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What Is a Pentalogy?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 02 September 2016
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A pentalogy is a series of five books or individual literary works that are ultimately part of a single, larger story when viewed together. This is similar to a trilogy, which is a work that consists of three volumes, but is typically longer and often takes on a different structure. Such collections can either be written initially with this structure in mind, or may be worked into a single compilation after publication. A pentalogy may also refer to a single written work that is made up of five individual parts, such as an epic poem consisting of five sections or a play written in five acts.

The purpose of a pentalogy is for a long work to be divided into five individual sections, which can be viewed individually as well as within the context of the greater story. This term is similar to the word “trilogy,” which has the prefix “tri-” to indicate three works; while the prefix “penta-” is used to indicate “five,” as seen in a pentagon or five-sided shape. The three volumes of a trilogy naturally lend themselves to a beginning, middle, and end structure, while a pentalogy might have a longer beginning, an extended middle, or a longer epilogue appended to the formal conclusion.

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One way in which a pentalogy can come together is for a writer to plan out one long work as five individual pieces. This allows the writer to use each piece to tell a shorter but fully realized story, which ultimately comes together as a much longer narrative work. Such planning and execution can be quite difficult, however, so these works are often assembled after completion. The editor for a writer can bring together five individual stories with common characters or themes to create a single pentalogy, which may be easier to publish, sell, and read.

While a pentalogy can be assembled from five individual works, such as a collection of short novels that make up one longer work, it can also occur as a structure within a longer piece of writing. An epic poem, for example, could be divided into five sections, each containing a fully realized work, which function together to form the entire poem. Plays can also be written as a pentalogy, which typically means that a single play consists of five acts. Each of these acts might tell a story or function fairly well on its own, but the overall narrative can only be fully understood and appreciated when viewed as a complete work.

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