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A monologue is a speech made by one person speaking his or her thoughts aloud or directly addressing a reader, audience or character.

  • It is a common feature in drama, animated cartoons, and film.
  • The word may also be applied to a poem in the form of the thoughts or speech of a single individual.
  • Monologue is a common feature of opera when an aria, recitative or other sung section may carry out a function similar to that of spoken monologues in the theatre.
  • Monologues are often found in twentieth century fiction.
  • Comic monologues have become a standard element of entertainment routines on stage and television.


[edit] Soliloquy (monologue in drama)

Image:A Soliloquy - Punch cartoon - Project Gutenberg eText 14514.png
A Soliloquy.
Youthful Mercury. "What's this 'ere on the plyte? 'Knock and ring'! Blowed if they won't be harsking yer to 'walk hinside', next!!"
Cartoon from Punch magazine, Vol. 102, April 23, 1892

In a monologue in a play or film, the speaking actor need not be alone on the stage or scene; however, none of the supporting cast (in theatre or film) speaks.

There are two basic types of monologues in drama:

Exterior monologue: This is where the actor speaks to another person who is not in the performance space or to the audience.

Interior monologue: This is where the actor speaks as if to himself or herself. It is introspective and reveals the inner motives to the audience. This is also a common device in stream of consciousness writings. Frequently in modern theatre, the actor may deliver the monologue in an "aside" (or a sequence of asides).

Where the character delivering the monologue is alone on stage it may also be described as a 'soliloquy'. Writers such as Shakespeare used the soliloquy to great effect in order to express some of the personal thoughts and emotions of characters without specifically resorting to third-person narration.

It is a dramatic convention that soliloquies and asides cannot be heard or noticed by the other characters, even if they are delivered in their plain view.

A written monologue may contain stage directions for the performer, and might be preceded by information about the monologue's setting. (For example, Samuel Beckett's monologue, Krapp's Last Tape).

The monologue was a significant feature of French classical drama; the monologues of Racine have been highly prized by French actresses, including Rachel and Sarah Bernhardt.

[edit] Dramatic monologue

The dramatic monologue is a poetic form not to be confused with the monologue in drama. It was brought to a high standard by Robert Browning. The form is such wherein the poet writes from a speaker's point of view in the form of an address to a listener who does not respond in the poem. The speaker in the poem generally talks about a subject, but inadvertently reveals something about their character. It gives the poet an opportunity to present his subject in direct 'conversation' with the reader (e.g. Browning's Porphyria's Lover) or places the reader as a 'character' to whom the monologuist speaks (e.g. the same poet's Mr. Sludge the Medium or My Last Duchess). Such poetry combines the dramatic impact of the stage monologue with the potential of more elaborate and suggestive use of language; on the printed page, where the words can be re-read and pondered, there is the potential to evoke more complex layers of intent and meaning.

The term "monologue" is also applied to a form of popular narrative verse, sometimes comic, often dramatic or sentimental, that was performed in music halls or in domestic entertainments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Famous examples include Idylls of the King, The Green Eye of the Yellow God and Christmas Day in the Workhouse.

[edit] Operatic monologue

In early opera and opera seria many arias were effectively monologues expressing the character's state of mind - for example, the well-known Ombra mai fu in Handel's opera Xerxes. However the function of such pieces was generally not, as in drama, to further the action or reveal anything new about the characters, but to provide opportunities for the singer to display his or her musical prowess.

With the libretti of Lorenzo da Ponte for Mozart, such arias began to have more dramatic force. The use of monologue by Wagner in his Ring cycle however brought a new concept of operatic monologue - much of the operas consists of extensive monologues by some of the principal characters, accompanied by music which, by the use of leitmotivs, sometimes underlines and sometimes contradicts what is being sung, giving an additional insight into the character's sub-conscious, as well as his (or her) overt motivation or emotion.

This more dramatic use of operatic monologue was adapted by Verdi and his librettist Boito to good effect in Otello and in Falstaff.

[edit] Interior monologue

Based to some extent on Wagnerian monologue, the interior monologue has become an important feature of much 20th century fiction. The outstanding exemplar is James Joyce, whose novel Ulysses ends with the famous soliloquy of Molly Bloom, and whose Finnegans Wake is apparently one long monologue. Other authors using similar techniques include William Faulkner and Joseph Heller.

[edit] Comic monologue

During the nineteenth and twentieth century a popular feature of variety shows and the music hall in the USA and Britain was the comic monologue. This has evolved into a regular feature of stand-up comedy and television comedy. An opening monologue of a humorous nature is a typical segment of stand-up comedy, and may often form a regular feature of television programmes such as The Tonight Show.

Famous comic monologuists include Dave Chappelle, George Carlin, Jack Parr, Billy Connolly, Bill Cosby, Lord Buckley, Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Rove McManus, Stanley Holloway, George Robert Sims, Ellen DeGeneres, John Leguizamo, Jerry Seinfeld, Don Rickles, Dane Cook and Conan O'Brien. Some of the aforementioned performers often perform what is referred to as a solo show, and some practitioners of the form wrestle with stories and themes which mix the comic and the dramatic, namely Spalding Gray, Garrison Keillor, and Eric Bogosian.

[edit] Monologuing

Also known as the villain speech, monologuing is a common fiction cliché in which the villain of the story will take a moment to gloat in front of the hero, who the villain believes will soon meet his demise. Commonly used in conjunction with the deathtrap, fictional villains have a habit of pontificating on how said victim will soon die, and reminiscing over how he tried for so long to get his kill and is now about to reap the reward. Villains may also give away details of their evil plots, on the rationale that the victim will die immediately. This speech almost always results in giving the hero time to escape the trap, providing the protagonist critical information he needs to defeat the villain, or filling in plot background that has not yet been revealed to the audience. The term monologuing was first noted in popular culture in the animated film, The Incredibles, although the idea suffuses comic book plotting.

Along with comic books, James Bond films feature some of the earliest monologue/deathtrap combinations. The practice reached its most absurd level in the Batman live action show of the late sixties. In almost every episode, Batman and Robin would be defeated and captured, then the villain would reveal a ludicrously elaborate deathtrap, finally, the villain would monologue about how the heroes would die and what their plan was. These shows/movies were later lampooned in the Austin Powers movies, and on Venture Bros. The Last Action Hero and other shows by which time all seriousness is removed and the monologue/deathtrap becomes a joke.

Occasionally villains will have motives for their speech: they think the hero regards them as inferior, and wish to point out, in detail, the marks of their superiority, or they wish to have their plan admired by the one man who could appreciate the cleverness involved. The prevalence of the cliche, however, can make even such motivated speeches look implausible.

Examples include:

  • From Russia With Love's assassin, Donald "Red" Grant, can barely resist the temptation to gloat over James Bond's impending demise, allowing himself to reveal the true architect of the plot (SPECTRE) and the finer points of how MI6 will be scandalized with circumstantial evidence surrounding Bond's (faked) murder/suicide. After Bond implies that he's a psychotic, Grant loses his repose and (despite not uttering a word for most of the film), icily tells the secret agent that he'll die a slow and agonizing death.

[edit] Dramatic monologues

[edit] Monologue sources

es:Monólogo fr:Monologue gl:Soliloquio it:Monologo he:מונולוג nl:Monoloog ja:モノローグ no:Monolog pl:Monolog pt:Monólogo ru:Монолог sk:Monológ sl:Samogovor fi:Monologi sv:Monolog zh:獨角戲


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