The Prologue comes forth to apologize for this new play, which is based on a tale of Chaucer’s, and expresses the worry that it will not be worthy of the original and therefore make Chaucer roll over in his grave. He hopes that the audience will enjoy the show. (32 lines)
New plays and maidenheads are near akin—
Much follow’d both, for both much money gi’n,
If they stand sound and well; and a good play
(Whose modest scenes blush on his marriage-day,
And shake to lose his honor) is like her
That after holy tie and first night’s stir,
Yet still is modesty, and still retains
More of the maid to sight than husband’s pains.
We pray our play may be so; for I am sure
It has a noble breeder and a pure,
A learned, and a poet never went
More famous yet ’twixt Po and silver Trent.
Chaucer (of all admir’d) the story gives;
There constant to eternity it lives.
If we let fall the nobleness of this,
And the first sound this child hear be a hiss,
How will it shake the bones of that good man,
And make him cry from under ground, “O, fan
From me the witless chaff of such a writer
That blasts my bays and my fam’d works makes lighter
Than Robin Hood!” This is the fear we bring;
For to say truth, it were an endless thing,
And too ambitious, to aspire to him,
Weak as we are, and almost breathless swim
In this deep water. Do but you hold out
Your helping hands, and we shall tack about
And something do to save us. You shall hear
Scenes, though below his art, may yet appear
Worth two hours’ travail. To his bones sweet sleep!
Content to you! If this play do not keep
A little dull time from us, we perceive
Our losses fall so thick we must needs leave.