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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.

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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 griefThat 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 eyesTo 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 heavenWould through the airy region stream so brightThat birds would sing and think it were not night.

See how she leans her cheek upon her handO 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 timeTo 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 dareDisturb the universe?In a minute there is timeFor decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.’In this revealing portion of the poem, J.

Alfred Prufrock is wondering if he should go attend a party or not. It could even be a class reunion. He is overly concerned about what others think of him. Will they see his bald spot? Will they think he is too thin? And the next line is one of the best in the poem, ‘Do I dare disturb the universe?’ Prufrock is so wrapped up in himself that he feels that his going to the party might disturb the universe.

Example Three

Robert Browning’s poem My Last Duchess is the final example of a monologue that we will examine.In this poem, a Duke is showing the envoy of his future bride a portrait of his former wife, or his last ‘Duchess.’ As the poem moves forward, the Duke reveals his anger towards his last duchess for what he perceived as infidelity, and we realize that the Duke has murdered her for it. Here is a portion of the poem:’That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,Looking as if she were alive. I callThat piece a wonder, now: Fr; Pandolf’s handsWorked busily a day, and there she stands.

Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said’Frà Pandolf’ by design, for never readStrangers like you that pictured countenance,The depth and passion of its earnest glance,But to myself they turned (since none puts byThe curtain I have drawn for you, but I)And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,How such a glance came there; so, not the firstAre you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas notHer husband’s presence only, called that spotOf joy into the Duchess’ cheek’The last few lines of this monologue reveal the Duke’s paranoid, possessive nature when he says that it wasn’t just his love that brought color into his former wife’s cheek.’ The monologue reveals more than we would think the Duke might want his future in-laws to know!

Lesson Summary

The dramatic monologue is a tool a writer uses to reveal characters’ thoughts and feelings. This helps us understand why a character acts as he or she does and enhances the depth of the plot.

Learning Outcome

Your completion of this lesson could coincide with your ability to interpret a character’s feelings and emotions by analyzing a few examples of dramatic dialogue.

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