February 8, 2023
7 min read
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 monologues, including what they are, the types, examples, and how to avoid monologuing.
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.
There are a few different types of monologues. Here are the most common types.
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.
The other basic type in acting is an interior monologue. In this type, the actor is speaking only to themselves.
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.
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:
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.
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.
On stage, this type of speech is used in dramas and other types of theatre.
You’ll find monologues 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”:
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:
Here’s one of the best movie examples, which comes from the 1975 film “Jaws”:
Monologues are 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:
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 of monologuing, using a speech coach like Yoodli is a great place to start.
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.
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:
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.
It’s completely fine if you’re an actor delivering a monologue. However, it’s very important to avoid monologuing if you’re not acting.
Here’s why: Monologuing is 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.
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 monologue, too: a win-win.
Getting better at speaking is getting easier. Record or upload a speech and let our AI Speech Coach analyze your speaking and give you feedback.