter one and could be expository/introductory prose, a poem, diary letter, news clipping, or anything in between. As a reader, when I start reading a prologue, I'm usually impatient to get to chapter one.

What is the difference between a prologue and a preface? ›

Preface is an introduction to a literary work written by the work's author himself. Prologue is a separate introductory section of a literary, dramatic, or musical work.

What does a prologue look like? ›

The prologue should read like a short story in every aspect, except for its ending. Rather than resolving all conflict, the end should leave the reader intrigued. Any conflict created in the prologue, however, must be resolved somewhere along the plot.

How do you use prologue in a sentence? ›

Prologue in a Sentence 🔉
  1. The play's prologue provides the audience members with insight into what they are about to watch.
  2. Because the prologue was so short, I had no idea what to expect from the novel.
  3. As a prologue occurs at the beginning of a novel or play, it should trigger the audience's interest.

How do you begin a story? ›

Starting Stories: 5 Great Beginning Strategies
  1. Strategy 1: Begin with action or dialogue. ...
  2. Strategy 2: Ask a question. ...
  3. Strategy 3: Describe the setting. ...
  4. Strategy 4: Begin with background information. ...
  5. Strategy 5: Have the main character introduce himself or herself.

What are some examples of protagonist? ›

Examples of Protagonist:
  • In The Hunger Games, Katniss is the protagonist. ...
  • In Charlotte's Web, the protagonist is Wilbur. ...
  • In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo and Juliet are the protagonists. ...
  • In MacBeth, MacBeth is the protagonist. ...
  • In the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Ferris is the protagonist.

What is prologue and epilogue? ›

Prologue. Epilogue. Meaning. Prologue implies an independent preliminary piece of writing, included in the front matter of the book. Epilogue refers to the brief winding up a section of the book, which acts as the closure to the literary work.

How do epilogues start? ›

The word epilogue comes from the Greek epilogos, which means “conclusion word.” It always comes at the end of a literary work and is therefore the opposite of a prologue, which always comes at the beginning. As with the prologue, the epilogue originated with Greek playwrights and poets.

What is the last page of a book called? ›

What is an epilogue? An epilogue is a short chapter that comes after the last chapter of a book as a way to tie the story together in a conclusion.

Can a prologue be more than one chapter? ›

You can have multiple prologues, but that's only because as a writer you get to do whatever the heck you want.

What is a prologue in Romeo and Juliet? ›

The Prologue does not merely set the scene of Romeo and Juliet , it tells the audience exactly what is going to happen in the play. The Prologue refers to an ill-fated couple with its use of the word “star-crossed,” which means, literally, against the stars. Stars were thought to control people's destinies.

What is a prologue Shakespeare? ›

Prologues. Romeo and Juliet is one of William Shakespeare's most famous tragedies. The opening, or prologue, of the play is well known in its own right. In a play, a prologue is a speech that is delivered to the audience before the main action begins on the stage.

What is the difference between a prologue and an introduction? ›

Prologue — A prologue is similar to an Introduction, and in my view it is really exactly the same. The difference is simply that if you write a Prologue, it makes sense to also write an Epilogue, while with an Introduction you don't expect any type of closing to the book other than the last chapter.

What books have prologues? ›

The 7 Best Book Prologues
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater• Formats: Kindle, Audiobook, Hardcover, Paperback & Audio CD • Paperback: 448 pagesView on Amazon
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman• Formats: Audiobook, Hardcover, Paperback & Audio CD • Hardcover: 400 pagesView on Amazon
5 more rows
Aug 31, 2020

Does every story need a prologue? ›

Most stories don't need them, yet many writers choose to include them in their stories. Because of this, there are far too many poorly written prologues in this world, leading many experienced writers to villainize prologues as a whole.

Can a prologue have dialogue? ›

A prologue stands out.

You could also use a flashback later in the narrative or convey the past through dialogue or character thought. A prologue can be told in a different voice than the rest of the story or be presented by a different viewpoint character.

Can a prologue be one paragraph? ›

1 Answer. It can be any length you want. Make sure it sets up your story so that the reader wants to read more.

What is the longest prologue in a book? ›

Kingdom Hearts: The term "Longest Prologue Ever" is popularly used to describe the first part of Kingdom Hearts II, and was even a former Trope Namer. The game's prologue with Roxas takes between three to five hours to complete.

Can a prologue be 1000 words? ›

As others have said, there's no fixed length. Whatever the story needs. Certainly, there's nothing excessive about a 1,000 word prologue.

Can a prologue be a flash forward? ›

Backstory-Dramatized Flashback, Dream, or Flash-Forward

Another prospect is including a flash-forward—an event that happens in the future of the story about to be told. This event is inserted as a prologue.

Can a memoir have a prologue? ›

Start by writing the Introduction or Prologue to your Memoir. Think of your introduction as a preview of a coming attraction. It's where you show and tell all the benefits readers will reap from your work.

Do literary agents like prologues? ›

Andrea Brown of Andrea Brown Literary Agency puts it like this: Most agents hate prologues. Just make the first chapter relevant and well written.

What's the difference between a prologue and a first chapter? ›

There is no difference between a prologue called a prologue, and one called 'chapter one'. If the information is irrelevant to the story, do not include it. If the information is relevant to the story, but only in a setting/atmospheric context, include it only when you need to establish that setting/atmosphere.

Does Harry Potter have a prologue? ›

For example, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone the first chapter is much like a prologue in that it shows events that occur when Harry is a baby -- before the reader begins to see the story through Harry's eyes. The novel begins in Vernon Dursley's point-of-view, and later switches to Dumbledore's.

What are the 5 parts of a book? ›

These five components are: the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution. These essential elements keep the story running smoothly and allow the action to develop in a logical way that the reader can follow.

What comes before prologue? ›

A preface, prologue, and foreword are all a part of a book's front matter, the introductory pages of a book before the main text—often numbered with Roman numerals—that include the title page and table of contents.

What is the first page of a book called? ›

Title Page: The title page is the page that contains the title of the book, the author (or authors) and the publisher.

How does the prologue prepare the reader for the story? ›

A prologue is a section of your story that comes before Chapter One. It introduces the reader to the main character and draws them in quickly, either with a crisis or with information that piques the reader's curiosity.

What is a prologue in a nonfiction book? ›

A “prologue” is the opening section of a story, designed to set the scene before the main narrative begins. Prologues are thus most common in fiction, but you will also find them in narrative non-fiction (e.g., biographies or memoirs).

How do you write a prologue and an epilogue? ›

  1. Use prologues to give context for your world. ...
  2. Include prologues to unify story elements. ...
  3. Add history using wiki-like prologues. ...
  4. Describe significant background events. ...
  5. Write epilogues that hint at sequels. ...
  6. Add afterwords showing affect and change. ...
  7. 14 replies on “Prologues and epilogues: Writing prefaces and after chapters”

What part of speech is prologue? ›

verb (used with object), pro·logued, pro·logu·ing.

How do you use the word commence in a sentence? ›

Their contract commences in January. The court commenced criminal proceedings. The country has commenced preparations for war.

How do you make a prologue on Wattpad? ›

It should be an introduction to the main story. Keep the language/tone consistent within the prologue, i.e., if it's a mystery set in Charleston, don't use humorous language, mixed with a dry, historical recounting of the time period. Use it to set the mysterious tone for the novel.

What is a good story starter? ›

Icy fingers gripped my arm in the darkness. Wandering through the graveyard it felt like something was watching me. The eyes in the painting follow him down the corridor. Icy wind slashed at his face and the rain danced its evil dance upon his head as he tried to get his bearings on the isolated beach.

How do you write the first sentence in a story? ›

6 Tips for Writing a Memorable Opening Line
  1. Start in the middle of a story. The first lines don't have to begin with long descriptions of a room's appearance or a character's personality. ...
  2. Open with a mystery. ...
  3. Flash back to the past. ...
  4. Describe the current state of affairs. ...
  5. Set the tone. ...
  6. Start with a voice.
Nov 8, 2021

What is a good sentence to start a story? ›

Story starters
  • I didn't mean to kill her.
  • The air turned black all around me.
  • Icy fingers gripped my arm in the darkness.
  • Wandering through the graveyard it felt like something was watching me.
  • The eyes in the painting follow him down the corridor.
  • A shrill cry echoed in the mist.

What is the example of antagonist? ›

A simple example of an antagonist is Lord Voldemort, the notorious dark wizard in the Harry Potter novels of J.K. Rowling. The term “antagonist” comes from the Greek word antagonistēs, which means “opponent,” “competitor,” or “rival.”

What are the 7 types of characters? ›

7 Character Roles in Stories. If we categorize character types by the role they play in a narrative, we can hone in on seven distinct varieties: the protagonist, the antagonist, the love interest, the confidant, deuteragonists, tertiary characters, and the foil.

What are examples of protagonist and antagonist? ›

For example, the protagonist may fight against nature-he might have to overcome the elements. Examples of Antagonist: 1. Darth Vadar is the main antagonist of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars.


1. How to Write a Prologue
(Writing with Jenna Moreci)
2. Prolog Tutorial
(Derek Banas)
3. Preface, Prologue, Introduction or Foreword....Oh My!
(Dr. Nicolya Williams)
4. Prologue to Romeo and Juliet top grade analysis
(Jen Chan)
5. What is the meaning of the word PROLOGUE?
6. Epilogue Literary Term
(English Study Point)

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