Monologues in Speech and Composition

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Spalding Gray
Spalding Gray - Master Monologist.

 Robert R McElroy/Getty Images

A monologue is a speech or composition presenting the words or thoughts of a single character. (Compare with dialogue.)

Someone who delivers a monologue is called a monologuist or monologist.

Leonard Peters describes a monologue as "a dialogue between two people. One person speaking, the other listening and reacting, creating a relationship between the two" (Demystifying the Monologue, 2006).


From the Greek, "speaking alone"

Examples and Observations

  • "It was the first day off in a long time, and all of us were trying to get a little rest and relaxation out by the pool at this big, modern hotel that looked something like a prison. If I had to call it anything I would call it a 'pleasure prison.' It was the kind of place you might come to on a package tour out of Bangkok. You'd come down on a chartered bus — and you'd probably not wander off the grounds because of the high barbed-wire fence they have to keep you in and the bandits out. And every so often you would hear shotguns going off as the hotel guards fired at rapid dogs down along the beach on the Gulf of Siam.
    "But if you really wanted to walk on the beach, all you had to learn to do was pick up a piece of seaweed, shake it in the dog's face and everything would be hunky dory."
    (Spalding Gray, Swimming to Cambodia. Theatre Communications Group, 2005)
  • "A monologue is a predominantly verbal presentation given by a single person featuring a collection of ideas, often loosely assembled around one or more themes. Note that I do not define it as a strictly verbal presentation; many, though certainly not all, successful monologuists also employ nonverbal elements to great effect, such as, their use of facial expressions and hand gestures, along with a variety of props and stage devices."
    (Jay Sankey, Zen and the Art of the Monologue. Routledge, 2000)

Monologues and Dialogues

  • "A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That's why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet."​ (Truman Capote)
  • "There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all. We speak; we spread round us with sounds, with words, an emanation from ourselves. Sometimes they overlap the circles that others are spreading around themselves. They they are affected by those other circles, to be sure, but not because of any real communication that has taken place, merely as a scarf of blue chiffon lying on a woman's dressing table will change colour if she casts down on it a scarf of red chiffon."​ (Rebecca West, "There Is No Conversation." The Harsh Voice, 1935)

Two Versions of Hamlet's Famous Monologue (Modernized Spelling)

1603 Version ("Bad Quarto")

"To be, or not to be, aye there's the point,

To die, to sleep, is that all? Aye, all.

No, to sleep, to dream, aye, marry, there it goes,

For in that dream of death, when we awake,

And born before an everlasting judge,

From whence no passenger ever returned,

The undiscovered country, at whose sight

The happy smile, and the accursed damned.

But for this, the joyful hope of this.

Who'd bear the scorns and flattery of the world,

Scorned by the right rich, the rich cursed of the poor?

The widow being oppressed, the orphan wronged,

The taste of hunger, or a tyrant's reign,

And thousand more calamities besides,

To grunt and sweat under this weary life,

When that he may his full quietus make,

With a bare bodkin, who would this endure,

But for a hope of something after death?

Which puzzles the brain, and doth confound the sense,

Which makes us rather bear those evils we have,

Than fly to others that we know not of.

Aye that--O this conscience makes cowards of us all."

1604-1605 Version (Second Quarto)
"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. To die, to sleep —
No more--and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to! 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. 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:
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?<br/>Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied over with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action."
(William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act Three, scene 1)

The Lighter Side of Monologues

"You know, there are some things that are actually harder to do with two people. Like, monologues."
(Tina Fey as Liz Lemon in 30 Rock, 2006)

Pronunciation: MA-neh-log

Also Known As: dramatic soliloquy

Alternate Spellings: monolog