We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Soliloquy?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

One of the most difficult challenges a playwright faces is conveying a character's inner thoughts or motivation to the audience. One dramatic device which addresses this problem is called a soliloquy, an uninterrupted speech delivered by a single character to the audience but not to the other characters in the scene. A soliloquy can be quite poetic and elegant in structure, as in many of Shakespeare's plays, but it is meant to be an intimate communication of a character's innermost thoughts delivered as if he or she were thinking aloud.

Perhaps the most familiar soliloquy in the English language is Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" speech delivered in Act 3, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's tragic play, Hamlet. At this point in the drama, a young prince named Hamlet considers the option of suicide as an escape from his troubled life. He begins his soliloquy by asking the most essential question: To be (live), or not to be (commit suicide)?. The rest of this famous passage considers whether not the perceived benefits of death outweigh the joys and challenges of living.

Another famous Shakespearean soliloquy takes place beneath a balcony, where a young suitor named Romeo secretly observes the forbidden object of his affection, Juliet. Romeo's internal thoughts upon viewing Juliet in the moonlight are shared with the audience through a soliloquy which begins "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun..." While the audience learns of Romeo's passionate love for Juliet, she cannot hear him speak those words. This is the purpose of a soliloquy, to share intimate thoughts with the audience that might otherwise cause complications with fellow characters.

In the Scottish tragedy Macbeth, both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth deliver dramatic soliloquies which reveal hidden characteristics to the audience, but not to other characters. Lady Macbeth asks for the strength to commit murder in a soliloquy beginning "The raven himself is hoarse/That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan...", while Macbeth delivers a resigned observation about the brevity of life in Act 5, Scene 5:

"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

The device of a dramatic soliloquy is still used by many modern playwrights, but it can be difficult for an actor to deliver such an internal monologue without isolating the other characters onstage. A soliloquy is a form of monologue, but a monologue is not necessarily a soliloquy. A dramatic monologue is an uninterrupted speech by a single character, but it may be directed at other characters onstage. It may not even reveal the internal thoughts of the character, as in the case of a stand-up comedy routine. A soliloquy is often delivered in a hushed or reflective tone, as if the character were sharing an intimate secret with the audience.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to Language & Humanities, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By RocketLanch8 — On Mar 25, 2014

I think Macbeth has some of the best soliloquies ever written. It's too bad very few theater companies perform it these days.

By Inaventu — On Mar 24, 2014

I remember a day when our theater instructor asked several of us to learn the same soliloquy from Hamlet. He didn't give any of us any cues on how to perform it. We were just supposed to come into class the next morning and act out the lines as we thought they needed to be acted.

After we were all finished doing our sometimes over the top interpretations, the instructor turned to the class and said "None of these actors would have gotten an A in my class." We were a little disappointed, obviously, but someone asked him why. The instructor said we all forgot who Hamlet was really saying all of this to, and that was himself. We delivered a monologue to an audience, not a soliloquy. He went on stage and delivered all of those lines in a tortured whisper, not really looking at anyone else. That was the difference.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to Language & Humanities, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.