The crowd demands that the play proceed immediately. Jupiter, believing that he will be murdered by the crowd if he waits and hung by the Cardinal if he proceeds, trembles nervously until a young man takes the stage and tells him to begin and he will accept the blame. Jupiter retires behind the curtain and the crowd anxiously awaits the start. The young man is clad in a threadbare garment of black serge. He returns to his place by a pillar directly in front of the stage where he is hailed by two young women, Lienarde and Gisquette, who shyly at first but with increasing boldness ask him about the nature of the play. They are disappointed to learn it is a morality and will not, in their estimation, be as entertaining as other plays they have seen. The young man, however, defends the worthiness of the play and explains that he is its author.
The play commences with music and four players make their way to the stage where they bow before the audience. The actors commence upon a prologue that is largely ignored by their audience, which prefers to examine their costumes. All four are in yellow and white gowns, the first of brocade, the second of silk, the third of wool and the fourth of linen. The first is Nobility and carries a sword, the second is Clergy and carries two golden keys, the third is Trade and carries a pair of scales and the fourth is Labor and holds a spade. Clergy and Labor are male and Nobility and Trade are, as indicated by their dress, female. The prologue reveals that Labor is married to Trade and Nobility is married to Clergy and that these two couples possess a between them a golden dolphin which they intend to confer upon the damsel they judge to be most beautiful in all the world. Having already visited much of the world they have arrived on the stage to decide the question.
Pierre Gringoire was overflowing with joy as he watched his play when a beggar with a wounded arm, who had stationed himself on a pillar and was making gestures of supplication, caught the attention of the scholar Joannes who cried out “Look at that sham leper there asking alms!” The scholars cry had the effect of interrupting the prologue and the audience happily turned their attention to this new distraction. While Gringoire desperately entreats the players to continue Gisquette, much to the authors consternation, asks him to explain the prologue. The players continue and the audience returns its attention to the stage. The players expound the wondrous characteristics of the dolphin and are once more hitting their stride when they are again interrupted by the loud voice of an usher in the galley announcing the arrival of the Cardinal of Bourbon.