Monologue vs. Soliloquy – What’s the Difference?

Theater geeks are an insular bunch, obsessed with the minutiae of stagecraft and drama. Even some of these sages of the stage cannot remember the difference between a monologue and a soliloquy, though.

If you are an actor, as long as you can remember your lines, it probably doesn’t matter to you whether your speech is a monologue or a soliloquy. If you are writing a book report on a Shakespearean tragedy for your AP English Literature class, though, you had better know whether Romeo’s speech to Juliet is a monologue or a soliloquy.

What is the Difference Between Monologue and Soliloquy?

In this post, I will compare soliloquy vs. monologue. I will use each of these words in at least one example sentence, so you can see them in their proper context.

Plus, I will show you a useful mnemonic that will help you identify whether a speech is a soliloquy or monologue.

When to Use Monologue

monologue versus soliloquyWhat does monologue mean? The word monologue is a noun. A monologue is when a person is speaking for an extended period of time during conversation.

In the world of theatre, a monologue is typically a long speech delivered by a character while other characters are onstage.

For example,

  • “I am having trouble memorizing the monologue in scene three,” said Javier.
  • An action movie convention is for the villain to deliver a cocky monologue during an extended fight scene during which the main hero’s life is in grave danger.
  • Well, Fallon tried to bring the pain on Sunday night during his Golden Globes monologue (which began with a bit of a disaster — Fallon confessed the teleprompter was broken). –The Washington Post

The prefix mono- typically refers to one of something. In a monologue, one speaker delivers many lines. A monocle is a corrective lens for one eye. Carbon monoxide is a molecule with only one oxygen atom. You get the picture.

When to Use Soliloquy

definition of soliloquy definition of monologue definitionWhat does soliloquy mean? A soliloquy is one person speaking for an extended duration while alone or while other characters cannot hear. In contrast to a theatrical monologue, when multiple characters are on stage, a soliloquy is usually delivered by a character standing alone on a stage.

The famous “to be, or not to be” speech in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, possibly the most well-known soliloquy of all time, is delivered by Hamlet while speaking to a human skull with no other characters present.

Sometimes, a soliloquy is one character speaking his thoughts aloud. Typically, the audience understands that the speech is a theatrical device for making a character’s thoughts known, and not words actually spoken out loud by that character.

Anyway, here are a few example sentences,

  • Shakespeare’s soliloquys are examples of the best Elizabethan theatrical writing in existence.
  • A soliloquy is difficult because no one else is on stage to help you remember your lines.
  • The formulation of the apparent confession was problematic in its own right. It was suggestive, but by no means definitive. In a column on Bloomberg View, the Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman compared it to a Shakespearean soliloquy. –The New York Times

Trick to Remember the Difference

define soliloquy define monologueWhile a soliloquy and a monologue are both extended speeches by one person, the difference lies in to whom these people are talking. If they are addressing other characters, it is typically considered a monologue. If they are talking to themselves, it is a soliloquy.

Dialogue means a conversation between two people, so remembering that a monologue is an extended speech by one person to someone else should not be difficult.

Another good way to remember soliloquy vs. monologue is that a soliloquy is a conversation that a character has with his or her own’s self, without anyone else present. Self and soliloquy both start with the letter “S.”

Summary

Is it monologue or soliloquy? Monologues and soliloquys are two types of long speeches that occur in plays.

  • A monologue is a long speech delivered to other characters.
  • A soliloquy is a long speech where a character talks to himself/herself or voices his/her thoughts aloud for the benefit of the audience.
[i]
[i]