Monologue, Soliloquy, and Dramatic Irony
A monologue is a character speaking his/her thoughts aloud to either another character, characters, or to the audience. A soliloquy is the character voicing his/her thoughts to himself/herself. Dramatic irony is when the audience knows something that the character, or characters, do not, and the characters act on that misinformation.
Monologue, Soliloquy, and Dramatic Irony
Monologue, soliloquy, and dramatic irony. All three of these are techniques used mainly in dramatic texts. A monologue is when a character speaks his thoughts out loud. They’re going to speak their thoughts aloud to another character or to the audience. A soliloquy is very similar, because it is when a character speaks his thoughts aloud, but there are no other characters around. This is only to himself, no other characters, no audience.
You can see how a monologue and a soliloquy are very similar. There is just that one key difference. The character is going to be speaking his thoughts aloud freely in both situations, but with the monologue, the character is speaking to someone, to an audience, or to another character. They have someone they’re talking to. They may have someone who actually interjects and says one small thing during their monologue, whereas in a soliloquy, the person is speaking only to himself.
There are no other characters, and there is no audience that is supposed to be hearing what this character is saying. We’re going to talk about dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is when the reader or audience knows something, but at least one character does not know. It could be that several characters don’t know what the thing is that the audience knows, but at least one character does not know. You could have several characters or all the characters not know what the reader or audience already knows.
At least one character has to be unaware of the situation. The character, or characters, act(s) on their lack of information or misinformation. It could be that they don’t know anything about the situation or that they’ve been misinformed, but they act on what they know until they discover the truth. This results in dramatic irony. It’s ironic because these characters are acting on something that if we as the reader or audience could just tell them they could do things differently.
Sometimes this can be tragic. Sometimes this can be funny. I have a couple of dramatic irony examples here. In Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, at the end of the play, Romeo comes upon Juliet in a drugged sleep. He thinks she’s dead, so he kills himself. She wakes up, she finds him dead, and she kills herself. If he’d just waited a little bit longer he would have realized that she had just been asleep. The audience, or the reader, knows that Juliet took this sleeping potion, and that she was going to wake up.
Romeo didn’t know that, so when he came upon her looking completely lifeless, he took his own life as a result. He acted on his lack of information and he didn’t get a chance to discover the truth. In this next example, Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex”, Oedipus did discover the truth. He goes out trying to find the murderer of the King of Thieves only to find out in the end that he was actually the one who murdered him. He just didn’t know the man he murdered was the King of Thieves whenever he murdered him.
As a reader, we knew that the man along the road was the king, but Oedipus didn’t know. We see Oedipus kill him, then we see Oedipus go on the search for the murderer. All along, we know that Oedipus is the one who did it. In the end, when Oedipus realizes that, he’s understandably upset, but he did act on his lack of information and try to find the murderer until he discovered the truth. Monologue, soliloquy, and dramatic irony are all techniques that the author can use to develop a specific dramatic style.
When you’re reading a drama, you might look for dramatic irony, monologues, and soliloquies, keeping in mind the difference between them is that a monologue is spoken to other people or the audience, where a soliloquy is going to be spoken to no one else, as if the character speaking was all on his or her own. Dramatic irony: If you as the reader or audience know something that at least one character doesn’t know, and you have to watch that character fumble around with their lack of information until they discover their truth, or in Romeo’s case, meet their untimely end. It’s important to know that all of these techniques (monologue, soliloquy, and dramatic irony) are used whenever an author is trying to create a certain dramatic style.
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Last updated: 07/11/2018