The Dramatic Monologue
The dramatic monologue is a poetic form in which a single person is speaking, usually alone. It is called “dramatic monologue” because “dramatic” refers to the dramatic production and to the fact that the character, who is speaking, is usually in a crucial moment of his life.
The dramatic monologue can have different origins and influences:
- First of all, it derives from the literature of the Middle Ages, when the characters of a poem (for example, the characters of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”) reveal their personalities through a monologue;
- It has been influenced by the soliloquies typical of the Elizabethan theatre (very common in Shakespeare’s works)
- It stems from the conversation-poems common in the Romantic period (for example, the “Prelude” of Wordsworth, in which the main character speaks freely of himself and his life using the first person)
The first to use the dramatic monologue was Tennyson, and he often used it with characters of the Greek myth. However, in Tennyson the dramatic monologue is still not completely developed; the characters don’t care about the listeners and just open their hearts and speak freely, but their psychological inside is not very deep. The most famous dramatic monologue of all times is Shakespeare’s Hamlet “To be or not to be”.