How is a monologue used in the theater


As monologue In contrast to dialogue, this describes the self-talk of a character. The monologue can be used in both lyric and epic poetry, but is primarily characteristic of drama (→ literary genres). The monologue here means the conversation of a character in the play without an addressee (Receiver), but with an imaginary listener (→ figure speech).


The term can be derived from a combination of Greek words monos and logos derive. These mean alone and speech. The monologue is therefore one Solo speech. As a result, the translation clearly indicates what the monologue is about: the self-talk of a literary figure.

Monologizing has five different functions in literature: it is regarded as a technical trick, as a form of exposure and self-revelation, and as a reflection of thoughts and sometimes comes in the form of a conflict monologue. These forms are presented below and examples are given.

The technical monologue

This form means a kind of monologizing that is to be interpreted more as a technical stopgap measure. It is based on the requirement of the tragédie classique, so the classicist French tragedy of the 17th century that the stage should never be empty for the audience.

The function of the monologue is to stand between two acts of the drama and thus to connect the appearance and departure of the respective persons with one another and thus to bridge them. As a result, this monologue is also called Bridge monolog or Transitional monologue designated.

This ban on the orphaned stage can be found, for example, with Johann Christoph Gottsched, who refers to precisely this aspect in his theoretical writings on the art of the stage. These seem seamless from the tragédie classique to be taken over.

Monologue as an exposition

The classic drama follows the structure of exposure, exciting moment, climax (Peripetie; ideally with anagnorisis), retarding moment as well as the catastrophe (Denouement). Monologizing can represent a form of exposure and introduce it into the action.

The exposition means the effective introduction of the viewer into the basic mood, initial situation, conflicts, states, time, place and people of the piece. So here a person introduces the viewer to what has happened so far, often by looking back.

Processes that cannot be represented can be shown, whereby the preparation of new situations at the beginning of the act or the summary of the act or previous ones at the end of the act is also conceivable. Preparation for the following is called Exposure monolog referred to, with the showing of the Non-representable as epic monologue referred to as.

Lyrical monologue as a self-revelation

Means a form of monologizing that includes a figure in the work or the protagonist with all his feelings. This form of self-talk is used to portray the inner and emotional lives of the individual characters.

The principle is comparable with the inner monologue of the epic or the stream of consciousness. Here, as viewers, we have unrestricted insight into the unspoken, mostly thought, of a hero. This communicates directly to the viewer in this way.

Reflection monologue

Is a kind of monologizing that reflects the past through the speaker. The characters look at previous situations or look to future action. So you reflect what is happening. It offers the space for an individual reflection period for the figures.

In Greek drama, the choir played a central role and is even the origin of the drama as we know it today. The individual and exchange speeches of the choir with the actors is therefore the actual impetus for the plot that makes up the dramatic plot. The choir commented on the hustle and bustle on the stage, which was primarily the task of the choir leader (→ Parabase).

The reflection monologue assumes this function, so to speak, when the events are assessed and reflected retrospectively and foresightedly. The characters step out of the actual plot and look down at it from the current perspective.

Conflict monologue

This often represents the central conflict of the drama and is therefore usually spoken by the hero himself at the climax of the drama. He reconsiders his options for action and makes a decision that usually culminates in disaster.

The conflict monologue is the hero's final decision-making process with himself, in which he is directed at an imaginary recipient and weighs his options. It is an inner dialogue that weighs the pros and cons of individual actions and shows their alternatives. These are often discarded.

A well-known example of such a conflict monologue is the self-talk of Prince of Homburg from the drama of the same name penned by Heinrich von Kleist, in which the prince comes to the conclusion that he is guilty and that the death sentence should be carried out against him (see examples).

Examples of the monologue

The characteristics of the monologue can of course best be illustrated with a few examples. That is why we would now like to introduce you to two of the most famous self-talkings in world literature. The first is by the playwright Shakespeare, the second by Goethe, the third by Kleist.

Hamlet, Shakespeare (Folds out when you click!)

To be or not to be; that is the question:
Obs nobler in mind, the arrow and slings
Endure the furious fate or
Arming against a sea of ​​plagues,
Do they end by resistance? Die - sleep -

Nothing else! And knowing that a sleep
The heartache and the thousand thrusts ends
The inheritance of our flesh, it's a goal
To wish most heartily. Die - sleep -
Sleep! Maybe dream too! Yes, there it is:

What dreams may come in sleep
If we untied the earthly entanglement,
That forces us to stand still. This is the consideration
The misery leads to old age.
For who can endure the scorn and scourge of the times,

The mighty pressure, the proud mistreatment,
Despised love pain, the right postponement,
The arrogance of the offices and the shame,
Who shows unworthy silent merit
If he could retire himself

Only with a needle? Who carried burdens
And moaning and sweating with the toil?
Only that the fear of something after death
The undiscovered land, from the district
No wanderer returns, the will is wrong,

That we prefer the evils that we have
Endured as fleeing to the unknown.
So consciousness makes a fig of us all;
The innate color of resolution
If the paleness of thought is offended;

And companies, highly focused and valuable,
Distracted by this consideration,
So lose the plot name. - Quiet!
The lovely Ophelia! - Nymph, shut up
Incorporate all my sins into your prayer!

"I have now, ah! Philosophy, jurisprudence and medicine, and unfortunately also theology, studied with ardent effort. There I stand now, poor fool me! And am as smart as before; hot masters, hot doctor at all, and have been pulling up, down and across and crooked my students by the nose for almost ten years - and see that we can know nothing! That just wants to burn my heart ... " (see Faust I)

Prince Friedrich of Homburg, Kleist

Well, oh immortality, you are all mine!
You shine through the blindfold of my eyes
To me the shine of the thousandfold sun!
Wings grow on both my shoulders
My spirit swings through quiet ethereal spaces;
And like a ship whisked away by the breath of the wind
Sees the lively port city sink,
This is how all life goes down in the twilight:
Now I still differentiate between colors and shapes,
And now fog is all below me.

Brief overview: Meaning, characteristics and function of the monologue
  • The monologue is a kind of self-talk by a character and can appear in all literary genres. However, the monologue is characteristic of the drama.
  • This self-talk can serve various functions. It is considered a technical trick, a form of exposure and self-disclosure as well as a reflection of thoughts or comes in the form of a conflict monologue. The latter often leads to the catastrophe.
  • The monologue allows the viewer to gain deep insights into the thoughts and feelings of a figure, as it is directed at an imaginary figure and thus reveals an opening of the character. An epic special form is that inner monologue.
  • By the way: The lyric can also be described as a monological representation of a state. This means that a lyrical self represents a situation or occurrence alone.

Well-known works in monologue form
  • Self-contemplations(~171/72), Marcus Aurelius
  • Soliloqiuen, Augustine
  • Monologues(1800), Friedrich Schleiermacher
  • Siberia(1989), Felix Mitterer
  • The double bass(1981, play), Patrick Süskind
  • Monologue from a victim(1961), Rolf Bongs