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Monologue

MONOLOGUE (from Gr. /x6vos, alone, and \oyos, speech), a passage in a dramatic piece in which a personage holds the scene to himself and speaks unconsciously aloud. The theory of the monologue is that the audience overhears the thoughts of one who believes himself to be alone, and who thus informs them of what would otherwise be unknown to them. The word is also used in cases when a character on the stage speaks at great length, even though not alone, but is listened to in silence by the other characters. The old-fashioned tragedies of the 17th and 18th centuries greatly affected this convention of the monologue, which has always, however, been liable to ridicule. There is something of a lyrical character about the monologue in verse; and this has been felt by some of the classic poets of France so strongly, that many of the examples in the tragedies of Corneille are nothing more or less than odes or cantatas. The monologues of Shakespeare, and those of Hamlet in particular, havs a far more dramatic character, and are, indeed, essential to the development of the play. Equally important are those of Racine in Ph'edre and in Athalie. The French critics record, as the most ambitious examples of the monologue in two centuries, that of Figaro in Beaumarchais's Le Manage de Figaro and that of Charles V. in Victor Hugo's Hernani, the latter extends to 1 60 lines. In the Elizabethan drama, the popularity of Kyd's Spanish Tragedy, in which Hieronymo spouts interminably, set a fashion for ranting monologues, which are very frequent in Shakespeare's immediate predecessors and contemporaries. After 1600 the practice was much reduced, and the tendency of solitary heroes to pour forth columns of blank verse was held in check by more complex stage arrangements. After the Restoration the classic tragedies of the English playwrights again abused the privilege of monologue to such a degree that it became absurd, and fell into desuetude.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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