Dramatic Monologue: Definition & Examples

Dramatic Monologue: Definition & Examples
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  • 0:03 Definition
  • 0:24 Example One
  • 2:22 Example Two
  • 3:38 Example Three
  • 5:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Debbie Notari
In this lesson, we will explore the dramatic monologue, a long piece of dialogue by one character that reveals the character's inner feelings, whether it be in a play, poem or novel.

Definition

A dramatic monologue is a long excerpt in a play, poem or story that reveals a character's thoughts and feelings. When we read a story, sometimes, we can see what a character is thinking, but it isn't always so clear. When a writer allows a character to speak in a monologue, we get to see inside a character's head and then we better understand what motivates that character.

Example One

In this section, we will look at three separate monologues and see how they work. The first monologue is from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the famous 'balcony scene.' As Romeo is hiding in the Capulet garden, waiting for a glimpse of his new love, Juliet steps out onto the balcony. Romeo then reveals his thoughts to the audience through this monologue:

'But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

It is the east and Juliet is the sun!

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief

That thou her maid art far more fair than she.

Be not her maid, since she is envious;

Her vestal livery is but sick and green,

And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off.

It is my lady, O, it is my love!

O that she knew she were!

She speaks, yet she says nothing; what of that?

Her eye discourses, I will answer it.

I am too bold: 'tis not to me she speaks.

Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,

Having some business, do entreat her eyes

To twinkle in their spheres till they return.

What if her eyes were there, they in her head?

The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,

As daylight doth a lamp. Her eyes in heaven

Would through the airy region stream so bright

That birds would sing and think it were not night.

See how she leans her cheek upon her hand

O that I were a glove upon that hand,

That I might touch that cheek!'

Shakespeare is very skilled at using monologues to let his audience see how his characters are feeling and thinking. We see Romeo, deeply infatuated with Juliet. He compares Juliet to the sun rising in the east, and he also reveals that he is 'in love' with Juliet, wishing to touch Juliet's cheek just as her glove does.

Example Two

In T.S. Eliot's The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, Eliot explores the psychological agony of an insecure single young man. The entire poem is a monologue. Here is an excerpt:

'And indeed there will be time

To wonder, 'Do I dare?' and, 'Do I dare?'

Time to turn back and descend the stair,

With a bald spot in the middle of my hair--

(They will say: 'How his hair is growing thin!')

My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,

My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin--

(They will say: 'But how his arms and legs are thin!')

Do I dare

Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.'

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