Soliloquy, or A Good Talking to Oneself 💭

soliloquy literary device

Have you ever been accused of talking to yourself? Or do you find yourself thinking out loud? Both instances are characteristics of an internal monologue. Whether it’s healthy or normal outside of literature, well, who are we to judge? But it’s safe to say if you’re a writer, you’re just fine.

What is Soliloquy?

A soliloquy is a literary device in which a character speaks their thoughts aloud, usually to reveal their innermost feelings and motivations. It is often used to provide insight into the character’s state of mind and to advance the plot of the story.

How to pronounce Soliloquy?

Soliloquy is pronounced “suh-LIL-uh-kwee” from the Latin “soliloquium” meaning “a talking to oneself.”

When do writers use Soliloquy?

A soliloquy is a literary device used by writers to have a character speak their thoughts aloud to reveal their innermost feelings and motivations to the audience. It is often used to provide insight into a character’s state of mind and to advance the plot of a story.

How to use Soliloquy?

  • When writing a soliloquy, or monologue, there really are no set rules to follow. The point of the monologue is for your character to express their feelings, work through conflict, reflect on events, or even just internal dialogue to build character.
  • The point is, when writing soliloquy, you are free to do as you please, even if that means expressing your character’s stream of consciousness thought process.

Types of Soliloquy

A soliloquy is a type of monologue in which a character speaks their thoughts aloud. There are three main types of soliloquy: reflective, dramatic, and rhetorical.

  • Reflective soliloquies are used to express a character’s inner thoughts and feelings, often in a contemplative or introspective manner.
  • Dramatic soliloquies are used to reveal a character’s motivations and intentions, usually in a dramatic or passionate manner, and
  • Rhetorical soliloquies are used to make a point or to persuade an audience, typically in a persuasive or argumentative manner. Example: Morpheus persuading Neo to take the pill initiating him in the world of the matrix.

Soliloquy in Literature and Poetry 📚

Thank you, Shakespeare! No, seriously, thank you. If not for Shakespeare, we would have slim pickins to choose from. But because of him, nearly every well known, long-winded monologue out there is up for discussion. Yay!

Due to the sheer length of most soliloquies, Shakespeare or not, it is simply not feasible to cite them verbatim. Instead, we shall take a closer look at Hamlet’s famed, “To Be or Not Be” speech:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

Th’oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,

The pangs of dispriz’d love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of th’unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action.

In this monologue, he is tortured, guilt-ridden, and seeking guidance on how to move forward. In Shakespeare’s works, the soliloquy almost always serves as a type of self-reflection, a look inward, how the hero comes to terms with what is, what has, and what will be. Of note, one of the key features in this passage are the questions. After each revelation, the speaker asks a question and seeks justification.

Other notable soliloquies in Shakespeare’s work include:

  • Romeo – “O, I am fortune’s fool!” from Romeo and Juliet
  • Othello – “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy” from OthelloOthello
  • Prosper – “Our revels now are ended” from The TempestThe Tempest
  • Isabella – “O, it is excellent” from Measure for Measure

Soliloquy in Children’s Literature🧸

  • It seems that long monologues in children’s literature are not all that common. However, when one does appear in a story, it is moving, memorable, impactful, and powerful.
  • Among the most notable examples of soliloquy in children’s literature is Aslan’s hopeful speech that the children will one day return to Narnia because once a king in Narnia, always a king in Narnia. — The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
  • And perhaps one of the saddest and most memorable soliloquies of all is that of Charlotte at the end of Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Hers is truly one of the most moving and powerful monologues in literature. In this speech, she speaks on the importance of moments in life. Her soliloquy begins, “We’re born, we live a little while, we die.”

Soliloquy in Film and Pop Culture 🎥

  1. “The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?” – The Matrix (1999)

    Morpheus persuades Neo to take the pill and tumble down the rabbit hole into the matrix.

    To be fair, this is not a true soliloquy because there is the occasional mono-syllabic response from Neo, but it is, more or less, a soliloquy because Morpheuas is doing the talking while Neo listens and absorbs.

  2. Braveheart (1995) – Who could ever possibly forget Mel Gibson as William Wallace proclaiming, “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom.”

Soliloquy in Movie Dialogue 🎥

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

The Poem Scene:

If you enjoyed this discussion, please check out some of our other literary discussions.


What is a soliloquy in literature?

A soliloquy is a dramatic monologue in which a character speaks to themselves, expressing their thoughts and feelings aloud while alone on stage, allowing the audience to gain insight into their inner life, motivations, and intentions. It is used primarily in drama to reveal a character’s innermost thoughts.

How does a soliloquy enhance a text?

A soliloquy enhances a text by providing deep insights into a character’s psyche, revealing their personal reflections, dilemmas, and plans without the influence of other characters. This direct communication with the audience can create a powerful emotional connection and offer a clearer understanding of the character’s development and the plot’s direction.

Can soliloquies be found in both plays and novels?

Soliloquies are most commonly found in plays, where they serve as a key tool for dramatists to convey a character’s private thoughts directly to the audience. While less common in novels, the function of a soliloquy can be mirrored through interior monologues or first-person narrative techniques, offering similar insights into a character’s thoughts.

Why do playwrights use soliloquies?

Playwrights use soliloquies to delve into a character’s inner world, allowing the audience to understand their motives, conflicts, and vulnerabilities on a deeper level. This device can also heighten the drama and tension within the narrative by revealing secrets, fears, and intentions that other characters are unaware of.

How can I identify a soliloquy in a play?

To identify a soliloquy in a play, look for a lengthy speech delivered by a character who is alone on stage, or who believes themselves to be alone. The character will speak their thoughts aloud, addressing themselves, the audience, or an absent or imaginary listener, rather than interacting with other characters on stage.