Soliloquies in Modern Dramatic Writing

Hello all,

I went to see Richard III at the Old Vic last night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Kevin Spacey was incredible as the eponymous title character, playing the villain with a dark humour. It’s not often you laugh during performances of Richard III, and even rarer that the entire audience laughs, so credit to Mr. Spacey for a great performance.

It did get me thinking, however, since the soliloquy is one of Shakespeare’s most used devices for revealing the character’s intentions and motivations about how writers reveal intention and motivation for characters in modern dramatic writing. Can a modern piece sustain such a device? In which, I suppose I mean is it realistic that the villain (or the hero) stands alone on stage and reveals their plans to the audience, without revealing their plans to the other characters?

Of course, there is always the softer option of having the character’s soliliquise to an unseen or imaginary person (they could be praying, for example). Examples of this are common in plays. Shorter versions of this are properly known as apostrophes (from the Greek meaning ‘turning away’).

There is also a recourse to the second kind of soliloquy – one in which the character is talking to themself, and trying to decide between courses of action or otherwise reason over what they are going to do. Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be’ speech is a fine example of this. I think this would work better in a modern piece, but is it sustainable?

What are your thoughts, dear readers? Can modern dramatic writing include and sustain soliloquies? Can it have the same force and power as those of Richard III?

“And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With old odd ends, stol’n forth of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.”
RIII, Act 1, Sc. III


2 Responses to “Soliloquies in Modern Dramatic Writing”
  1. Susan Clarke says:

    Is this a book? Can I buy it?

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