Soliloquy is a dramatic convention, by means of which, a character in a play speaks to himself or directly to the audience. Soliloquy from Romeo and Juliet has been elaborately discussed in this article.
- 1 Soliloquy
- 2 Definition
- 3 History of Soliloquy
- 4 Soliloquy In Writer’s Work
- 5 Examples of Soliloquy
- 6 Soliloquy v. Character
- 7 Soliloquy vs. Audience
- 8 Soliloquy vs Monologue vs Aside
- 9 Examples of soliloquy in Literature:
Originated from Latin word ‘soliloquium’ which means “speaking alone”
A dramatic convention, by means of which, a character in a play speaks to himself or directly to the audience. This type of literary device is used when a character wants to unfold his state of mind and share his feelings and motivations with the audience. It provides better assessment about the character’s innermost thoughts and audience perhaps learns more about the character than could ever be understood from the action of the play alone.
History of Soliloquy
This dramatic device was earlier used in the theater from 16th to 18th century. Writers like “ Shakespeare”, “Eliot”, “Robert Bolt’s” etc used this technique into their literary work. Dramatists of 20th century like “O’ Neill” used this technique in his play “Strange Interlude”.
Soliloquy In Writer’s Work
Dramatists use this technique to depict the character’s personal contemplation. This type of technique is used especially when writer wants to share some secret revelation of the play with the audience. Character has been assigned the role to let the audience know in monologue style.
Examples of Soliloquy
Commitment of character
“I must start work from tomorrow”.
Plan of character
“It is a good chance to obtain my lost position by defeating him”.
Feelings of character
“I can do anything to maintain my trust towards him”.
Motivation of character
“I have to win this game for the honour of my family”.
Soliloquy v. Character
Sometimes in a play, one character wants to describe some important aspect or scene of the play which cannot be possible to tell in presence of other characters. This dramatic convention is also a helpful tool for the character to share his plan and to tell some secrets about himself or about the other characters.
Soliloquy vs. Audience
Audience feels curiosity about the character what to do next. People often left to think about the nods presented before them about the character’s action.
Soliloquy vs Monologue vs Aside
Soliloquy is a long-term speech. It is a technique in play through which a character talks to himself or sometimes reveals his inner thoughts before the audience posing that he is alone. In Classical drama’s like ‘Hamlet,’ ‘Macbeth’, ‘Othelo’ and ‘Dr. Faustus’, the use of soliloquy has been made on a large scale.
In monologue, one character addresses other characters for a short span of time to convey information in a concise manner. Most prayers, much lyric verse and all laments are monologues. Monologue has four types:
- monodrama: “The Stronger” by Strindberg is best example of monodrama.
- soliloquy: Self revelation of Moor in ‘Othelo’
- solo: Lago’s explanations to the audience of what he is going to do.
- dramatic monologue: “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning is a poem that was written in dramatic monologue.
Aside is a term similar to some extent with soliloquy but different in such a way that while addressing on stage by one character, some characters do not hear what is said, while others do. This revelation of thoughts creates irony in a play. This term was used until early twentieth century especially in comedy and melo-drama. However, it is still liberally used in pantomime and in farce.
Examples of soliloquy in Literature:
Shakespeare is considered a famous literary figure in the history of English literature. In most of his plays, Shakespeare used this literary device, which remained helpful for the character to disclose his hidden feelings and thoughts. In his famed play “Hamlet”, Shakespeare used this technique through his character ‘Hamlet’, who is uncertain in his thoughts and remained in a condition what to do next. He utters the famous lines of his soliloquy:
“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether this 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. To die to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
The above soliloquy is the revelation of Hamlet’s inner thoughts. He is overwhelmed with his uncertain thinking and wants to commit suicide and wishing that God had not made suicide a sin. Before the audience, Shakespeare has shown him dubious in his inner and outer reflection. At one moment, he is disappointed by the act of her mother and wants to finish his life and the next moment he begins to realize that reason is important to deal with the depths of human life.
In Act IV, Scene iv: ‘Hamlet’ declares that he will have bloody thoughts and said,
“My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth!”
In this soliloquy, Hamlet is impressed by the forcefulness of characters like Fortinbras and Laertes, who turn thought into action quickly.
‘Hamlet’ is suffering the weight of original sin actually not committed by him but his mother who contracted incestuous marriage with brother of her husband and Hamlet considers this marriage as the source of his own adulteration and expressed his condition in soliloquy:
“How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on’t ! Ah, fie! ‘tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely”.
This is Hamlet’s first soliloquy which has been designed to reveal the cause of his initial disturbance. Shakespeare through this soliloquy allows the audience to know one of the reasons of Hamlet’s hatred from Claudius.
In Act, II of the play, the ‘Hamlet’ reveals about the ghost and said:
“May be devil; and the devil hath power
T’ assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me”.
Through this soliloquy, Shakespeare wants to express the reason of the delay of Hamlet in taking revenge of his father before the audience. Shakespeare expressed the feelings of Hamlet who after seeing ghost of his original father is confused that why he is bent upon taking revenge on the asking of one ghost.
In Act 1, scene 5 when Olivia speaks about cesario,
‘‘Above my fortunes, yet my state is well:
I am gentleman. I’ll be sworn thou art:
Thy tongue, thy face, thy limbs, actions, and spirit,
Do give thee five-fold blazon. Not too fast: soft! soft!
Unless the master were the man. How now!
Even so quickly may one catch the plague?
Methinks I feel this youth’s perfections
With an invisible and subtle stealth
To creep in at mine eyes. Well, let it be.
What, ho! Molvolio”!
Here, in this soliloquy, ‘Olivia’ who falls in love with cesario is talking about her position, ‘princess’ as well as the position of cesario as a servant and also compares her love for him. ‘Shakespeare’ allows the reader to get know about the secret love of Olivia and her inner feelings.
In Act 2, scene 5, Molvalio’s soliloquy is important wherein he utters his thought about disguising the meaning of Fabian as under:
“This simulation is not as the former;
and yet, to crush this a little,
it would bow to me,
for everyone of these letters are in my name”.
Soft! her follows prose”
‘Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going;
And such an instrument I was to use.
Mine eyes are made the fools o’ the other senses,
Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,
And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
Which was not so before. There’s no such thing:
It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes. Now o’er the one halfworld
Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
The curtain’d sleep; witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate’s offerings, and wither’d murder,
Alarum’d by his sentinel, the wolf,
Whose howl’s his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.
With Tarquin’s ravishing strides, towards his design
Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
And take the present horror from the time,
Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives”
This soliloquy uttered by Macbeth is about the supernatural in Macbeth’s life. Shakespeare through these lines illustrates the evil nature of Macbeth and that he was bent upon to kill King Duncan. Although Shakespeare shows that this character feels guilty before committing a crime but after committing it, his act of sin will surely lead him towards hell.
Soliloquy From Romeo And Juliet
“What is the name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet”
In this soliloquy, Juliet is complaining to Romeo about her name which according to her is without any meaning. Shakespeare allows the audience to observe the feeling of the Juliet about the name of Romeo that she loves with her as a person but does not like her name.
“Put out the light, and then put out the light;
Thou cunning’s pattern of excelling nature,
I know that where is that Promethean heat
That can thy light relume. When I have plucked thy rose.
I cannot give it vital grown again;
It needs must wither’’
Here in this soliloquy, Othello shows his intention of killing Desdemona, his opponent. He considers Desdemona like a flower, which one plucked cannot again put on the plant. Shakespeare draws the attention of his readers towards the evil thinking of Othelo and shows his mind’s reflection.
Besides Shakespeare, some other play writers like “Arthur Miller”, “Christopher Marlow” etc also used this technique in their plays.
The Crucible (Arthur Miller)
In Act 2 of the play, when John Proctor turns from Mary Warren and faces the open sky and declares,
“Peace, it is providence, and no great change;
we are only what we always were, but naked now,
Aye naked! And the wind, God’s icy wind will blow!
John Proctor is thinking about Mary that she does not tell the truth in court about Elizabeth being innocent and Abigail accusing Elizabeth of coming after Abigail
Paradise Lost (John Miltaon)
In Paradise lost, Satan is a character whose views and motivations change over the course of the work. One of the most distinct example of Satan’s soliloquy is as under:
“And what should I be
All but less than he/whom,
Eve shall be free/thunder hath made greater?
Here at least/I am,
Freedom is more important than goodness”.
In the above soliloquy, Satan is talking and disclosing his mind towards the evil thoughts as he thinks that in hell, he can achieve much higher status and maximum authority; something that God would not allow him to do in heaven.
Strange Interlude (O’Neill)
In “Strange Interlude”, O’Neil presents the different techniques of presenting soliloquy. He adopted the ancient method of presenting “soliloquy” and “aside” which he refers as “Interludism”.
You see, there’s really nothing I can do about it. If Nina will, she will and if she won’t, she won’t. But I can wish you good luck”.
“He thinks he means that pure love!
it’s easy to talk, he doesn’t know life, but he might be good for Nina, if she were married to
this simpleton would she be faithful?
and then I? what a vile thought!
I don’t mean that!
The author uses the technique of “Aside” to express the internal thoughts of Charles Marsden when he was asked by Sam Evans to express his love to Nina. O’Neill uses this technique to convey not only the character’s conscious mind but also the voice of his subconscious before the audience. It is the Jungian style of expressionism that is different from the ancient stage technique.
Dr. Faustus (Christopher Marlowe)
“A sound magician is a mighty god”.
Here in this soliloquy, Christopher Marlowe allows the reader to know mental condition of his character when he considers powers more than anything which God has given him in this universe. Faustus takes himself as educated man and masters in all fields and decided to do something which fulfills his wishes. To gain powers, he betrayed from the path of truth and started learning black magic by handing over his soul to Mephistopheles for the period of 24-years.
In Act 5, scene 2, the last soliloquy of Faustus is important. Here, in this soliloquy, Faustus recalls all his evil doings and seeks pardon from the God. He has lost his powers and now his damned end is before him and he says:
“Fair Nature’s eye,” would rise again and make the day everlasting”
“A year, a month, a week, a natural day/ That Faustus may repent and save his soul”
You stars that reigned at my nativity
Whose influence hath allotted death and hell
Now draw up Faustus like a foggy mist
Into the entrails of yon laboring cloud
That when you vomit forth into the air
My limbs may issue from your smoky mouths
So that my soul may but ascend to heaven
Faustus’ final soliloquy is a realistic look of his mind as his damnation is before him. His mind is scattered now and different thoughts come to his mind. He curses himself and Lucifer and wants to repent of his evil doings. Faustus expressed his feelings that he would prefer to be punished in the world rather than after his death. Next, he thinks about heaven and wants to be hidden in a cloud where he would be compacted into a thunderstorm, which would clean his soul and make it possible for him to enter into heaven. After reading this, one should can easily analyze that he or she will not have to face the same fate.