Meaning of Prologue

What is Prologue:

A prologue is a preliminary text of a written work. Its function is to introduce a work, facilitate its understanding and / or value it in a certain cultural context.

It is also said prologue to any situation of preparation or preamble of a matter, as well as to the background of a certain event. For example: "The Treaty of Versailles was the prologue to World War II."

The etymological origin of the word prologue is in the Greek term πρόλογος (prologues). This is formed from the prefix pro, which means "before" and "in favor of"; and the noun logos, which means "word, speech, work, treatise or study."

Any type of work can have a prologue: literary works, plays, musical works, history books, scientific books, economic or political treatises, etc.

Therefore, the prologue is usually a part of a book or work, which does not mean that every work has a prologue as part of its structure.

Foreword in printed works

Although almost always when we use the word prologue we refer to the prologues of books (written works), as we have already explained, it is necessary to distinguish some singularities, since it differs from other forms of prologue.

The prologue is written after the rest of the book has been completed. In this sense, it addresses issues such as the circumstances of creation, the historical-social context, the formal or aesthetic elements, the justification of its importance or the keys and guidelines that will guide the reader.

In cases where the author himself writes the foreword to his book, it usually presents an explanation of personal motivations and the process of creation or research. If it is a book that challenges writing conventions, the author can use the foreword as a warning or guidance to the reader.


Most of the time, the foreword of a book is written by someone other than the author of the text, in which case it is called a prologue.

The prologue writer acts as an authority on the subject who "presents" the author and the work, and gives an account of its value from different points of view.

This practice is common when it comes to an emerging author and publishers appeal to the foreword as a kind of reading recommendation.

The figure of the prologue is also used when the author has already passed away and his work has become a fundamental reference for future generations. For instance, Don Quijote of La Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes, whose new editions include two separate prologues.

See also:

  • Logos.
  • Parts of a book.
  • Introduction.

Theater prologue

In classical theater (Greek and Latin), the prologue is a preliminary speech to the development of the drama directed to the spectator, which normally explains the background of the action that is going to be represented. Some modern works also incorporate the prologue, depending on their expressive needs.

The function of the prologue in classical theater varies according to the needs of the playwright. For example, providing the background to the drama, noting changes in known myths, announcing the ending, or even misleading the viewer to ensure that the ending has a particular dramatic effect.

See also Theater.

Prologue in music

In music, an introductory musical section is called a prologue that disposes listeners to what they are going to appreciate. It therefore has a similarity to the use of the prologue in the theater.

This form was widely used in ancient opera, whose origins date back to the early 17th century. As an example, we can cite the prologue of the opera L’Orpheus from Monteverdi. It is divided into two sections:

  • an instrumental section that announces the beginning of the work;
  • a section sung by a female character called "Music" who, as a recitative, explains to the viewer the character and drama of Orfeo's story.
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