Understanding Soliloquy: Definition, Examples, and Usage
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What is Soliloquy?
  2. How to identify a soliloquy
  3. Why Soliloquy matters
  4. Soliloquy in Literature
  5. Famous Examples of Soliloquy
  6. How to Use Soliloquy in Writing

Imagine you're reading a play, and suddenly, a character starts speaking their thoughts out loud, seemingly to no one. That's a soliloquy. But what exactly is a soliloquy? Why should we care about it? How can we identify it? This blog will serve as your friendly guide to the definition of soliloquy, its significance, how to spot it, and even how to use it in your own writing. So, let's dive right in!

What is Soliloquy?

A soliloquy, our main star today, is a nifty tool in the world of drama. It's when a character in a play expresses their inner thoughts and feelings out loud, as if speaking to themselves or to the audience, but not to other characters.

The Basics

  • Origin: The term 'soliloquy' comes from the Latin 'solo' and 'loqui', which mean 'alone' and 'speak', respectively. So, you can think of it as 'speaking alone'.
  • Definition: A soliloquy is an act of speaking one's thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers, especially by a character in a play. There, you have your definition of soliloquy.

Varieties of Soliloquies

Did you know that not all soliloquies are created equal? Let's explore the two main types:

  1. Whole Scene Soliloquies: Here, the soliloquy is a whole scene by itself, where a character speaks their thoughts for an extended period.
  2. Short Soliloquies: These are shorter, often just a few lines long, and are usually part of a larger scene.

What Makes a Soliloquy Unique?

What sets a soliloquy apart from other types of speeches in plays? Here are two key elements that make it unique:

  • Alone Time: Soliloquies occur when the character is alone on stage, or at least, believes to be alone.
  • Inner Thoughts: In a soliloquy, characters express their innermost thoughts and feelings, providing insights into their motives or conflicts.

Now that we've got the basics down for the definition of soliloquy, let's move to the next stage: identifying a soliloquy when we see one.

How to Identify a Soliloquy

Now that we understand the definition of soliloquy, let's get into the detective mode. How can we spot a soliloquy in a play? Here are some handy tips to help you out:

Tip #1: Look for the Lone Ranger

Remember, a soliloquy typically happens when a character is alone on stage, or believes they're alone. So, if you see a character speaking at length with no other characters responding, you might be onto a soliloquy.

Tip #2: Listen to Inner Thoughts

A soliloquy is like a window into a character's mind. If a character is sharing their deepest thoughts, fears, or desires—and not just making casual conversation—you're likely hearing a soliloquy.

Tip #3: Notice the Length

Soliloquies can vary in length. Be it a whole scene or a few lines, a soliloquy is usually long enough for the character to express complex thoughts or emotions.

Tip #4: Check the Directions

Stage directions can be a big clue. Look for instructions like 'alone', 'aside', or 'to himself/herself' in the script. These often indicate a soliloquy.

Keep these tips in mind, and you'll become a pro at identifying soliloquies in no time. But why does this matter? Let's explore that next.

Why Soliloquy Matters

The importance of soliloquy in literature might seem abstract at first, but let's break it down. Why should we care about these long speeches? Well, here's why:

Insight into Character's Mind

When a character launches into a soliloquy, we get a VIP pass into their thoughts. It helps us understand their motivations, conflicts, and personality in a way that ordinary dialogue just can't match. Think of it as a backstage tour of the character's mind.

A Tool for Plot Development

Soliloquies can be a clever tool for moving the plot forward. By revealing a character's innermost thoughts or plans, a soliloquy can set the stage for future events and create suspense. It's like the moment in a thriller movie when the villain reveals their master plan — you can't help but get hooked!

A Showcase of Dramatic Irony

Have you ever watched a movie where you knew something the characters didn't? That's dramatic irony. And soliloquies are a great way to create it. When a character reveals their thoughts in a soliloquy, we, as the audience, gain information that other characters may not know. This creates tension and keeps us glued to the story.

Enhances Emotional Connection

Lastly, soliloquies can help us connect emotionally with the characters. When a character bares their soul on stage, it allows us to empathize with them on a deeper level. We feel their struggles, share their hopes, and this connection makes the story more engaging and relatable.

As you can see, soliloquies are more than just fancy speeches. They're a powerful literary tool that gives a story depth and complexity. But don't just take my word for it. Let's look at some famous examples of soliloquy in literature to see these benefits in action.

Soliloquy in Literature

Now that we've explored the importance of soliloquy, let's dive into how it's used in literature. Soliloquies are common in plays, especially those written by the master wordsmith himself, William Shakespeare. However, they can also be found in novels and poems. Here's how:

Shakespearean Drama

The Bard was a big fan of soliloquies. They're scattered throughout his works and often feature his most famous lines. In his plays, characters use soliloquies to confront their deepest fears, grapple with moral dilemmas, or reveal their secret plans. It's one of the ways Shakespeare adds depth and drama to his stories.

Modern Plays

Though Shakespeare might be the king of soliloquies, he's not the only one who uses them. Modern playwrights also use soliloquies to delve into their characters' minds. It's a way to give the audience insight into the characters' inner world, giving them a deeper understanding of the story.

Novels and Short Stories

Soliloquies aren't just confined to the stage. They also make appearances in novels and short stories. Authors use them to provide readers with a direct line into a character's thoughts, often in the form of an internal monologue. This can add an extra layer of depth to the narrative and bring the characters to life.


Last but not least, soliloquies can be found in poetry. Here, poets use them to express deep personal feelings or to explore universal human experiences. It's a way for poets to connect with their readers on an emotional level.

So, whether you're reading a Shakespearean drama or a modern novel, keep an eye out for soliloquies. They can add a whole new dimension to your reading experience.

Famous Examples of Soliloquy

Let's look at some well-known soliloquies from literature to give you a clear idea of how they work. Recognizing these examples will deepen your understanding of soliloquy. So, let's dive in.

Hamlet's 'To Be or Not To Be'

Perhaps the most famous soliloquy in the world is Hamlet's 'To be or not to be' from Shakespeare's play, Hamlet. This intense monologue sees Hamlet pondering life, death, and the afterlife. It's a powerful example of how a soliloquy can reveal a character's deepest thoughts and fears.

Macbeth's 'Is This a Dagger'

Another classic from Shakespeare is Macbeth's 'Is this a dagger' soliloquy. This chilling speech reveals Macbeth's inner turmoil as he grapples with the decision to murder King Duncan. It's a raw and powerful display of a character wrestling with moral dilemma.

Ahab's Soliloquy in Moby Dick

Moving away from the stage, let's look at a novel example. In Herman Melville's Moby Dick, Captain Ahab delivers a soliloquy that exposes his obsessive desire to conquer the white whale. This soliloquy provides a unique insight into Ahab's character, illustrating the power of a soliloquy in prose.

Robert Browning's 'My Last Duchess'

In the world of poetry, Robert Browning's 'My Last Duchess' is a fantastic example of a dramatic monologue, a type of soliloquy. The Duke's monologue to the silent listener in this poem discloses his jealousy and controlling nature, providing a chilling character study.

These famous examples highlight the power and versatility of soliloquies. They are a testament to how the technique can provide a deeper understanding of a character's mind, making the narrative more engaging and relatable to the reader.

How to Use Soliloquy in Writing

Now that we've explored the definition of soliloquy and looked at some famous examples, let's explore how you can use soliloquies in your own writing. A well-crafted soliloquy can bring depth and intrigue to your characters, making your story more captivating.

Choose the Right Character

Firstly, decide which character will deliver the soliloquy. This should be a character with compelling thoughts and feelings to share, who is facing a significant decision or conflict. Remember, a soliloquy is a window into a character's mind, so choose a character that has something interesting to reveal.

Keep it Relevant and Specific

Ensure your soliloquy is relevant to the plot and character development. It should reveal something new about the character or situation, helping to move the story forward. Also, make sure it's specific—vague or generic thoughts won't have the same impact.

Make it Emotional

A good soliloquy should be charged with emotion. Whether it's fear, joy, anger, or despair, let your character's feelings shine through. This emotional depth will make your soliloquy more engaging and relatable for your readers.

Keep it Natural

Although a soliloquy is a monologue, it should still sound natural. Avoid making it too formal or stiff. Instead, aim for a conversational tone that reflects how the character would actually think and speak.

By following these tips, you can use soliloquies to add depth and drama to your stories. Remember, a well-written soliloquy can provide powerful insights into a character's mind, making your narrative richer and more engaging.

If you're fascinated by the concept of soliloquy and want to learn more about scriptwriting techniques, check out Jessy Moussallem's workshop, 'Scriptwriting.' This workshop will help you understand the intricacies of crafting engaging and impactful scripts, including the effective use of soliloquy to bring your characters to life.