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PROLOGUE (from Gr. 7rpo, before, and ...

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Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 435 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PROLOGUE (from Gr. 7rpo, before, and Myer, a word), a prefatory piece of writing, usually composed to introduce a drama. The Greeks use a word 7rphXoyor, which included the modern meaning of the prologue, but was of wider significance, embracing any kind of preface, like the Latin praefatio. In Attic Greek drama, a character in the play, very often a deity, stood forward or appeared from a machine before the action of the play began, and made from the empty stage such. statements as it was necessary that the audience should hear, in order that they might appreciate the ensuing drama. It was the early Greek custom to dilate in great detail on everything that had led up to the play, the latter being itself, as a rule, merely the catastrophe which had inevitably to ensue on the facts related in the prologue. The importance, therefore, of the prologue in Greek drama was very great; it sometimes almost took the place of a romance, to which, or to an episode in which, the play itself succeeded. It is believed that the prologue in this form was practically the invention of Euripides, and with him, as has been said, it takes the place of " an explanatory first act." This may help to modify the objection which criticism has often brought against the Greek prologue, as an impertinence, a useless growth prefixed to the play, and standing as a barrier between us and our enjoyment of it. The point precisely is that, to an Athenian audience, it was useful and pertinent, as supplying just what they needed to make the succeeding scenes intelligible. But it is difficult to accept the view that Euripides invented the plan of producing a god out of a machine to justify the action of deity upon man, because it is plain that he himself disliked this interference of the supernatural and did not believe in it. He seems, in such a typical prologue as that to the Hippolytus, to be accepting a conventional formula, and employing it, almost perversely, as a medium for his ironic rationalism. Many of the existing Greek prologues may be later in date than the plays they illustrate, or may contain large interpolations. On the Latin stage the prologue was often more elaborate than it was in Athens, and in the careful composition of the poems which Plautus prefixes to his plays we see what importance he gave to this portion of the entertainment; sometimes, as in the preface to the Rudens, Plautus rises to the height of his genius in his adroit and romantic prologues, usually placed in the mouths of persons who make no appearance in the play itself. Moliere revived the Plautian prologue in the' introduction to his Amphitryon. Racine introduced Piety as the speaker of a prologue which opened his choral tragedy of Esther. The tradition of the ancients vividly affected our own early dramatists. Not only were the mystery plays and miracles of the middle ages begun by a homily, but when the drama in its modern sense was inaugurated in the reign of Elizabeth, the prologue came with it, directly adapted from the practice. of Euripides and Terence. Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, prepared a sort of prologue in dumb show for his Gorbuduc of 1562; and he also wrote a famous Induction, which is, practically, a prologue, to a miscellany of short romantic epics by diverse hands. In the Elizabethan,drama the prologue was very far from being universally employed. In the plays of Shakespeare, for instance, it is an artifice which the poet very rarely introduced, although we find it in Henry V. and Romeo and Juliet. Sometimes the Elizabethan prologue was a highly elaborated poem; in 1603 a harbinger recited a sonnet on the stage, to prepare the audience for Heywood's A Woman Kill'd with Kindness. Often the prologue was a piece of blank verse, so obscure and complicated that it is difficult to know how its hearers contrived to follow it; such are the prologues of Chapman. Among Elizabethan prologues the most ingenious and interesting are those of Ben Jonson, who varied the form on every occasion. For instance, in The Poetaster (1602), Envy comes in " as Prologue," and speaks a long copy of heroics, only to be turned off the stage by an armed figure, who states that he is the real prologue, and proceeds to spout more verses. Jonson's introductions were often recited by the " stage-keeper," or manager. Beaumont and Fletcher seem to have almost wholly dispensed with prologues, and the form was far from being universal, until the Restoration, when it became de rigueur. The prologues of the last thirty years of the 17th century were always written in rhymed verse, and were generally spoken by a principal actor or actress in the ensuing piece. They were often, in the hands of competent poets, highly finished essays on social or literary topics. For instance, the famous prologue to Dryden's Aurengzebe (1675) is really a brief treatise on fashions in versification. Throughout the 18th century the prologue continued to flourish, but went out of vogue in the early part of the 19th. See also EPILOGUE. (E. G.) PROME, a district in the Pegu division of Lower Burma, with an area of 2915 sq. m. and a population (1901) of 365,804. It occupies the whole breadth of the valley of the Irrawaddy, between Thayetmyo district on the north and Henzada and Tharrawaddy districts on the south, and originally extended as far as the frontier of Independent Burma, but in 1870 Thayetmyo was formed into an independent jurisdiction. There are two mountain ranges in Prome, which form respectively the eastern and western boundaries. The Arakan Yomas extends along the whole of the western side, and that portion of the district lying on the right bank of the Irrawaddy is broken up by thickly wooded spurs running in a south-easterly direction, the space for cultivation being but limited and confined to the parts adjacent to the river. On the eastern side lies the Pegu Yomas, and north and north-east of the district its forest-covered spurs form numerous valleys and ravines, the torrents from which unite in one large stream called the Na-weng River. The most important of the plains lie in the south and south-west portions of Prome, and extend along the whole length of the railway that runs between the towns of Paungde and Prome; they are mostly under cultivation, and those in the south are watered by a series of streams forming the Myit-ma-kha or upper portion of the Hlaing. There are in addition large tracts of land covered by tree-jungle which are available for cultivation. The principal river is the Irrawaddy, which intersects the district from north to south; next in importance are the Tha-ni and its tributaries and the Na-weng system of rivers. In the hills near the capital the soil is of Tertiary formation, and in the plains it is an alluvial deposit. The climate is much drier than other districts in Lower Burma, the annual rainfall being about 48 in. The temperature ranges from about too° in June to 6o° in January. The staple crop is rice, but some cotton and tobacco are grown, while the custard apples are famous. Sericulture is extensively carried on by a special dass. The forests yield teak and cutch, cotton and silk-weaving are important industries; there are also manufactures of ornamental boxes, coarse brown sugar and cutch. The early history of the once flourishing kingdom of Prome, like that of the other states which now form portions of Burma, is veiled in obscurity. After the conquest of Pegu in 1758 by Alompra, the founder of the last dynasty of Ava kings, Prome remained a portion of the Burman kingdom till the close of the second Burmese War in 1853, when the province of Pegu was annexed to British territory.
End of Article: PROLOGUE (from Gr. 7rpo, before, and Myer, a word)
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