As a monologue, in contrast to dialogue, the self-talk of a character is called. The monologue can be used both in the lyric as well as in the epic, but is mainly characteristic of the drama (→ literary genres). The monologue means the conversation of a figure of the piece without the addressee (receiver), but with an imaginary listener (→ figurine).
The term can be derived from a composition of the Greek words monos and logos. These mean alone and speech. The monologue is therefore an alone speech. Consequently, the translation clearly points out what the monologue is about: the self-talk of a literary figure.
The monologizing has five different functions in the literature: it is regarded as a technical trick, as a form of exposure and self-disclosure as well as a reflection of thoughts and comes sometimes in the form of the conflict monologue. In the following, these forms are presented and examples are given.
The technical monologue
This form is a kind of monologizing, which can be interpreted as a technical emergency. It is based on the demand of the tragédie classique, that is, the classic French tragedy of the 17th century, that the stage should never be empty to the viewer.
Here, the monologue has the function of standing between two acts of the drama, thus linking the occurrence and the passing away of the respective persons with each other and thus bridging it. Consequently, this monologue is also referred to as a bridge monologue or transition monologue.
This prohibition of the orphaned stage can be found, for example, in Johann Christoph Gottsched, who, in his theoretical writings on stage art, points to a definite aspect. These seem to be seamlessly adopted by the tragédie classique.
Monologue as exposure
The classical drama follows the development of exposure, excitatory moment, climax (peripetia, typically with anagnorisis), retarding moment, and disaster (Dénouement). Monologizing can be a form of exposure and can be introduced into the action.
The exposure means the effective introduction of the spectator into basic mood, initial situation, conflicts, states, time, place and persons of the play. Thus a person, often by a retrospect, introduces the viewer into the past happenings.
In this case, it is possible to present non-representable processes, whereby the preparation of new situations is also conceivable at the beginning of the act, or the summary of the act or past events at the end of the act. The preparation for the following is referred to as an exposition monologue, the showing of the non-representable being called an epic monologue.
Lyrical monologue as self-disclosure
Means a form of monologizing, which implies that a figure of the work or even the protagonist with all his feelings is revealed. This form of self-talk is used to portray the inner and emotional life of individual characters.
The principle is comparable with the Inner Monologue of the Epic or the stream of consciousness. Here, as a spectator, we have an unrestricted insight into the unspoken, most of the thought, of a hero. In this way, the latter is directly connected to the viewer.
Is a kind of monologizing that reflects the past through the speech. The figures look at previous situations or look at the future action. They reflect the events. It offers the space for an individual reflection time of the figures.
In the Greek drama the chorus played a central role and is even the origin of the drama as we know it today. The individual and interrelations of the chorus with the actors are therefore the real impetus for the action which constitutes the dramatic action. The choir commented on the stage, which was mainly the task of the chorus (→ Parabase).
The reflection monologue certainly assumes this function when the event is retrospectively evaluated and reflected. The figures step out of the actual action and look down on it from the current perspective.
This often represents the central conflict of the drama and is therefore usually spoken at the climax of the drama by the hero himself. He rethinks his possibilities for action and makes a decision that culminates mostly in catastrophe.
The conflict monologue is the hero’s ultimate decision-making with himself, directing himself to an imaginary recipient and balancing his possibilities. It is an inner dialogue which weighs the pros and cons of individual actions as well as their alternatives. These are often discarded.
A well-known example of such a conflict monologue is the self-talk of the Prince of Homburg from the eponymous drama from the pen of Heinrich von Kleist, in which the Prince comes to the conclusion that he is guilty and that the sentence of death should be stretched against him examples).Examples of the monologue
The best way to illustrate the features of the monologue is by using a few examples. Therefore, we would like to introduce you to two of the best-known self-talks of world literature. The first is the dramatist Shakespeare, the second by Goethe, and the third is by Kleist.
Brief overview: meaning, characteristics and function of the monologue
The monologue is a kind of self-talk of a character and can appear in all literary genres. Characteristic is the monologue, however, for drama.
This self-talk can fulfill various functions. It is considered as a technical trick, as a form of exposure and self-disclosure as well as a reflection of thoughts or comes in the form of the conflict monologue. The latter often leads the disaster.
The monologue allows the viewer to get deep insights into the world of thought and feelings of a figure because he is directed to an imaginary figure and thus reveals an opening of the character. An epic special form is the inner monologue.
By the way, the lyric can also be described as a monologic representation of a state. This means that a lyric self represents a situation or event alone.