A concluding section of (or a postscript to) a speech or literary work.
Though usually short, an epilogue may be as long as an entire chapter in a book.
Aristotle, in discussing the arrangement of a speech, reminds us that the epilogue "is not essential even to a forensic speech--as when the speech is short or the matter easy to remember; for the advantage of epilogue is abridgement" (Rhetoric).
Etymology:From the Greek, "conclusion of a speech"
Examples and Observations:
- Epilogue to Animal House
"Readers are often curious about what happens to the characters after the narrative ends. An epilogue satisfies this curiosity, leaving the reader informed and fulfilled. . . .
"[T]here is the infamous epilogue of the movie Animal House, in which stop-action frames of the characters contain comic captions describing what happened to them. So the gross-out king, John Blutarsky, becomes a United States senator; and the make-out king, Eric Stratton, becomes a Beverly Hills gynecologist. The desire to know more about characters after the natural ending of a narrative is not a critique of the story, but a compliment to the writer."
(Roy Peter Clark, Help! for Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces. Little, Brown and Company, 2011)
- Nicolaus on the Function of Epilogues in Classical Rhetoric (5th century A.D.)
"[A]n epilogue is a discourse that leads itself back upon demonstrations that have been said beforehand, encompassing a collecting of matters, characters, and emotions, and its task consists also of this, says Plato, 'at last to remind the listeners of the things that have been said' [Phaedrus 267D]."
(Nicolaus, Progmnasmata. Readings From Classical Rhetoric, ed. by Patricia P. Matsen, Philip Rollinson, and Marion Sousa. Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1990)
- "An epilogue is where the author can be expected to wax philosophical. Here, for example, I might tell you that better listening not only transforms personal and professional relationships (which it does) but can also bring understanding across the gender gap, the racial divide, between rich and poor, and even among nations. All that is true, but if I'm going to indulge in the unearned right to preach, maybe I should confine myself to matters closer to home. . . ."
(Michael P. Nichols, The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships, 2nd ed. Guilford Press, 2009)
- Rosalind's Epilogue in As You Like It
"It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue; but it is no more unhandsome than to see the lord the prologue. If it be true, that good wine needs no bush, 'tis true that a good play needs no epilogue. Yet to good wine they do use good bushes; and good plavs prove the better by the help of good epilogues. What a case am I in then, that am neither a good epilogue, nor cannot insinuate with you in the behalf of a good play? I am not furnished like a beggar, therefore to beg will not become me: my way is, to conjure you; and I'll begin with the women. I charge you, О women, for the love you bear to men, to like as much of this play as please you; and I charge you, О men, for the love you bear to women (аз I perceive, by your simpering, none of you hate them) that between you and the women the play may please. If I were a woman, I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me, complexions that liked me, and breaths that I defied not: and I am sure, as many as have good beards, or good faces, or sweet breaths, will, for my kind offer, when I make curt'sy, bid me farewell."
(William Shakespeare, As You Like It)
- Prospero's Epilogue in The Tempest
"Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,
I must be here confin'd by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant;
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be reliev'd by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself, and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free."
(William Shakespeare, The Tempest)