interior monologue


[mon-uh-lawg, -log]
A monologue is an extended, uninterrupted speech or poem by a single person. The person may be speaking his or her thoughts aloud or directly addressing other persons, e.g. an audience, a character, reader, or inatimate object.

As a literary device, it is most common in dramatic genres (plays, animated cartoons, film) but can also be found in prose fiction. The term can also be applied to poems, which usually take the form of the thoughts or speech of a single individual. In everyday usage, a long, rather boring speech by a conversation partner is sometimes called a monologue as well.

The term 'dramatic monologue' is used both for monologues in plays and for a poetic genre.

Soliloquy / dramatic monologue (theatre)

There are different terms for monologues in plays. Although they are often used synonymously, they serve to distinguish monologues with regard to the addressee.

  • If a speech is addressed to another person or group of people, it is called a Monologue.
  • If a speech is addressed to the speaker himself, it is called a soliloquy.

Playwrights such as Shakespeare and Goethe used the soliloquy to great effect in order to reveal their characters' personal thoughts, emotions, and motives without resorting to third-person narration. Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech may well be the most famous soliloquy. There is a dramatic convention that soliloquies, like "asides" to the audience, cannot necessarily be heard or noticed by the other characters, even if they are clearly delivered within earshot.

Monologues can also be distinguished with regard to their frame of reference. A speech addressed to a character or a group of characters within the play (including the speaker himself) is called an interior monologue. A speech addressed to the audience is called an exterior monologue. Sometimes a speech addressed to an absent character is also called an exterior monologue. The 'interior monologue' in drama must not be confused with the narrative device of the same name which often occurs in modernist prose fiction

Dramatic monologue (poetry)

The term 'dramatic monologue' is now mainly used for a poetic form developed and brought to a high standard by Robert Browning and Alfred Lord Tennyson. A dramatic monologue in this sense has a speaker who is not the poet and who delivers the poem in a clearly defined communication situation. The speaker can be a historical or a fictive person. The "listener" can be another character who does not speak (as in Browning's My Last Duchess), a group of characters (as in that poet's Fra Lippo Lippi), the speaker himself (as in Tennyson's Ulysses), or the reader (as in Browning's Porphyria's Lover).

The speaker generally talks about a subject, but inadvertently reveals something about his character. The dramatic monologue combines the dramatic impact of the stage monologue with the potential of more elaborate and suggestive use of language; on the printed page, where the words can be re-read and pondered, there is the potential to evoke more complex layers of intent and meaning.

Twentieth-century dramatic monologues include T. S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Hugh MacDiarmid's A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, Ted Hughes' Hawk Roosting, and John Ashbery's Daffy Duck in Hollywood.

Musical theatre

In the world of musical theatre, songs such as Ol' Man River (from Show Boat) "((I'll drink to that))" and "If I Were a Rich Man" (from Fiddler on the Roof) can be considered the equivalent of soliloquies, with characters singing aloud their inner thoughts. There is even a song actually entitled Soliloquy in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, an eight-minute solo in which the main character, Billy Bigelow, sings aloud his thoughts on learning that his wife is expecting a child.

The term "monologue" is also applied to a form of popular narrative verse, sometimes comic, often dramatic or sentimental, that was performed in music halls or in domestic entertainments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Famous examples include Idylls of the King, The Green Eye of the Yellow God and Christmas Day in the Workhouse.

Interior monologue (novel)

The interior monologue is a technical device in narrative texts. It renders a character's thoughts in the present tense, omitting speech markers such as verbs of action and inverted commas. Although the terms are often confused, it can be distinguished from the stream of consciousness by its relatively structured syntax and possibility of the monologist's addressing himself. The device allows to render a character's thoughts and emotions more intimately than traditional forms of narration, since all readers learn what the character only says to himself.

Outstanding examples in twentieth-century fiction include James Joyce’s Ulysses, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, J.D Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and several novellas by Arthur Schnitzler.

Comic monologue

During the nineteenth and twentieth century a popular feature of variety shows and the music hall in the USA and Britain was the comic monologue. This has evolved into a regular feature of stand-up comedy and television comedy. An opening monologue of a humorous nature is a typical segment of stand-up comedy, and may often form a regular feature of television programmes such as The Tonight Show.

Famous comic monologists include Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, George Carlin, Jack Parr, Billy Connolly, Bill Cosby, Lord Buckley, Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Rove McManus, Bob Hope, Stanley Holloway, Julius Tannen, George Robert Sims, Ellen DeGeneres, John Leguizamo, Jerry Seinfeld, Don Rickles, Jimmy Kimmel, Dane Cook,George Lopez and Conan O'Brien. Some of the aforementioned performers often perform what is referred to as a solo show, and some practitioners of the form wrestle with stories and themes which mix the comic and the dramatic, namely Spalding Gray, Garrison Keillor, and Eric Bogosian.


Also known as the villain speech, monologuing is a common fiction cliché in which the villain of the story will take a moment to gloat in front of the hero, whom the villain believes will soon meet his demise. Commonly used in conjunction with the deathtrap, fictional villains have a habit of pontificating on how said victim will soon die, and reminiscing over how he tried for so long to get his kill and is now about to reap the reward. Villains may also give away details of their evil plots, on the rationale that the victim will die immediately. This speech almost always results in giving the hero time to escape the trap, providing the protagonist critical information he needs to defeat the villain, or filling in plot background that has not yet been revealed to the audience. This idea suffuses comic book plotting in all genres of film and theatre.

Along with comic books, James Bond films feature some of the earliest monologue/deathtrap combinations. For example, From Russia With Love's assassin, Donald "Red" Grant, can barely resist the temptation to gloat over James Bond's impending demise, allowing himself to reveal the true architect of the plot (SPECTRE) and the finer points of how MI6 will be scandalized with circumstantial evidence surrounding Bond's (faked) murder/suicide. The practice reached its most absurd level in the Batman live action show of the late sixties. In almost every episode, Batman and Robin would be defeated and captured, the villain would reveal a ludicrously elaborate deathtrap, then finally the villain would monologue about how the heroes would die and what their plan was. These shows/movies were later lampooned in the Austin Powers movies, and on Venture Bros. The Last Action Hero and other shows by which time all seriousness is removed and the monologue/deathtrap becomes a joke. The term "monologuing" was (at least in part) popularized by the movie The Incredibles, in which the character Frozone tells Mr. Incredible about an encounter the former had with the villain Baron von Ruthless ("the guy has me on a platter and he won't shut up") and later when Syndrome admits that Mr. Incredible "caught me monologuing" upon attacking him during their first encounter on the villain's island.


A rant (also called harangue or declamation) is a monologue that does not present a well-researched and calm argument; rather, it is typically an attack on an idea, a person or an institution, and very often lacks proven claims.

Some rants are used not to attack something, but to defend an individual, idea or organization. Rants of this type generally occur after the subject has been attacked by another individual or group.

Rants are used often in situations requiring monologue. Comedians, such as Lewis Black, Adam Carolla, and Rick Mercer, use rants as a way to get their message or punch-line across to the listening audience.

A rant can be used to flame members of an email group or electronic mailing list that are failing reach consensus on an issue.

Historical context of a rant

In Watt's book "Swoosh" (1908), while planning a raid, a single member of a band of pirates uses emotive language, revealing himself to be of higher intelligence than the Cap'n. The angry Cap'n questions his manliness with a monologue with insults and illogic, known as The Cap'n's Rant:

"Do we have a sashaying pirate on board, a fanciful folly of a fiend? Do ye keelhaul scurvy dogs or do ye serenade them from the crow’s nest? Do ye shake ye cutlass and howl at the moon or do ye shake ye head and faint oh so sweetly at the sight of unkempt hairy men?"

See also




  • Jane Edwardes, The Faber Book of Monologues, Faber and Faber, 2005, ISBN 0571217648
  • Hirsh, James, Shakespeare and the History of Soliloquies, Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003.

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