Dramatic Monologue

Definition of Dramatic Monologue

Dramatic monologue means self-conversation, speech or talks which includes interlocutor presented dramatically. It means a person, who is speaking to himself or someone else speaks to reveal specific intentions of his actions. However, in literature, it is a poetic form or a poem that presents the speech or conversation of a person in a dramatic manner.

Features of a Dramatic Monologue

A dramatic monologue has these common features in them.

  1. A single person delivering a speech on one aspect of his life
  2. The audience may or may not be present
  3. Speaker reveals his temperament and character only through his speech

Types of Dramatic Monologue

There are three major types of dramatic monologues such as:

  1. Romantic monologue
  2. Philosophical and psychological monologue
  3. Conversational monologue

Dramatic Monologue Examples from Literature

Example #1

My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning

“That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,

Looking as if she were alive. I call

That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands

Worked busily a day, and there she stands.

Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said

“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read

Strangers like you that pictured countenance,

The depth and passion of its earnest glance,

But to myself they turned (since none puts by

The 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 first

Are you to turn and ask thus.”

This extract is from the famous monologue of a duke. He tells his audience, possibly the father of his new bride, about his last duchess who could not survive his severity. It is a type of psychological monologue which tells the psychological state of mind of the speaker. Browning has exposed the duke’s cruel state of mind through this poem “My Last Duchess.”

Example #2

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot

 “Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherized upon a table;

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

The muttering retreats

Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:

Streets that follow like a tedious argument

Of insidious intent

To lead you to an overwhelming question …

Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”

Let us go and make our visit.”

This extract is from the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot, a famous and popular modern poet. He has highlighted the thoughts of a modern young man who is madly in love but still hesitates from expressing it. Therefore, he faces an existential dilemma. The poem highlights his psychological state of mind through this contemporary monologue. This extract highlights this dilemma of hesitation in the very first line and then is repeated in the last line.

 Example #3

“Lady Lazarus” by Sylvia Plath

 I have done it again.

One year in every ten

I manage it—

A sort of walking miracle, my skin

Bright as a Nazi lampshade,

My right foot

A paperweight,

My face a featureless, fine

Jew linen.

This extract is from the famous monologue of Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus.” It also highlights her psychological state of mind about her act of committing suicide and subsequent failure. She has likened this act to the Holocaust to create her own powerful monologue.

Example #4

“Dover Beach” By Matthew Arnold

“The sea is calm tonight.

The tide is full, the moon lies fair

Upon the straits; on the French coast the light

Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,

Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!”

“Dover Beach” is another example of such an autobiographical monologue of Matthew Arnold. He has highlighted his own situation and his reaction over the sorrow that he is experiencing. This monologue expressed his thoughts about his bride when they were on honeymoon on the same breach. He recalls the past and writes about the sea again.

Example #5

 “Hawk’s Monologue” by Ted Hughes

 “I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.
Inaction, no falsifying dream
Between my hooked head and hooked feet:
Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.

The convenience of the high trees!
The air’s buoyancy and the sun’s ray
Are of advantage to me;
And the earth’s face upward for my inspection.”

These are the first two stanzas of the famous monologue of Ted Hughes. This poem presents a hawk perching high on a tree, thinking about his power and dreams. It presents a psychological state of mind of personified megalomaniac bird how he thinks when he holds power over the lives of other weak birds. This dramatic monologue is an example of how powerful people think when they have control over others.

Dramatic Monologue Meaning and Function

A monologue functions as a tool to give vent to one’s thoughts. It provides an opportunity for the poets to use powerful words spoken through their characters. So, the characters can express themselves or their ideas without an obstacle or hindrance. A dramatic monologue is also a convenient device to present different characters and their inner thoughts through verses.