Difference Between Prologue and Preface

Prologue vs Preface

The difference between prologue and preface may sometimes be difficult to comprehend as they both appear in the beginning of a book and appear to have the same purpose. However, they are two very different pieces of writing that are included in the book by the writer for very different purposes. Prologue and Preface are two terms that are often heard in literature, that have to be understood distinctly. It is important to know that both these words form part of the terminology used in English literature, especially in the fields of dramaturgy and novel or book writing respectively. One is the way used by the writer to address his readers directly while the other is a portion of the story. You can see which is which when you read the article.

What is a Prologue?

Prologue is predominantly a term used in dramaturgy. It is a kind of dialogue that appears in the beginning of an act of a play or drama wherein two or three characters converse about the plot of the play and concerned matters. The purpose of a prologue is to enable the audience to get to know about the plot and the chief characters of the play.

Difference Between Prologue and Preface

The Defence of Duffer’s Drift, prologue

Prologue is sometimes employed in prose writing too such as a novel. It comes in the very beginning of a novel and gives an idea about the story of the novel and such other details. Prologue is written in an attempt, to introduce the novel to the readers and to make them understand the plot of the novel. You will see that a prologue is usually used in a novel to give the reader an idea about what happened before the story started. Sometimes a prologue is used by the writer to describe what is happening in the present time of the story as the story begins after the prologue with a flashback.

What is a Preface?

On the other hand, a preface is a kind of introduction written by the author of a book. It contains matters related to the idea behind the writing of the book, the people who have helped him in the completion of the book, in matters related to typing, proofreading, and the like and finally his acknowledgements to such of those who have helped him in the completion of the project.

Prologue vs Preface

Preface to American Steam Vessels, 1895, by Samuel Ward Stanton

In the case of research works such as thesis and dissertation writing, preface is very useful. That is in the sense that it gives an idea about facts such as what made the researcher choose the particular subject for research, people he has consulted for the study, information about the author of the primary book upon which the researcher has decided to write a thesis.

What is the difference between Prologue and Preface?

• Prologue is used in literature while preface is used in literature as well as in other subject areas such as in research.

• Prologue is placed before a novel or a drama starts. This gives an idea what to expect of the story. It is a part of the story.

• Preface also comes before the story. However, it is not a part of the story.

• Prologue tells you what you need to know about the story. Usually, it contains a general introduction to the characters that will help you understand the story. A writer might include this to clear any historical detail that is necessary to understand the plot. However, sometimes, writers include a prologue just to intrigue a reader. This is because such types of prologues include a very startling part of the story that makes the reader excited to know how all incidents in the story came to have such an effect.

• Preface is included by the writer, to tell about the writing of the book, how he or she got the idea, to thank people who helped him or her, etc. Preface is a writer’s direct address to the reader about the process of writing the book they are about to read.


Images Courtesy: The Defence of Duffer’s Drift, prologue and Preface to American Steam Vessels, 1895, by Samuel Ward Stanton via Wikicommons (Public Domain)