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In Shakespeare's Prologue to Romeo and Juliet serves as an exposition of sorts. In the form of a sonnet, the Prologue tells the audience that the play is set in Verona. We learn of the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, and we learn that a "pair of star-cross'd lovers" come from these feuding families. Furthermore, the Prologue tells audiences that the only thing that can put a stop to tne feud between the two families is the death of the title characters.
While many question Shakespeare's motives for providing a summary of his play before Act 1 even begins (and indeed, he does give away the ending in his prologue), readers must remember that Shakespeare's plays were meant to be seen rather than read. The true genius of the play is evident as audiences--even those who know how the play will turn out--watch the tragedy with which the ending unfolds.
This opening speech by the Chorus serves as an introduction to Romeo and Juliet. We are provided with information about where the play takes place, and given some background information about its principal characters.
The obvious function of the Prologue as introduction to the Verona of Romeo and Juliet can obscure its deeper, more important function. 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. But the Prologue itself creates this sense of fate by providing the audience with the knowledge that Romeo and Juliet will die even before the play has begun. The audience therefore watches the play with the expectation that it must fulfill the terms set in the Prologue. The structure of the play itself is the fate from which Romeo and Juliet cannot escape.
'Prologue' literally means 'The Before Speech.'
You can have dialogue, monologue, epilogue etc etc. A prologue is the speech before you start. It is an introduction.
You know at the beginning of the Star Wars movies you get the big, scrolling text that tells you what has happened so far? That is a prologue. It tells you all the stuff about The Empire and The Rebels and it brings you up to date with things you need to know to understand the story.
Same with R+J's prologue. It tells you all the information you need to know to get up to date with the story. Where? Who? What? Why? etc. etc.
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