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Dramatic Monologue

Dramatic Monologue

Dramatic Monologue- A monologue is a speech delivered by a single person. In a play, when a character utters a monologue expressing his or her private thoughts, this is called a soliloquy.


History & Names of Dramatic Monologue

Dramatic monologues date back to the writings in ancient Greece. The Victorian Era was the high point of the dramatic monologue for English poetry. Two very important names stand out in the history of dramatic monologue Alfred Tennyson Robert Browning

Alfred Tennyson

Known to have written the first true dramatic monologue. His first dramatic monologue work was

Ulysses. Written in 1842 Other works: Tithonos The Lotus Eaters St. Simon Stylites

Robert Browning

Browning is credited for perfecting the dramatic monologue form. Explores the conflict of a religious life or a life of leisure, and the importance of art and beauty. Almost all of his most famous works were done in the dramatic monologue form. Some of his works
My Last Duchess (his most famous) Fra Lippo Lippi Porphyrias Lover

History continued

After the Victorian Era, the Modernists of the twentieth century, including T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, also used the Dramatic Monologue though often in a more problematised manner. A decline in certainties from the Romantic period onwards: the poet is more inclined to examine individual, subjective experience rather than refer to external authority.

History continued

By the early twentieth century, Modernists felt that their culture was fragmented and disintegrating, along with the whole idea of truth

Modernist dramatic monologue deliberately undermines the naturalistic conception of character. However, there is still a considerable interest in writing what are clearly dramatic monologues in the 20th century.


Fra Lippo Lippi (Robert Browning)

I am poor brother Lippo, by your leave! You need not clap your torches to my face. Zooks, what's to blame? You think you see a monk! What 'tis past midnight, and you go the rounds, And here you catch me at an alley's end Where sportive ladies leave their door ajar?


My Last Duchess (Robert Browning, 1842) That's my last duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder, now: FrPandolf's hands Worked busily a day, and there she stands.

M.H. Abrams Three Features of Dramatic Monologues

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. Basically, the writings must come from a single character and not the writer himself, and relate to the entire poem. 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. The writing must be directed at an existing listener, whether or not the are actually present.

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. The writing must reveal some aspect of the character to the listening audience or reader.

Questions to consider...

What does the speaker want from the

addressee, if there is one?

Does the speaker change or reveal anything

over the course of the monologue?

What do we as readers think about what we

hear? Is there a message?