What Is a Monologue?
If you have a friend or relative who likes to hear himself talk, you already know what a monologue is. It is an uninterrupted, one-sided conversation in which a person — a college professor, your drunk uncle at the Thanksgiving table — addresses a specific audience.
Dating back to ancient Greek drama, where they played an essential role, monologues remain staple feature of plays and films. For instance, Samuel L. Jackson delivers several colorful monologues to fellow gangster John Travolta in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. These erudite speeches contrast starkly with Jackson’s role as a hitman for his mob boss and help to destabilize the viewer’s feeling of repulsion toward this bad guy. Monologues provide character development, give exposition, or identify key themes.
How Do You Identify Monologues in Writing?
There are two primary kinds of literary monologue. The first occurs in theater, when an actor addresses a speech either to another character on stage or to the audience. This type of monologue is not the same as a soliloquy, in which the actor speaks to himself, or an aside, where the actor addresses a quick comment directly to the audience.
A dramatic monologue actually sounds like something that belongs in a play. Instead, it refers to a type of persona poem in which the author speaks as another character, either a historical figure, a literary character, or an imaginary figure. Dramatic monologues consist of that persona revealing an important revelation about their life in monologue form. Like monologues on stage, dramatic monologues either address a person in the narrative setting of the poem, or they address the audience directly.
Examples of Monologue
1. Samuel L. Jackson’s "Ezekiel 25:17" monologue from Pulp Fiction is considered one of the best in film history.
2. Jack Nicholson delivers a powerful monologue in the 1992 film, A Few Good Men, including the famous and oft-quoted line, "You can’t handle the truth."
3. Konstanin’s monologue in Anton Chekhov’s The Seagulls begins with the line, "She loves me; she loves me not" and ends with the character’s sad realization that his mother does not love him.
4. In Robert Browning’s dramatic monologue "My Last Duchess," the persona of the duke delivers a chilling monlogue of how he killed his wife.
5. In Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, Claudio delivers a monlogue asking his sister to sacrifice her virginity in order to spare his life.
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