What Is A Monologue?

By Darryl Green

  • What Is A Monologue?

    “To be, or not to be: that is the question:
    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
    No more; and by a sleep to say we end
    The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
    That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wish’d…”

    From Shakespeare’s Hamlet

    This long speech by the character Hamlet in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is an example of a monologue. A monologue is a long speech made by a character in a play or film. The speech can be made to other characters in a film. However, there are times when the speech is not made to other characters but, rather, the speech is made to the character by the character. In other words, it is a speech a character makes to himself as part of the character’s self-reflection. This kind of monologue is known as a soliloquy.

    Actor’s use monologues for performance and for auditioning purposes. They perform monologues during live performances before audiences. But, more commonly, actors use monologues when auditioning for roles in plays and films. Performing a monologue well can peak the interest of a talent agent, producer, or director and secure a role in a film, play or television program.

    The Comedic Monologue

    “Hello Blanche, how are you?…Err, yes I have a pretty
    good idea why you’re calling…I’m a week behind with the
    check, right?…Four weeks? That’s not possible…Because
    it’s not possible…Blanche I keep a record of every check
    and I know I’m only three weeks behind!…Blanche, I’m
    trying the best I can…Blanche, don’t threaten me with jail,
    because it’s not a threat, with my expenses and my alimony,
    a prisoner takes home more pay than I do…Very nice in
    front of the kids…Blanche, don’t tell me you’re going to
    have my salary attached, just say goodbye…Goodbye!
    (hangs up, to the others) I’m eight hundred dollars behind
    in alimony, so let’s up the stakes.”.

    From Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple

    If an actor is auditioning for a comedic role in a film, he or she might want to perform a monologue like this. This is an example of a comedic monologue. It is the type of monologue that actors can perform to showcase their comedic talents. Good comedic monologues allow actors to show their ability to do character impressions, facial expressions, funny sounds, movements and demonstrate comedic timing.

    The Dramatic Monologue

    “I’m afraid you can’t budge me. Goodness, yes, you can!
    I’m trying! I know but I’m – Am I? Oh, my! Oh, my goodness!
    Table. Yes. Yes. Now it is just like all the other horses. Horn!
    It doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. I don’t
    have favourites much. It’s no tragedy. Glass breaks so easily.
    No matter how careful you are. The traffic jars the shelves and
    things fall off them. I’ll just imagine he had an operation. The
    horn was removed to make him feel less – freakish! Now he will
    feel more at home with the other horses, the ones that don’t have

    From Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie

    If an actor is auditioning for a dramatic role in a film, he or she might want to perform a monologue like this. This is an example of a dramatic monologue. It is the type of monologue that actors can perform to showcase their dramatic talents. Good dramatic monologues allow the actor to demonstrate an ability to go through a range of emotions, such as fear, sadness, anger or joy.

    The Shakespearean Monologue

    Actors should always have both a comedic and dramatic monologue memorized. This allows an actor to be able to perform an audition at a moment’s notice.

    But, in addition to comedic and dramatic monologues, it is also helpful for an actor to memorize a monologue from one of Shakespeare’s plays, like the one feature above. Memorizing a Shakespearean monologue can showcase the actor’s range and demonstrate his ability to perform in a variety of settings and roles.

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