The First Prologue - Edward Gordon Craig


3 pages


The First Prologue

Edward Gordon Craig | 1914 | Florence, Italy
The First Marionette, The Second Marionette, An Old White Bearded Man, Chorus
Number of acts

The Drama for Fools is a large-scale dramatic cycle containing multiple puppet plays. This cycle kept Craig exceedingly busy between 1916 and 1918. It was supposed to hold 365 short plays and be performed like a traveling show: each night, from 31 April to 31 March, a new play would be shown in a new location. Craig, who wrote his plays under the pen name Tom Fool, stopped writing before the cycle was finished and gave up on performing the play himself. Nonetheless, he stored his drafts in three cardboard boxes, as a collection of typewritten notebooks containing many illustrations and whose covers display words written in colourful calligraphy. He cared immensely for these notebooks, as he improved, corrected, and supplemented them until the 1950s. This collection is today held at the Institut International de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mézières.

The conversation in the prologue is metatheatrical, as two points of view are opposed – that of the marionette who remembers that it was made in the image of Gods, and that of the marionette that behaves like a living actor. It ends with the apparition of a great Burmese master who is on the verge of dying. According to Craig, Birman marionettes were of the most beautiful kind.

There are multiple manuscript and typewritten versions of this text. The oldest one is a manuscript that dates back to 1914, entitled The Scene. It is kept in the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, in Austin. It was first published by Christopher Knowles in the appendix of his book, Edward Gordon Craig – A Vision of Theatre (Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998). Three typewrittten copies, dating from 1918, can be found at the Institut National de la Marionnette. They include various manuscript additions and revisions by Craig, as well as several drawings. Just like the whole Drama for Fools project, this text is written under the pen name “Tom Fool.”

Plot summary

Two puppets quarrel to understand who they are

Two marionettes are hanging in a theatre. After some morning stretches, the First One, in great shape, wakes up the Second One, who is sad and busy pondering. The Second Puppet, persuaded to have a deep soul, lectures the First One, and explains the principles of Good and Evil. He claims to be a living actor and to have been freed from God, his maker, who has become powerless. However, he still needs the First One’s help to untie his strings and be able to move freely. The First One declares that he was created after Buddha. This statement makes The Second One feel bad and he starts gasping. He asks The First One to open the window and then the landscape. A house in Burma appears, inside it is the Burmese master who created The First Puppet. He is very old and on the verge of dying.

Related works
The Drama for Fools, Edward Gordon Craig1914-1918
Composition date

Other titles

The Scene

Publications and translations


Edward Gordon Craig, The First Prologue. Lucile Bodson, Margareta Niculescu, Patrick Pezin (dir.), Passeurs et complices / Passing it on. Montpellier: L'Entretemps, 2008.

Modern edition

Edward Gordon Craig, The Drama for Fools / Le Théâtre des fous. Montpellier: L'Entretemps, 2012.

  • Edward Gordon Craig, The Drama for Fools / Le Théâtre des fous. Montpellier: L'Entretemps, 2012.


Conservation place

Institut International de la Marionnette - Charleville-Mézières, France
Literary tones
Comical, Philosophical tale
Animations techniques
String marionette
Not specified
Institut International de la Marionnette & Edward Gordon Craig Estate


Theatrical techniques


Written by

Didier Plassard