Guide to Literary Terms

Start Free Trial

What is the definition of epilogue?

The definition of epilogue is a chapter or section at the end of a work that stands apart from the chapters or sections that came before it.

Guide to Literary Terms Study Tools

Take a quiz Ask a question Start an essay


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated May 26, 2023.

The moral or lesson briefly summarized at the end of a fable is sometimes called an epilogue. An epilogue is a concluding section of a literary work that stands outside the main body of the text. It is the opposite of a prologue, which begins a work. Epilogues often inform readers of events that occur after the end of the plot. Epilogues can offer reflective commentary or—in plays—address the audience directly. 

Epilogue evolved from the Greek word epilogos, from epi ("upon") and logos ("word"). 

In some cases, Renaissance playwright Ben Jonson often used epilogues to praise his plays and defend their merits to potential critics. In his play Volpone, the titular character steps forward after the cast has exited and cleverly encourages the audience to their applause:

"The seasoning of a play is the applause.

Now, though the Fox be punished by the laws,

He yet doth hope, there is no suffering due,

For any fact which he hath done 'gainst you;

If there be, censure him; here he doubtful stands:

If not, fare jovially and clap your hands."

In novels, the epilogue can tidy up any loose ends that weren't resolved in the primary plot or show events that take place long after those of the primary plot. At the end of the Harry Potter series, for example, the epilogue contains a time jump to where Ron, Harry, Ginny, and Hermione all take their kids to the train station to take them to Hogwarts.

see: prologuefable

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access