What Is a Soliloquy?

A soliloquy is a speech an actor gives that reveals to the audience or viewer how they feel at that moment in the narrative. The soliloquy can serve either one or both of two primary purposes: it can reflect on the character’s inner state of mind, or it can let the viewer know about events and actions that help them to understand what is about to happen. During a soliloquy, the audience comes to understand how a character feels about other characters of circumstances in a more immediate way than they do through dialogue. They may also learn things that the character does not wish to reveal to other characters, such as the motive for a murder plot.

How Do You Identify a Soliloquy in Writing?

Soliloquy occurs most often in Renaissance drama. Unlike monologues, which are long speeches that a character gives in the presence of other characters, a soliloquy takes place when the other characters are off stage. A stage convention is to dim the lights and hone a spotlight on the actor giving the soliloquy, which creates a sense of intimacy; at that moment, nothing but the actor’s thoughts matter.

Examples of Soliloquy

Soliloquy Example 1. Hamlet’s existential soliloquy begins with the words, “To be or not to be — that is the question.”

Soliloquy Example 2. In the reality program Survivor, soliloquy plays an important role in letting the viewer at home know the motives and strategies of players when they are alone, speaking to the camera.

Soliloquy Example 3. Romeo and Juliet contains another famous Shakespearean soliloquy on the balcony, which Juliet begins with the phrase, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”

Soliloquy Example 4. In Act I, scene i of Othello, the audience learns that Iago question’s the king’s judgment in a soliloquy where he states that Othello values “his own pride and purposes” over the word of respected others.


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