In theatre, a monologue is presented by a single character, most often to express their mental thoughts aloud, though sometimes also to directly address another character or the audience. Monologues are common across the range of dramatic media (plays, films, etc.), as well as in non-dramatic media such as poetry. Monologues share much in common with several other literary devices including soliloquies, apostrophes, and aside. There are, however, distinctions between each of these devices.
Interior monologues involve a character externalizing their thoughts so that the audience can witness experiences that would otherwise be mostly internal. In contrast, a dramatic monologue involves one character speaking to another character. Monologues can also be divided along the lines of active and narrative monologues. In an active monologue a character is using their speech to achieve a clear goal. Narrative monologues simply involve a character telling a story and can often be identified by the fact that they are in the past tense.
Actors in theatre and sometimes in film and television may be called upon to use monologues for audition purposes. Audition monologues demonstrate an actor’s ability to prepare a piece and deliver a performance. These pieces are usually relegated to two minutes (sometimes less) and are often paired with a contrasting monologue. This can be a comic monologue paired with a dramatic monologue or it can mean classical paired with contemporary. The choice of monologues for an audition can often depend on the play in question or the role the actor wants to land. The audition monologue is a rite of passage with theatre actors and a tradition that continues today.
The reboot to Sherlock Holmes with the BBC’s new series casting Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman brought a new aura to monologue via great deductions. Writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat crafted the scripts with intricate detail and dense logic.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wrote the script for Good Will Hunting and enacted together and won the Oscars for best screen play. One of the iconic scene was a monologue where Matt knits together the consequences of his work at NSA. The Butterfly-effect is so well written as was so well acted.
A classic post World War II movie named Judgement at Nuremberg reconciling the regret and moral dilemma in Germany portrays very strongly through the characters. The movie has some great monologues by some great actors like Maximilian Schell, Burt Lancaster and Spencer Tracy.
The Great Dictator is a 1940 American political satire comedy-drama film written, directed, produced, scored by and starring Charlie Chaplin, following the tradition of many of his other films. Having been the only Hollywood film-maker to continue to make silent films well into the period of sound films, this was Chaplin’s first true sound film.
Chaplin’s film advanced a stirring, controversial condemnation of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, fascism,antisemitism, and the Nazis. At the time of its first release, the United States was still formally at peace with Nazi Germany. Chaplin plays both leading roles: a ruthless fascist dictator, and a persecuted Jewish barber.
This is indisputably the best monologue ever.