When I hear the word SOLILOQUY, I think of William Shakespeare. Who comes to your mind?
The soliloquy (from the Latin “talking by oneself) is a dramatic element where a character talks to himself, expressing his feelings aloud. Other characters who may be present, however, are not aware of what the character is saying. The character literally talks to only himself. The audience reaps the benefits, gaining insight into the character’s fears, hopes, regrets.
The soliloquy was most popular during the 17th and 18th centuries, but lost favor with the advent of dramatic realism. It’s a very telling literary form, a way to reveal the innermost thoughts of a character on the stage.
One of the most famous of Shakespeare’s soliloquies is Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” and was probably the introduction of the soliloquy to many students of English literature. It’s so beautiful, I’ve included it in its entirety:
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
The Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely,
The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay,
The insolence of Office, and the Spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his Quietus make
With a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn
No Traveller returns, Puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus Conscience does make Cowards of us all,
And thus the Native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard their Currents turn awry,
And lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy Orisons
Be all my sins remembered.
–-Hamlet (Act 3 scene 1)
I studied Shakespeare avidly in college, and by far, my favorite soliloquy comes from Macbeth. The words break my heart every time I read them, for their profound defeat, their hopelessness, and mostly for their aching beauty.
She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
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
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5)
SO HERE’S THE CHALLENGE: Write a character’s soliloquy. It can reflect the thoughts character you’ve created or a known character from any genre or medium. Write about what that character is doing or what’s going on in his life, like he’s talking to himself, because, well, as the definition says, he is.