Monologue Examples In Literature

The monologue is an important and compelling means of narration and has a great expressive function in the literature and drama. It enables the character to convey his ideas, feelings and course of action to the public for a better view point.

Definition of Monologue

The term ‘monologue’ is borrowed from the Greek words ‘monos’, which means single and ‘logos’ means speech. A monologue refers to a solo speech that is given by an individual character in a play, film or any other literary piece. The dialogue involves multiple characters but monologue focus on the single character’s perspective.

The speech in monologue is aimed towards other characters and audience. It sets out numerous purposes within the story. Monologues indicate the inner thoughts of the character, emotions and motivations, which usually can’t be exactly portrayed through behavior or dialogue with another character.

Functions of Monologue

In literature and drama, monologues serve many functions. First of all, they create an opportunity to reveal the character’s personality to the viewers, using such a perspective that they will be able to see the character’s emotions.

Such contemplation results in the development of the empathy factor that is capable of allowing a character to effectively elicit positive feelings from an audience.

For example, in William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, the main character Hamlet delivers an enlightening soliloquy where he pours out his soul, talking about suicide and life and death, and expressing all his inner turmoil that the character undergoes.

Secondly, monologues can be used for plot-progression, as it reveals new information, which the audience needs to be aware of as well as the relevant history and setting of the events taking place in the context.

These may cover past, history, experiences, or any significant episode in life that led to the present position.

For example, in Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”, Willy Loman’s soliloquies play an essential role of revealing more information about him, his American’s dream, his failure enriching the story and the main character.

Thirdly, monologues can be used manipulatively as a means of persuading the other person. Monologues could be used to convince other characters about some issue, explain something that was done or performed, or even gain sympathy.

One of the examples of this particular rhetorical function can be seen in the play ‘Julius Caesar,’ where Mark Antony speaks the funeral oration of Caesar. In his speech, Antony swings the uncontrolled crowd against Brutus and other conspirators and demonstrates the power of a monologue.

Monologues can also paint the picture of character changes and developments throughout the plot. When characters solve their issues and state their ideas or opinions in texts, the audience sees them evolving, gaining insight, or transforming physically at that very moment.

This aspect can be seen in Tennessee William’s play “The Glass Menagerie” whereby the character of Tom Wingfield gives an opening monologue before the play starts and a closing monologue at the end of the play, thus illustrating his transformation and the effect of his memories on him.

Monologue Examples in Literature

Example#1

“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare

“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.”

The soliloquy of Hamlet is a very important scene in the play. Here, Hamlet opens his analysis concerning the existence of life and even value of death and life.

He balances this suffering of life ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ with the idea of taking some form of action to combat and eliminate the ‘sea of troubles’. This soliloquy portrays Hamlet as a man in despair, a man plagued by the option to live a meaningless life and suffer or to die and cease to exist.

Here, the soliloquy serves multiple functions: It enlightens us about the mind of Hamlet, bestowing emphasis on the stagnation and hesitation, which are considered the key elements of the main character’s personality.

Further, it appeals to the emotions of the audience as invites people to join the protagonist in his thinking process, which makes them more compassionate toward the main character. This moment shares a reflective mood, therefore highlighting aspects of life and death, and enabling the viewers and listeners to grapple with the intricacies of the human mind.

Example#2

“Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller

“I am not a dime a dozen! I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman!
…The door of your life is wide open! But I have a feeling that the second you’re not
looking, I’ll go right through it.”

The final scene where Willy Loman delivers a monologue that shows his desperation for trying to reclaim something, no matter how insignificant it is and his strained relationship with his son, Biff.

In this way, by saying “I am not a dime a dozen! I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman!” Willy again emphasizes a very weak conception of oneself as a unique glorious hero that would function as a way of regaining control in the socially constructed self.

It is this moment that reveals one of Willy’s primary issues – the lack of self-esteem and desire to break out of the mediocre existence he leads with his family and in society.

The monologue also shows that Willy is unsure about the future of Biff, that he wants Biff to become something, but he is also afraid that he won’t make it. This can be seen when Willy says: “The door of your life is wide open! But I have a feeling that the second you’re not looking, I’ll go right through it.”

On the one hand, Willy here reassures Biff about his great potential; on the other hand, Willy’s words expose not only his fear of abandonment but also of the thought of being overshadowed by his son. This duality captures the essence of Willy’s character. It makes the audience realized of his unfulfilled aspirations to make his son successful.

Example#3

“The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams

“I didn’t go to the moon, I went much further—for time is the longest distance between two places.”

The line is the key to the story, the moment when Tom discovers that running away from his physical place did not help him escape his past and duties. This monologue shows that he has remorse and that his actions dealt a severe blow to his life and shows the contrast between the two worlds – illusion and reality, which has been demonstrated in the play.

Through this monologue, the character of Tom has the chance to express his inner struggle and guilt for rejecting his family. Tom writes ‘time is the longest distance between two places,’ which basically means while he will physically move away from his current oppressive work environment, he cannot escape time of his life and its impact on relationships, and perhaps himself.

This draws the audience more into the mind of Tom and his character; this claustrophobic background and timelessness signify that the past always haunted him and drove a wedge between him and his son.

Example#4

“Julius Caesar” by Mark Antony in Shakespeare

Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my
cause, and be silent, that you may hear: believe me
for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that
you may believe: censure me in your wisdom, and awake
your senses, that you may the better judge. If there
be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Caesar’s,
to him I say, that Brutus’ love to Caesar was no less
than his. If then that friend demand why Brutus rose
against Caesar, this is my answer:—Not that I loved
Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. Had you rather
Caesar were living, and die all slaves, than that
Caesar were dead, to live all free men? As Caesar
loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I
rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him: but, as
he was ambitious, I slew him. There is tears for his
love; joy for his fortune; honour for his valour; and
death for his ambition. Who is here so base that would
be a bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended.
Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If any,
speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so vile
that will not love his country? If any, speak; for him
have I offended. I pause for a reply.

In this monologue, Brutus speaks to the people of Rome and voices his reason for plotting and killing Julius Caesar.

He appears before them as an honorable and patriotic man who acting for the good of Rome and the desire to save the Republic from Caesar’s desire for tyranny. Brutus delivering an appeal to emotion that expresses self-restraint and employs logos when arguing against killing Caesar but the love that he has for Rome is even greater.

He claims that this was done in the best interest of the people by removing a tyrant and an aspiring dictator who was likely to enslave the people. In this speech, Brutus wants to convince them that he has acted legally for the people’s good and for Rome.

This speech portray Brutus personal struggle of his loyalty to the cause of the Romans freedom and betrayal of the act of killing Caesar.

Example#5

“Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

“I did not kill a human being, but a principle! Yes, a principle I killed! And I didn’t do that for my own advantage but for its own sake! It was not money I wanted but the removal of obstacles… I wanted to be a Napoleon, that’s why I killed her…”

Rodion Raskolnikov delivered a monologue to justify the murder of the pawnbroker as an act against the entire society that violates the unfair social law.

Concerning him directly, when he compares himself to Napoleon, it defines how he was delusional and thought of himself as utterly unique and above the law, and that the crime was necessary to enforce this belief.

This monologue is quite important in the novel because it emphasizes Raskolnikov’s philosophical struggle. It aims at illustrating the utilitarian views of the world as opposed to morality in as much as he tries to justify his actions as being in the interest of the greater good.

However, the monologue also shows vulnerability and his guilty conscience, as well as showing the psychological state following such actions, as the reasons provided for such behavior cannot hide from the inner voice. This makes the audience empathize with Raskolnikov’s character even more, showing the devastation that ideology can bring when it turns into a non-humanistic egotistical practice.

Example#6

“A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen

“I have been performing tricks for you, Torvald. That’s how I’ve survived. You wanted it like that. You and Papa have committed a great sin against me. It is your fault that I have made nothing of my life… I must stand quite alone if I am to understand myself and everything about me.”

This monologue represents a turning point of the play: Nora Helmer awakening and becoming an empowered individual. Nora is conscious that she has been living a life altogether built based on the expectations and whims of males present in her life – her father and husband, Torvald.

If the full richness of the things described does not come through, the badge/ornament/pet manipulativeness of her performing tricks indicates just how deeply she subjugated herself to their expectations of her, living a life as compliant and passive as an object rather than an active subject.


The latter monologue is valuable since it occupies a place in a process of Nora’s awakening and her decision to become the person who does not depend on others.

She understands the ‘biggest transgression’ they perpetrated against her—effacing her as a unique person in control of her own development. Forcing one’s will and dominating of the individual represents the oppressive power that Nora has to escape to emerge as who she really is.

Not only does this moment of monologue bring the drama forward, but it underlines the very message of the play concerning individual searches for identity, gender roles, and freedom throughout the framework of the critique of the norms that Ibsen offers.

Example#7

“The History Boys” by Alan Bennett

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – that you’d thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”

Hector’s monologue successfully expresses his love for humanities and for the fact that literature can effectively connect people and events otherwise separated by the vastness of the time and space; it might be as well, perhaps even much to the point, addressing the play’s themes of knowledge, learning, and what it means to be a human.

Related literary devices

1- Soliloquy

A soliloquy is a type of monologue, where a character utters his or her thoughts alone on the stage. This device is employed to explain to the audience the character’s thought processes, feelings, and needs, thereby allowing the spectators to gain insight into the inner turmoil experienced by the protagonist. Soliloquy differs from a monologue in that the latter can be performed with references to other characters or the viewers but soliloquy is only internal.

2- Aside

An aside is an incidental remark or conversation between character and the audience and is… usually delivered when other characters are present. It enables a character to reveal something to the audience, be it his/her feelings, plans, or some information, but without the other characters over-hearing. An asides can be a form of humor, personal to the character, a hint of conspiracy to the audience on stage directly making the audience the characters friend.

Monologue Examples In Literature
Monologue Examples In Literature

Monologues are one of the truly essential and quite universal mechanisms in literature and drama, indispensable for the overall development of the work. Even today, the monologue is a major tool of successful storytelling that allows the characters to tell their story and stay true to emotions and the viewers.

Despite the advancements in technology and the changes in human experiences, monologues as part of the literature and dramatic performance retains its relevance to this date, so it is considered to be valuable to the readers and spectators.

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