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Discuss the origins and characteristics of the dramatic monologue.

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Discuss the origins and characteristics of the dramatic monologue Dramatic monologues and soliloquies are very similar forms of literature despite the fact that one is poetry and the other is drama. A soliloquy is the act of talking to oneself, silently or aloud in drama. It is a convention. Playwrights use this device as a convenient way to convey to the audience information about a character's thoughts, motives, and state of mind. Shakespeare was a great user of the soliloquy, the best known of his being Hamlet's speech "To be or not to be." A soliloquy relies on a surrounding play for information about the situation whereas dramatic monologue does not. Dramatic monologue already contains a description of the situation within the poem, therefore does not need a surrounding play. Dramatic monologue is a poem deriving from the soliloquy, with only a single speaker and narrated in first person. The speaker reveals their character whilst evidently directing their speech to a listener. A good example of this is in 'My Last Duchess' by Robert Browning (1812-1889), "How such a glance came there; so not the first are you to turn and ask thus." Or in another of his poems 'Porphyria's Lover', "And yet God has not said a word!" ...read more.


Both forms are similar in the way they have a crisis point within their text. Porphyria's death is explained in more detail than that of Duncan's as it does not have a surrounding play to do so. There is a common theme of death between all the pieces, which shows the qualities from the soliloquy developing into dramatic monologue. An obvious point of the soliloquy is that without a surrounding play one would not have a good idea of the situation in which the voice speaks from. For example 'Macbeth' Act I Scene vii we know only that he is having mixed feelings about an assassination, but whose? Where? Why? We need the background information of the play to tell us that Lady Macbeth wants him to kill Duncan in order to prove his 'manliness' to her. Whereas in dramatic monologue such as 'My Last Duchess' we do not need a background story. We learn that the Duke is showing a painting of his last Duchess to an implied listener and whilst doing so explains the story of her death, the crisis point. That was the past but we also learn the present situation, the Duke wants to wed the Count's daughter. In a soliloquy, the speaker reveals their character by speaking aloud their inner thoughts, motives and state of mind. ...read more.


Similarities between the two forms are that they both portray the protagonist as philosophical by constantly asking questions. Revelation of a secret plotting plan is only found in a soliloquy as dramatic monologue has no time to do so, it has to get straight to the point as it has no surrounding play to support it. "I'll have these players Play something like the murder of my father Before mine uncle. I'll observe his looks. I'll tent him to the quick. If'a do blench, I know my course." From 'Hamlet,' this clearly reveals the plot and we know that it is a secret as it is a convention. Having discussed the similarities and individual characteristics, we can see how the dramatic monologue is a development of the soliloquy. Both have a single speaker, are a moment in crisis, contain revelation and both often come across as philosophical. Cornelia Otis Skinner (1901-1979) was an actress who wrote her own dramatic monologues and then performed the poetry to audiences. Robert Lee Frost was also a fan, he published a book of dramatic monologues called 'North of Boston' in 1914. These enthusiasts of dramatic monologue demonstrate how it can still be a popular form of poetry today and most probably will continue to be for many years to come. "Literacy Tradition" Language/Literature Pre 1914 Poetry Mona Bamrah/10N GCSE English ...read more.

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