A pentalogy is a compound literary or narrative work that is made up of five (numerical prefix
Numerical prefix
Number prefixes are prefixes derived from numbers or numerals. In English and other European languages, they are used to coin numerous series of words, such as unicycle – bicycle – tricycle, dyad – triad – decade, biped – quadruped, September – October – November – December, decimal – hexadecimal,...

 penta-) distinct works, just as a trilogy
A trilogy is a set of three works of art that are connected, and that can be seen either as a single work or as three individual works. They are commonly found in literature, film, or video games...

 is made up of three works, and a tetralogy of four. Although use of the word might seem to imply that the structure was intended by the author, historically, a pentalogia could be assembled by a later editor, just as Plotinus
Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his system of theory there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition...

's Enneads
The Six Enneads, sometimes abbreviated to The Enneads or Enneads , is the collection of writings of Plotinus, edited and compiled by his student Porphyry . Plotinus was a student of Ammonius Saccas and they were founders of Neoplatonism...

were arranged in nines by Porphyry
Porphyry (philosopher)
Porphyry of Tyre , Porphyrios, AD 234–c. 305) was a Neoplatonic philosopher who was born in Tyre. He edited and published the Enneads, the only collection of the work of his teacher Plotinus. He also wrote many works himself on a wide variety of topics...

 in order to create an overarching structure of six which would express the idea of perfection
Perfect number
In number theory, a perfect number is a positive integer that is equal to the sum of its proper positive divisors, that is, the sum of its positive divisors excluding the number itself . Equivalently, a perfect number is a number that is half the sum of all of its positive divisors i.e...


In Western literature, the oldest quinary structure with great influence would be the Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 or Pentateuch; in the Far East, it is the Five Classics. The most famous pentalogy in medieval literature is Nizami Ganjavi's Panj Ganj, or Khamsa ("Five Treasures"), a collection of five epics which was composed in the latter half of the 12th century. They were Makhzan al-Asrar, Khusraw o Shirin, Layli o Majnun, Eskandar-nameh, and Haft Paykar.

The idea was widely imitated, the number five being seen as having mystical significance
Hamsa or Khamsa can refer to:*Arabic  "five, quintet"** Ḫamsa, a Near Eastern symbol often used as a protective amulet** a commonly used alternative name for the Panj Ganj or Quinary, ie quintet of Nizami's first five great epics*Sanskrit ...

; for example, the 16th century poet Faizi
Shaikh Abu al-Faiz ibn Mubarak, popularly known by his pen-name, Faizi was a poet of late medieval India. In 1588, he became the Malik-ush-Shu'ara of Akbar's Court. He was the elder brother of Akbar's historian Abul Fazl...

, the poet laureate of Akbar's court, attempted a work on the same scale, but completed only three of the intended five parts. Other famous examples include Amir Khusro
Amir Khusro
Ab'ul Hasan Yamīn ud-Dīn Khusrow , better known as Amīr Khusrow Dehlawī , was an Indian musician, scholar and poet. He was an iconic figure in the cultural history of the Indian subcontinent...

: Khamsa-e-Nizami (13th century), a pentalogy of classical romances, and Ali-Shir Nava'i: Khamsa (16th century).

The fivefold structure is usually first encountered by an English-speaking reader in the plays of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, which, like nearly all English, French and German plays of the period, are divided into five acts, even when the narrative of the play hardly seems to demand it; in his Essay on Comedy (1877), George Meredith
George Meredith
George Meredith, OM was an English novelist and poet of the Victorian era.- Life :Meredith was born in Portsmouth, England, a son and grandson of naval outfitters. His mother died when he was five. At the age of 14 he was sent to a Moravian School in Neuwied, Germany, where he remained for two...

 wrote sardonically that "Five is dignity with a trailing robe; whereas one, or two, or three acts would be short skirts, and degrading." The origin of this tradition was examined by Brander Matthews
Brander Matthews
James Brander Matthews , was a U.S. writer and educator. Matthews was the first U.S. professor of dramatic literature.-Biography:...

 in A Book about the Theater. It could be traced to Horace
Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

Neve minor, neu sit quinto productior actu
Fabula, quae posci volt et spectanda reponi;
Five acts a play must have, nor more nor less,
To keep the stage and have a marked success.

Brander explains that Horace came to this conclusion on the basis of the drama of Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

And apparently Euripides was far more interested in his play, in his plot, and in his characters, than in these extraneous lyric passages, so he reduced them to the lowest possible number, generally to four [...] separating the pathetic play into five episodes in dialog. The Alexandrian tragedians [...] accepted his form as final.

Coming long after Horace, Seneca
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

 unhesitatingly accepted all the restrictions insisted upon by the Latin lyrist. [...] It is not to be wondered at that the Italian scholars of the Renascence followed the precept of Horace and the practise of Seneca. They were far more at home in Latin than they were in Greek; and they could hardly help reading into the literature of Athens what they were already familiar with in the authors of Rome. [...] So it is that Scaliger
Julius Caesar Scaliger
Julius Caesar Scaliger was an Italian scholar and physician who spent a major part of his career in France. He employed the techniques and discoveries of Renaissance humanism to defend Aristotelianism against the new learning...

 and Minturno
Antonio Minturno
Antonio Sebastiano Minturno was an Italian poet and critic, and Bishop of Ugento. His influential literary theories were largely Aristotelian. He was born at Minturno, then part of the Kingdom of Naples....

 prescribe five acts, and that Castelvetro
Lodovico Castelvetro
Lodovico Castelvetro was an important figure in the development of neo-classicism, especially in drama. It was his reading of Aristotle that led to a widespread adoption of a tight version of the Three Unities, as a dramatic standard....

 [...] points out that poets seem to have found the five-act form most suitable. [... T]he French dramatic poems, composed a little later, were imitations of these Italians...

Lawrence Durrell
Lawrence Durrell
Lawrence George Durrell was an expatriate British novelist, poet, dramatist, and travel writer, though he resisted affiliation with Britain and preferred to be considered cosmopolitan...

's pentalogy The Avignon Quintet
The Avignon Quintet
The Avignon Quintet is a five-volume series of novels by British writer Lawrence Durrell, published between 1974 and 1985. The novels are openly metafictional and reflect the developments in experimental fiction following after Durrell's previous The Alexandria Quartet...

(1974-85) is an example of the reappearance of numerological
Numerology is any study of the purported mystical relationship between a count or measurement and life. It has many systems and traditions and beliefs...

 ideas in modern fiction. In an attempt to subvert the normal linear structure, Durrell explicitly specified it as a quincunx
A quincunx is a geometric pattern consisting of five points arranged in a cross, that is five coplanar points, four of them forming a square or rectangle and a fifth at its center...

 and related it to the Gnostical interpretations. The best-known discussion of this shape in English literature is Thomas Browne
Thomas Browne
Sir Thomas Browne was an English author of varied works which reveal his wide learning in diverse fields including medicine, religion, science and the esoteric....

's essay The Garden of Cyrus
The Garden of Cyrus
The Garden of Cyrus or The Quincunciall Lozenge, or Network Plantations of the Ancients, naturally, artificially, mystically considered is a Discourse written by Sir Thomas Browne. It was first published in 1658, along with its diptych companion, Urn-Burial...

, which relies on Pythagorean
Pythagoreanism was the system of esoteric and metaphysical beliefs held by Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans, who were considerably influenced by mathematics. Pythagoreanism originated in the 5th century BCE and greatly influenced Platonism...

 traditions, but Durrell goes much further afield, relating it to Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is a temple complex at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the king Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu,...

 and the Kundalini
Kundalini literally means coiled. In yoga, a "corporeal energy" - an unconscious, instinctive or libidinal force or Shakti, lies coiled at the base of the spine. It is envisioned either as a goddess or else as a sleeping serpent, hence a number of English renderings of the term such as 'serpent...

. The purpose of the work was to go beyond his previous tetralogy The Alexandria Quartet
The Alexandria Quartet
The Alexandria Quartet is a tetralogy of novels by British writer Lawrence Durrell, published between 1957 and 1960. A critical and commercial success, the books present four perspectives on a single set of events and characters in Alexandria, Egypt, before and during World War II.As Durrell...

. In an interview, Durrell agreed with James P. Carley that "Christianity as we know it is a quaternity with a suppressed fourth" and a critic describes his ambition as being that of "achieving the 'quintessence
Aether (classical element)
According to ancient and medieval science aether , also spelled æther or ether, is the material that fills the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere.-Mythological origins:...

', that is in its combination of Eastern spirituality and Western science leading to the global vision of 'Reality Prime'."
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