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What is Dramatic Monologue?

Updated on December 21, 2015
What is Dramatic Monologue?
What is Dramatic Monologue? | Source

Definition of Dramatic Monologue

Dramatic Monologue is a combination of two words i.e., dramatic and monologue. The word dramatic is an adjective derived from the Greek word dramatikos meaning something which pertains to drama or which is replete with action and is suitable for drama. The word monologue has been derived from a Greek word monologos, which means speaking alone. According to A.F Scott, dramatic monologue is a poem in the form a monologue, which reveals dramatic situation and other characters besides the speaker. Christopher Gillie in his book, Longman Companion to English Literature, defines dramatic monologue as a poetic form in which the poet invents a character or more commonly uses history or legend and reflects on life from the character’s standpoint.

It reveals that dramatic monologue is a development from conversational poems of Coleridge and Wordsworth, in which, unlike, dramatic monologue, the poet reflects upon life in his own person other than through a character.

Monologue & Aside

Characteristics of Dramatic Monologue

Dramatic Monologue is dramatic in many senses. It is dramatic, because, like drama, the speaker in dramatic monologue is not the poet himself, but a character. For example, the speaker in Ulysses is Ulysses rather than Tennyson. The speaker in My Last Duchess is the duke of Ferrara rather than Browning.

In the second sense, dramatic monologue is dramatic because in it we see the character in a critical situation of his life. For example, the Duke of Ferrara has got his first wife or duchess murdered and is going to remarry. Similarly, the politician in Robert Browning’s The Patriot is going to be executed after being the leader of his country. This execution of the politician is a feature of drama.


Elements of Dramatic Monologue
Elements of Dramatic Monologue | Source

Conflict is an important feature of drama, which is found in dramatic monologue. Dramatic monologue is dramatic because it shows the conflict in the mind of the charterer. For example, we have the conflict in the mind of Ulysses in Ulysses. In Robert Browning’s The Patriot, internal conflict is visible in the mind of Patriot.

Dramatic monologue is dramatic because it is the revelation of characters like we have in drama. It means there is characterization in dramatic monologue, which makes like a mini drama. That is why; we call it dramatic. The poet tries to describe the character in dramatic monologue through the speeches of the speaker.

Psyco-analysis is another important feature of dramatic monologue like a drama. Dramatic monologue is a detailed analysis of the mind and thought of the speaker. We get an accurate insight into the personality of the speaker. We understand easily about attitude, behavior and personality of the speaker. For example, we know about the character of the duke of Ferrara, the statesman, Andrea and Caliban through talking in My Last Duchess, The Patriot, Andrea Del Sorto and Caliban Upon Satibos respectively.

Dramatic monologue is dramatic because in it we have the speeches of a single character. Mono means one and logos means talking.

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Dramatic Monologue and Other Forms of Poetry

Dramatic monologue is different from other forms of poetry. It is different from epic and ballad as it is dramatic, while they are narrative. They belong to different groups of poetry. It is different from lyric, sonnet, elegy, dirge and ode in a sense that it is objective, while lyric; sonnet, elegy, dirge and ode are subjective forms of poetry. It is different from soliloquy because in dramatic monologue, we have the revelation of other characters as well as the speaker, while in soliloquy only the character of the speaker is revealed. Dramatic monologue is different from drama because in dramatic monologue we have only the talking of only one speaker or one man, while in drama there are many dialogues. Drama is lengthy, while dramatic monologue is short in length. Drama may be written in poetry or prose, while dramatic monologue is always in poetic language. Drama is a different form of literature, while dramatic monologue is a part of dramatic poetry.

Short History of Dramatic Monologue

Dramatic monologue was invented by Tennyson. His Ulysses, Tithonus and Maud are the first examples of dramatic monologue. But it gained perfection in the hands of Robert Browning. It is his dramatic monologue that we Browning as a poet. His My Last Duchess, Andrea Dell Sorto, Love Among the Ruins, The Patriot and Rabi Bin Izra are the examples of perfect dramatic monologue. Another important poet of dramatic monologue is Arthur Hugh Clugh.

In modern age, we have the dramatic monologue of T.S Eliot e.g., The Love Song of J. Alfred. His dramatic monologues present his profound judgment of the culture of the time.

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    • Rafiq23 profile image
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      Muhammad Rafiq 2 years ago from Pakistan

      Thanks Mel Carriere for your comments. I am glad you liked it. Have a nice time.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      You have given me a lesson, I suppose. I guess I will have to read Ulysses, because I had thought this sort of dramatic monologue has been used in literature for centuries. I'm probably confusing it with something else. Interesting hub.