A prologue is an introductory part of a play or literary work. The main purpose of a prologueis to provide some background information that is important for the current story or text. The prologue provides the reader with information about the characters and their backgrounds that is necessary for us to understand the story we are about to read.
From Romeo and Juliet (provides information about the Montague and Capulet families and the "star-crossed" love of 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."
Excerpt from prologue to Medea, by Euripedes ( provides information about Medea's current sufferings, after being abandoned by her husband Jason):
Medea's old Nanny from her childhood in Colchis comes out of the house alone and addresses the elements.
How I wish the Argo's sails had never swept through
the dark blue Clashing Rocks into the land of the Colchians;
I wish the pine trees had never fallen
in the groves of Pelion, cut down to put oars in the hands
of the heroes who went after the golden fleece
for Pelias. Then my mistress Medea would not
have sailed to the fortress of Iolcus' land,
her heart battered by love for Jason./p>
And she would not have convinced the daughters of Pelias to kill
their father and would not have come to live here on Corinthian soil
with her husband and children, winning over
the citizens of the country she had come to as a refugee,
and obliging Jason in every way.
This is what brings the greatest stability at home:
when a woman does not challenge her husband.
It has all gone sour now, affection turned to hatred.
Jason has cast aside his children and my mistress,
and now goes to bed in a royal marriage
with the daughter of Creon who governs this land.
And Medea, in despair, rejected by her husband,
howls out "the oaths he swore" and calls upon the right hand,
a potent symbol of fidelity, and invokes the gods
to witness Jason's treatment of her.
washing away all her hours in tears,
ever since she realized her husband had abandoned her.
She never looks up or raises her face
from the ground. She is like a rock or wave of the sea
when those who love her try to give advice;
except that sometimes she lifts up her pallid face
and mourns for her dear father,
her country, and the home she betrayed
to come here with this man who now holds her in contempt.
The poor woman knows from bitter loss
what it means to have once had a homeland.
And she hates her children, takes no pleasure in seeing them.
I'm afraid of her, in case she has some new plan in mind.
She is a deep thinker, you know, and she will not put up with
this kind of abuse. I know her and I am terrified
that in silence entering the house where the bed is laid
she might thrust a sharp sword through the heart
or kill the princess and the one who married her
and then suffer some greater tragedy.
She is frightening. It won't be easy for an enemy
to come out victorious in a battle with her.
But here come the children from their play.
They know nothing of their mother's troubles
for the childish heart is not used to grief.
Literary Terms Examples