What Is a Monologue?

February 8, 2023

12 min read

A monologue can be a great way to express yourself.

Monologues are one of the most common devices used in literature, film, and on stage. But a monologue is different from monologuing, which should be avoided.

In this simple guide, we’ll break down everything there is to know about this type of speech, including what they are, the types, examples, and how to avoid monologuing.  

What Is a Monologue?

A monologue is a type of speech that’s given by one person. In a story or drama, that would be a speech delivered by one character

Sometimes, in a drama, a this type of speech is the character’s innermost thoughts; in a story, it’s usually verbal.

Monologues are often used in the theatre world, but today, they’re common devices used in television and film. 

In everyday conversation, however, monologuing can refer to someone’s habit of droning on and on without letting the other person participate.

What Are the Types?

There are a few different types of monologues. Here are the most common types.

Exterior monologue

In acting, the exterior type is one of the two basic types. An exterior monologue involves an actor performing a speech either directly to the audience or aloud to a character who’s not on stage. 

Interior monologue

The other basic type in acting is an interior monologue. In this type, the actor is speaking only to themselves. 

Internal monologue

The internal type is still a bit different from the interior type. Internal monologues happen when the actor or character is thinking (not necessarily thinking aloud, like in an interior monologue). 

This type of speech is useful in acting because the audience can hear the innermost thoughts of a character. When you’re watching a television show or movie, you’ll hear this type of speech in that character’s voice; you just won’t see their mouths moving. This gives you the illusion, as an audience member watching the show, of being able to read their mind. 

In literature, it works the same way — a reader gets inside knowledge by reading what a character is thinking. In a piece of text, the dialogue might be italicized so readers can know that they’re internal thoughts. Sometimes, internal monologues fit into the “stream-of-consciousness” subtype. 

The internal type in a piece of writing can often be identified easily, thanks to italicized blocks of text that express a character’s inner thoughts.

Dramatic monologue

A dramatic monologue is a type of speech that the actor delivers right to another character or even the audience. 

Even though it’s called “dramatic,” it doesn’t have to be serious or formal. It can be casual and even funny. However, one component that ties all dramatic monologues together is their length or significance. 

This type is almost always lengthy and meaningful to the plot. In general, you can consider all speeches delivered by one character within the dramatic subtype, whether they’re addressing: 

  • Another character 
  • The audience
  • Or lots of characters

What’s the difference between a monologue and a soliloquy?

Whereas a monologue is an overarching type, a soliloquy is a subtype. If a character gives a speech to themselves, reflecting their internal thoughts, as if nobody is there, that’s considered a soliloquy.  

Although the audience can hear the character speaking, the person delivering the speech doesn’t know other people are listening in. Soliloquies are often seen in Shakespeare’s plays and performances.

Monologue Examples

Monologues are very common on stage, in film, and in literature. Here are some examples by type so you’ll be able to recognize them. 

Monologues from plays

On stage, this type of speech is used in dramas and other types of theatre.

You’ll find these types of speeches in all kinds of plays, especially Shakespeare works. Some notable examples are “Romeo and Juliet,” “Macbeth,” “Othello,” and “Hamlet.”

One such example is Titania’s speech in Act 2, Scene 1 of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”:

Octavia Selena Alexandru performs Titania’s monologue in Act 2, Scene 1 of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Examples in film

In film, you can find examples in both television and in movies.

You’ll find this type of speech in many movies in particular, including:

  • “It’s a Wonderful Life!”
  • “The Godfather”
  • “The Notebook” 
  • “Independence Day”
  • “2001: A Space Odyssey”
  • “Schindler’s List”?
  • “Good Will Hunting”
  • “Silence of the Lambs”

Here’s one of the best movie examples, which comes from the 1975 film “Jaws”:  

Quint, portrayed by Robert Shaw, gives a now-infamous speech during a town hall in Steven Spielberg’s movie “Jaws.”

Examples in literature

They’re present in works of literature as well. For example, in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee, the character Atticus Finch delivers a speech to the court in the form of a closing argument that goes on for pages.

An excerpt from the book reads: 

""“I’m no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system – that is no ideal to me, it is a living, working reality. Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up. I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this defendant to his family. In the name of God, do your duty.”""

Lee, Harper. “Chapter 20.” To Kill a Mockingbird, Grand Central Publishing, New York, NY, 1960, pp. 274–275.

Other famous works that include this type of speech are:

  • “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
  • “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
  • “The Two Towers” by JRR Tolkien
  • “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell
  • “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
  • “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen

Monologue for Auditions

If you’re looking for a good monologue for auditions, the good news is, there’s plenty to choose from. The bad news? Deciding on a monologue for auditions can be the difficlt part.

Here are the top five best choices for those looking for a monologue for auditions.

  1. Fear and Misery of the Third Reich” by Bertolt Brecht (a speech from the wife): As one of Brecht’s most famous plays, this audition monologue is a solid choice. Without spoiling too much for those unfamiliar with the play, this speech takes place as the wife is packing and preparing to leave her husband. It’s a heart-wrenching scene, perfect for an audition.
  2. “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare (Act 2, Scene 2): Shakespeare is a very common choice for a monologue for auditions, probably because Shakespeare is one of the most recognized playwrights of all time. This option is ideal for those who want to bring a little humor to their audition. It’s a very visceral scene and is impressive when delivered in the right way.
  3. “Dream Girl” by Elmer Rice (Georgina’s morning speech): This play from 1945 follows one bookstore manager who has wildly vivid daydreams that make up his life. The “Dream Girl” morning monologue takes place as the character is getting ready and is another more humorous option for those disinterested in serious topics.
  4. “The Diary of a Scoundrel” by Alexander Ostrovsky (Gloumov’s speech): For people who want a monologue for auditions that is more emotional and expressive, Gloumov’s speech is a great option. The character is speaking to his love interest and his words are both moving and almost poignant. The majority of folks suggest the the Rodney Ackland translation for those performing this one.
  5. “The Seagull” by Anton Chekhov (Masha’s husband monologue): Another more serious choice is this speech from “The Seagull” by Anton Chekhov. A man complains to his uncle about how narcissistic and selfish his mother is, which makes this speech a passionate, bitter monologue for auditions.

3 Famous Monologues

Some monologues stand out more than others for one way or another. Here are three famous monologues to check out.

America Ferrera’s ‘Barbie’ monologue

The 2023 film “Barbie” was an instant hit and resonated with views all over the world. It received critical acclaim and for good reason.

Actress America Ferrera’s “Barbie” monologue was particularly eye-opening. Ferrera’s character speaks on what womanhood looks like in America and the difficulties women face daily.

Here’s the “Barbie” monologue that was arguably most influential:

"It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful, and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.

You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people.

You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood.

But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful.

You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.

I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know."

Ferrera is familiar with monologues as a TED talk speaker, too. She discussed diversity and culture in media during her talk in 2019. Check out the best TED talks of all time for more inspiration.

‘Oppenheimer’ monologue

J. Robert Oppenheimer’s name was brought back into the mix with the 2023 feature film, “Oppenheimer,” starring Cillian Murphy. The three-hour film follows an infamous theoretical physicist who led the Los Alamos lab during World War II for the Manhattan Project.

Known as the “father of the atomic bomb,” Oppenheimer delivered a famous monologue of his own, which was also portrayed in the film. His monologue, often referred to as “Now, I am become Death,” is expertly delivered.

Watch Oppenheimer himself present his monologue below:

The so-called Oppenheimer monologue is an infamous speech by J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Stephen Colbert monologue

Stephen Colbert, the comedian best known for “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central, has delivered tons of monologues, especially during his time on the show from 2005 to 2014. You might also recognize his monologues from “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

Here’s an example of one of his opening show monologues during his segment “Meanwhile”:

Stephen Colbert has delivered lots of monologues about everything from Netflix to Tucker Carlson.

How to Avoid Monologuing

However, in terms of everyday conversation, you want to avoid monologuing. A conversation is a two-way street. In other words, you want to make sure the other person is getting talk time, too. 

If you’re trying to break out of the habit, using a speech coach like Yoodli is a great place to start. 

What Is a Monologue
Yoodli can help you practice everyday conversation to help you avoid monologuing.

Yoodli uses AI technology to help users with communication coaching. This can involve help with everyday conversation, business presentations, public speaking, or interview preparation. 

It works like this. Users record a video (or upload an existing one) of themselves talking. Then, Yoodli gives them instant analytics that are individualized to that person’s pattern of speech — for free. The analytics you get include everything from your pacing to your word choice to your body language. 

However, if you’re speaking with someone else, you’ll also get a clear breakdown of talk time. So in an interview, for example, you can see the percentage of time you were speaking versus the other person. 

If you’re practicing to try to break the habit of monologuing, you can analyze something like a Zoom call with friends to check how long you’re talking. 

What Is a Monologue
If you’re trying to avoid monologuing, check out your talk time when you’re chatting with a friend to see if there’s an uneven breakdown.

To avoid it, try joining a video call with a friend and uploading that call to Yoodli. You can pinpoint exactly when you start monologuing, since Yoodli also provides a full transcript. Plus, as you work on it, you can upload other calls to see your talk time decrease. 

Ideally, it should be about a 50/50 breakdown between two people in a conversation. 

Learn more about talk time in this quick crash course:

Learn a little more about talk time to avoid monologuing during conversations.

How to Practice a Monologue

However, if you’re an actor trying to practice a monologue, Yoodli also comes in handy.

This type of speech can be tricky for anyone in acting. One of the main reasons is that all the attention is on you. When that happens, sometimes people tend to struggle with body language or even just speaking clearly. 

To practice, try recording yourself saying your speech on Yoodli. You’ll get the aforementioned analytics, so you can immediately know if you need to start making more eye contact, for example. You’ll figure out exactly what you need to work on. 

When you perform this type of speech, it’s especially important to avoid filler words like “um” or “like.” If that’s an issue for you, you’ll know right away.

If you need some inspiration, check out the best public speaking books for more tips and tricks. 

Why Is Avoiding Monologuing Important?

It’s completely fine if you’re an actor delivering a speech. However, it’s very important to avoid monologuing if you’re not acting. 

Here’s why: it’s essentially a conversation killer. When two people are having a conversation, both should get time to talk, if not equal talking time. When you speak over someone or don’t let them get a word in, you’re not only not listening, but you’re not allowing them to be an active participant in the conversation. 

Avoiding this type of speaking is essential for good relationships, whether they’re personal relationships with friends and family or professional relationships with coworkers. For example, mansplaining is a type of monologuing that’s usually used to talk down to or over women.

The Takeaway

Giving a monologue when you’re an actor isn’t a bad thing. However, monologuing when you’re not acting can be considered rude to others and unprofessional in the workplace. 

To practice avoiding this type of speech, a tool like Yoodli can make a world of difference. Luckily, it’s useful for practicing an actual speech, too: a win-win. 


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