Study Guide

The Prologue Literature and Writing

By Anne Bradstreet

Literature and Writing

At the risk of stating the obvious, "The Prologue" is a poem all about… poetry. In just 48 lines, Bradstreet manages to talk about where poems come from, what makes them good (and who gets to decide what good means) and, most of all, about who should be allowed to write them. This is all tied up in what it means to be a woman in seventeenth-century New England (hint: freedom? not so much), and this poem confronts the issue of female authorship straight on.

Questions About Literature and Writing

  1. Is writing a competition in this poem, or is it finally about everyone doing their best?
  2. Why is the speaker of this poem so hard on herself when it comes to her writing ability?
  3. Do you think there's such a thing as natural talent in writing? What do you think the speaker of this poem feels about that? How can you tell?
  4. Is it really possible to compare the quality of two poems? What does Bradstreet seem to think is most important in separating the good from the bad?

Chew on This

The speaker of the prologue pretends to be humble and unimpressed with her own abilities, but she spends most of the poem proving what a skilled poet she is. Irony much, speaker?

Instead of agreeing with the male idea of poetry as a competition, the speaker of the poem argues that everyone should have the right to make use of his or her poetic talent (so there, fellas).

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