In the world of film and theater, soliloquies are powerful tools used by writers and directors to offer audiences a glimpse into a character's inner thoughts, emotions, and motivations.

Whether it's the contemplative musings of Hamlet or the disturbing revelations of Patrick Bateman, soliloquies have the power to captivate and engage viewers, leaving a lasting impression on the world of cinema.

In this article, we'll explore the definition of soliloquy and delve into some examples from both classic and contemporary cinema.

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What is an example of a soliloquy?

Soliloquy Definition 

A soliloquy is a dramatic device employed in plays, films, and literature wherein a character speaks their thoughts aloud, revealing their innermost feelings, conflicts, and intentions.

Soliloquies are typically delivered while the character is alone on stage or on screen, making it seem as though they are talking to themselves.

This monologue-like form of expression allows audiences to gain insight into a character's private musings, providing a unique and intimate storytelling experience.

Why Do Filmmakers Use Soliloquy?

What Is Soliloquy (Definition and Examples)

'Taxi Driver'

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Filmmakers use soliloquy for several compelling reasons, each contributing to the overall impact and storytelling within a film:

  • Character Development: Soliloquies provide an excellent opportunity for filmmakers to delve deep into a character's psyche. By allowing a character to express their thoughts, emotions, and inner conflicts directly to the audience, filmmakers can develop complex and multi-dimensional characters. This helps the audience to empathize with, understand, or even be repulsed by the character, fostering a deeper connection.
  • Exposition: Soliloquies can serve as a means of conveying important information or backstory to the audience without resorting to clunky dialogue or external narration. Characters can reveal their past experiences, motivations, and intentions organically through their soliloquies, ensuring that the audience is informed without feeling like they are being spoon-fed information.
  • Conflict: Soliloquies often highlight a character's internal struggles and dilemmas. This internal conflict can be as compelling, if not more so, than external conflicts. The resolution or evolution of these conflicts can be showcased in soliloquies, providing a sense of closure or transformation for the character.
  • Theme: Filmmakers use soliloquies to explore and discuss the central themes and ideas of their films. Characters' inner thoughts can touch upon broader philosophical, social, or cultural concepts, adding depth and intellectual resonance to the story.
  • Audience Engagement: Soliloquies have the power to draw the audience deeper into the narrative. When characters address the audience directly, it creates a sense of intimacy and involvement, as if the audience is privy to the character's innermost thoughts and secrets. This engagement can enhance the overall viewing experience.
  • Artistic Expression: Soliloquies can be an opportunity for filmmakers to showcase their creativity and storytelling prowess. Crafting a well-written and emotionally charged soliloquy requires skill and artistry, and it can be a standout moment in a film that lingers in the viewer's memory.
  • Emotional Impact: The emotional impact of a soliloquy can be profound. It allows characters to express their deepest emotions, whether it's love, anger, despair, or joy, in a raw and unfiltered manner. This emotional resonance can deeply affect the audience, eliciting empathy, sympathy, or a visceral reaction.

Hamlet's Soliloquy

The most famous example of all time comes from the play Hamlet, and it's the “To be, or not to be” speech by William Shakespeare.

You can read it below:

"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,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
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 momentWith this regard their currents turn awryAnd lose the name of action."

Soliloquy Examples

Soliloquy Examples'American Psycho'

Credit: Lionsgate Film

  1. Hamlet (1996) Directed by Kenneth Branagh: This adaptation of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" features several iconic soliloquies. One of the most famous is Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy, which reflects his internal struggle with the concept of life and death. Branagh's intense delivery of this soliloquy captivates the audience and showcases the power of the form.
  2. Taxi Driver (1976)Directed by Martin Scorsese: Robert De Niro's character, Travis Bickle, delivers a chilling soliloquy in front of a mirror, expressing his frustrations and anger. This intense monologue is a stark illustration of Bickle's descent into madness and has become an iconic moment in cinematic history.
  3. American Psycho (2000) Directed by Mary Harron: Christian Bale's portrayal of Patrick Bateman features numerous soliloquies. Bateman's voiceovers provide a disturbing glimpse into his psychopathic mind as he discusses his obsession with materialism, violence, and superficiality, making for an unsettling and thought-provoking viewing experience.
  4. Fight Club (1999) Directed by David Fincher: The film's unnamed narrator, played by Edward Norton, delivers internal monologues throughout the film, revealing his disillusionment with modern consumer culture and his descent into anarchy. These soliloquies serve as a commentary on contemporary society and the protagonist's inner turmoil.
  5. Black Swan (2010) Directed by Darren Aronofsky: Natalie Portman's character, Nina Sayers, frequently engages in soliloquies that reflect her deteriorating mental state as she becomes consumed by her obsession with perfection. These monologues offer an intense and unsettling look into the psychological horror of the film.

Soliloquies are a potent narrative tool that enables filmmakers and playwrights to explore the inner workings of their characters, providing audiences with a deeper understanding of their motivations, fears, and desires.

By understanding the definition and examining these remarkable examples, filmmakers and storytellers can continue to harness the emotional and dramatic potential of soliloquies in their work.

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