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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 most commonly found in literature, film, or video games, less commonly in visual art or musical works.

Most trilogies are works of fiction involving the same characters or setting, such as The Deptford Trilogy of novels by Robertson Davies or The Godfather films of Francis Ford Coppola. Others are connected only by theme: for example, each film of Krzysztof Kieślowski's Three Colors trilogy explores one of the political ideals of the French Republic (liberty, equality, fraternity) and each novel in Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy uses formats from detective fiction to explore existential questions. Trilogies can also be connected in less obvious ways, such as "The Nova Trilogy" of novels by William S. Burroughs, each written using Brion Gysin's cut-up technique.

Occasionally, the term is applied to music, such as the Berlin Trilogy of David Bowie, linked together by their musical sound and lyrical themes, and the fact that part of them was recorded in Berlin, Germany.

It's not entirely clear why three works, rather than two or four or more, should be the iconic grouping.

Trilogies — and series in general — are common in science fiction and fantasy because of the artistic importance of complex ideas and the commercial importance of brand names.

A trilogy is different from a triptych, which is three related or connected paintings that are created at one time and designed to be viewed only as a single work.



Ancient trilogies

Trilogies date back to ancient times. In the Dionysia festivals of ancient Greece, for example, trilogies of plays were performed followed by a fourth satyr play. The Oresteia is the only surviving trilogy of these ancient Greek plays, originally performed at the festival in Athens in 458 BC. The three Theban plays, or Oedipus cycle, by Sophocles, originating in 5th century BC, is not a true example of a trilogy because the plays were written at separate times and with different themes/purposes.

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