Dramatic monologue

M. H. Abrams notes the following three features of the dramatic monologue as it applies to poetry:

  1. A single person, who is patently not the poet, utters the speech that makes up the whole of the poem, in a specific situation at a critical moment […].
  2. This person addresses and interacts with one or more other people; but we know of the auditors' presence, and what they say and do, only from clues in the discourse of the single speaker.
  3. The main principle controlling the poet's choice and formulation of what the lyric speaker says is to reveal to the reader, in a way that enhances its interest, the speaker's temperament and character.[1]


Types of monologues

One of the most important influences on the development of the dramatic monologue is the Romantic poets. The long, personal lyrics typical of the Romantic period are not dramatic monologues, in the sense that they do not, for the most part, imply a concentrated narrative. However, poems such as William Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey and Percy Bysshe Shelley's Mont Blanc, to name two famous examples, offered a model of close psychological observation and philosophical or pseudo-philosophical inquiry described in a specific setting.

The novel and plays have also been important influences on the dramatic monologue, particularly as a means of characterisation. Dramatic monologues are a way of expressing the views of a character and offering the audience greater insight into that character's feelings. Dramatic monologues can also be used in novels to tell stories, as in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and to implicate the audience in moral judgments, as in Albert Camus' The Fall and Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Monologues are also linked with soliliquys- Such as in Macbeth, when Lady Macbeth reads a letter to herself and then speaks her thoughts as though she is thinking.

The Victorian Period

The Victorian period represented the high point of the dramatic monologue in English poetry.

  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Ulysses, published in 1842, has been called the first true dramatic monologue. After Ulysses, Tennyson's most famous efforts in this vein are Tithonus, The Lotos-Eaters, and St. Simon Stylites, all from the 1842 Poems; later monologues appear in other volumes, notably Idylls of the King.
  • Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach and Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse are famous, semi-autobiographical monologues. The former, usually regarded as the supreme expression of the growing skepticism of the mid-Victorian period, was published along with the later in 1867's New Poems.

Other Victorian poets also used the form. Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote several, including Jenny and The Blessed Damozel; Christina Rossetti wrote a number, including The Convent Threshold. Algernon Charles Swinburne's Hymn to Proserpine has been called a dramatic monologue vaguely reminiscent of Browning's work.


Examples of dramatic monologues in the theatre include The Stronger (1898) by August Strindberg, Krapp's Last Tape (1958) by Samuel Beckett and Landscape by Harold Pinter.

See also


  1. ^ M. H. Abrams, gen. ed. "Dramatic Monologue." A Glossary of Literary Terms. 8th ed. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005. 70-71.


  • Howe, Elisabeth A. (1996). The Dramatic Monologue. Boston: Twayne Publishers. pp. 166 pages. ISBN 0-8057-0969-X. 
  • Byron, Glennis (2003). Dramatic monologue. New York: Routledge. pp. 208 pages. ISBN 0-415-22937-5. 
  • Arco Publishing (2002). Arco Master the Ap English Language & Composition Test 2003 (Master the Ap English Language & Composition Test). New York: Arco. pp. 288 pages. ISBN 0-7689-0991-0. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • dramatic monologue — n. a poetic monologue which presents a character and a situation solely by means of that character s own words …   English World dictionary

  • dramatic monologue — a poetic form in which a single character, addressing a silent auditor at a critical moment, reveals himself or herself and the dramatic situation. Also called dramatic lyric. [1930 35] * * * ▪ poetic form       a poem written in the form of a… …   Universalium

  • dramatic monologue — noun Date: circa 1935 a literary work (as a poem) in which a speaker s character is revealed in a monologue usually addressed to a second person …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • dramatic monologue — noun : a literary work (as a poem) in which the character of a protagonist is vividly revealed in a monologue addressed to another person or a group of persons usually with interplay of speaker and audience …   Useful english dictionary

  • dramatic monologue — dramat′ic mon′ologue n. lit. a literary form in which a character, addressing a silent auditor at a critical moment, reveals himself or herself and the dramatic situation • Etymology: 1930–35 …   From formal English to slang

  • Monologue — For the Malayalam film, Monologue, see Anantaram. In theatre, a monologue (or monolog) is a speech presented by a single character, most often to express their thoughts aloud, though sometimes also to directly address another character or the… …   Wikipedia

  • monologue — monologic /mon euh loj ik/, monological, adj. monologist /mon euh law gist, log ist, meuh nol euh jist/, monologuist /mon euh law gist, log ist/, n. /mon euh lawg , log /, n. 1. a form of dramatic entertainment, comedic solo, or the like by a… …   Universalium

  • Dramatic convention — Dramatic Conventions are the specific actions or techniques the actor, writer or director has employed to create a desired dramatic effect/style. A dramatic convention is a set of rules,which both the audience and actors are familiar with and… …   Wikipedia

  • Monologue — Mon o*logue, n. [F. monologue, Gr. ? speaking alone; mo nos alone, single, sole + lo gos speech, discourse, le gein to speak. See {Legend}.] 1. A speech uttered by a person alone; soliloquy; also, talk or discourse in company, in the strain of a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • monologue — monologue, soliloquy Both words (the first Greek and the second Latin in origin) denote a single person s act of speaking or thinking aloud; soliloquy generally refers to dramatic utterances without consciousness of an audience, whereas monologue …   Modern English usage

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