Dramatic monologue characteristics and examples

Dramatic monologue

The dramatic monologue is a dramatic genre that consists of a poem that reveals the personality of a character. The author’s goal is for the reader to become increasingly familiar with this character until evoking an extreme emotional response. The speech is developed in the form of reflections directed to a specific interlocutor or audience. Dramatic monologue characteristics and examples

Regarding its historical origin, literary criticism has maintained two positions. Some argue that this dates back to the Heroids of Ovid (1st century AD). Others claim that it appeared during the English Victorian era as an evolution of different genres.

From this last position, two pioneers within the dramatic genre are recognized: the English poet Robert Browning (1812-1889) and the also English poet Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892). They both published the first such monologues in the 1840s.

However, literary criticism begins to recognize it as part of English poetry in the late nineteenth century. In the course of the 20th century, this poetic modality was recognized among the Anglo-Saxons.


The speaker as the only voice

In the dramatic monologue, the speaker represents the only voice the reader has access to. Although speaking in the first person, the voice comes from an enunciator who delivers his own speech in a direct style. This speaker is psychologically profiled by the way in which he faces the situations he describes and evaluates in said speech.

Now, the speaker is not necessarily the author of the work. In some cases, it may be a recognizable character from history or culture who, when not identified by name in the work, is easily identified by the reader or viewer through the characterization that is made.

Likewise, the speaker can represent different types of subjects, not necessarily all real and forming part of society. The range of representation possibilities ranges from iconic figures of mass culture, political figures and even imaginary ones. Dramatic monologue characteristics and examples

Recipient or implicit party

Most of the time the addressee or speaker of a dramatic monologue is implicit. In these monologues conversations are simulated, and the interlocutor appears to have a conversation with the speaker.

Their words or ideas are indirectly expressed through the speaker who reproduces them through questions, observations or comments.

Similarly, the interlocutor’s reactions and gestures are anticipated and replicated by the speaker. Through refutations or answers given to his invisible counterpart, the reader can infer the implicit speech of this invisible interlocutor.

Distressing relationship between participants

The relationship exposed in the dramatic monologue between the speaker, his interlocutor and the exchange between them is distressing. This, having as its central purpose to achieve the objectification of the poet in the voice of a character, suggests a quite marked dramatic situation.

The reader as part of the creative process

Generally, a dramatic monologue takes on an assertive or argumentative tone. This allows the reader to delve into the character’s emotions. Dramatic monologue characteristics and examples

In addition, the reader can openly interpret the character’s words. Furthermore, as the use of the word is not strict and concrete, the reader becomes part of the creative process.

Examples of dramatic monologue

Fragment of Lazaro by Luis Cernuda

“It was early morning.

After removing the stone with work,

Because not matter but time

Weighed on her

They heard a quiet voice

Calling me, as a friend calls

When there is one left behind

Tired from the day and the shadow falls.

There was a long silence.

So tell them who saw it.

I don’t remember but the cold

Stranger gushing

From the deep earth, with anguish

From sleep to sleep, and slowly went

To wake up the chest,

Where he insisted with a few light blows,

Eager to turn warm blood.

In my body it hurt

A living pain or a dreamed pain.

It was life again.

When i opened my eyes

It was the pale dawn who said

The truth. Because those

Greedy faces, above me they were dumb,

Biting into a vain dream inferior to the miracle,

Like a sullen flock

That not the voice but the stone attends,

And the sweat on their foreheads

I heard falling heavy in the grass … “

Luis Cernuda’s dramatic monologue is a meditation on the biblical story of the resurrection of Lazarus. This does not express the joy of new life, but shows the hopelessness of a man who has returned to a world without meaning. In the first stanza the miracle of the resurrection is told.

However, as the reading progresses it becomes clear that the purpose of the text is to detract from this miracle. In the first lines, reference is made to how heavy time can be “not matter.”

In the end, the author manages to clearly expose Lazaro’s emotions. It comes back to life without much enthusiasm from the peaceful oblivion of the grave. There he had been free from the pain and torment of existence.

Fragment of Conjectural Poem by Jorge Luis Borges

Doctor Francisco Laprida, assassinated on September 22, 1829 by the montoneros of Aldao, thinks before he dies: The bullets buzz last afternoon. There is wind and there is ashes in the wind, the day and the warped battle are scattered , and the victory belongs to the others.

The barbarians win, the gauchos win. I, who studied the laws and canons, I, Francisco Narciso de Laprida, whose voice declared the independence of these cruel provinces, defeated, blood and sweat stained my face, without hope or fear, lost, I flee to the South for last suburbs. Like that captain of Purgatory who, fleeing on foot and bloodying the plain, was blinded and knocked down by death where a dark river loses its name, so shall I fall. Today is the term. The lateral night of the swamps stalks me and delays me .. ” Dramatic monologue characteristics and examples

This dramatic monologue by Jorge Luis Borges is a conjecture inspired by the death of one of his ancestors. In this poem, Borges presents Laprida evoking his own death at the hands of rebels. In turn, he contrasts his destiny as an academic with his savage end.

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