Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.
An epilogue is the opposite of a prologue. Shmoop out.
Just kidding. Shmoop would never do that to you.
An epilogue is a section that comes at the very end of a piece of literature, and it gives the work closure. Often in novels, the epilogue acts as a "where are they now?" that gives us the scoop on what happened to the characters after the end of the novel's main action (we're looking at you, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). It might tie up loose ends or hint at what's to come in a sequel. Sometimes a character will look back and evaluate what has happened.
In drama, the epilogue comes in the form of a small speech addressed to the audience after the end of a play. It's spoken by one of the actors, sometimes in character, sometimes not. The epilogue often comments on the dramatic action of the play, like this one from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which one of the main characters, Puck, tells the audience how we should look back on the play:
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended—
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearnèd luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long.
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
Whatever you do, Shmoopers, don't call Puck a liar.