Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 278
“The Prologue” is a poem by Anne Bradstreet, who was born Anne Dudley. In this poem, Bradstreet dismisses those who suggest that women are unable to, or ill fitted to, write poetry. She rejects the notion that her hand is better suited to a “needle” than to a “pen” and addresses men as a collective group.
There are not really any characters in the poem as such, other than the speaker herself. The speaker—whom we might assume to be the poet, Bradstreet—is a woman who is frustrated at the way the world treats her. While she states that her own talent is meager and that (in accordance with the beliefs of the time) “men do best,” she also begs to be allowed to “shine” a little in her own way.
There are various allusions made throughout the poem to Greek figures, particularly Calliope, one of the nine muses. Bradstreet also refers to her own muse, the spirit which inspires her to write. There is also an allusion to the Greek orator Demosthenes, here described as a “fluent, sweet-tongued Greek” who initially lisped before becoming a famed orator. Bradstreet is suggesting that, if the men she addresses would only have a little faith and allow her to practice her art, she, too, would improve. She is trying to dissuade men from the notion that, by allowing women to shine, they would be diminishing themselves or their authority.
The subject of the poem—that is, the group the speaker is addressing—is men in general and, perhaps, society as a whole. Bradstreet is prevailing upon the world in which she lives to give women a chance to thrive.