Famous Soul-stirring Examples of Soliloquy in Literature

Examples of Soliloquy in Literature
Soliloquy is a literary device that is used to reveal a character's internal thoughts and struggles. We will highlight some of these soliloquy examples for a better understanding of the same.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Feb 8, 2018
Did You Know?
The term soliloquy is a combination of two Latin words, solo (meaning 'to oneself') and loquor (meaning 'I talk'). The term, therefore, literally translates to talking to oneself.
A good piece of literary work will usually have within itself a liberal use of literary devices. These devices serve several important functions, some which are relegated to a simple beautifying of text, while others run a little deeper and help in enhancing, adding layers, and/or bringing out the meaning of the work. Soliloquy is one such device that is commonly used in literature.

Soliloquy refers to an instance in the work when a character has a monologue with himself (or gives a speech to himself) when he believes himself to be alone. This dialog is not intended or directed towards any other character. However, in a play format, it is usually carried out by having the character talk to himself out loud so that the audience can hear what is being said. This device allows the audience to have an insight into the character's thoughts, feelings, motives, objectives, intentions, and struggles, which would otherwise be inaccessible. And it is due to this that the audience understands the character, and thereby, the play better. It is also an accepted fact that whatever is said in a soliloquy is taken to be true because those are the character's internal feelings. Thus, even though he might tell lies to the other characters in the play, his soliloquies always portray the truth.

Read through the following sections of this Penlighten article for some dramatic soliloquy examples.
Soliloquy Examples in Literature
Soliloquies were an extensively used tool, and many writers like Shakespeare, Pierre Corneille, and Jean Racine used them quite liberally in their works. Highlighted below are some of the best examples of this literary device.
Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1
― William Shakespeare
Spoken by Hamlet
"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,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the 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 undiscover'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 does 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.-Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd. "
What it Means
This soliloquy highlights Hamlet's internal struggle of whether to continue living and deal with all the negatives that life throws at him, or whether to simply end all the suffering by choosing to die. He ponders over how simple it would be to take a blade to oneself and free oneself from all the miseries.
Romeo and Juliet, Act 2 Scene 5
― William Shakespeare
Spoken by Juliet
The clock struck nine when I did send the nurse;
In half an hour she promised to return.
Perchance she cannot meet him: that's not so.
O, she is lame! Love's heralds should be thoughts,
Which ten times faster glide than the sun's beams,
Driving back shadows over louring hills:
Therefore do nimble-pinion'd doves draw love,
And therefore hath the wind-swift Cupid wings.
Now is the sun upon the highmost hill
Of this day's journey, and from nine till twelve
Is three long hours, yet she is not come.
Had she affections and warm youthful blood,
She would be as swift in motion as a ball;
My words would bandy her to my sweet love,
And his to me:
But old folks, many feign as they were dead;
Unwieldy, slow, heavy and pale as lead.
What it Means
In this soliloquy, Juliet is waiting for her nurse to return after having delivered a message to Romeo. It has been over 3 hours since she sent the 'messenger of love', and Juliet is now upset for how long it has taken. She says that the messenger has no feelings and no passion whatsoever, because a messenger of love should be swift and travel faster than the beams of the sun, instead, the nurse is dull, clumsy, and slow, like lead.
Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 2
― William Shakespeare
Spoken by Hamlet
O, that this too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month-
Let me not think on't-Frailty, thy name is woman!-
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears:-why she, even she-
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn'd longer-married with my uncle,
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.
What it Means
In this soliloquy, Hamlet bemoans the death of his father, and the treachery of his mother. He speaks about how his father was a noble and just king who loved his mother dearly, and who was killed before his time. He comments about the inconsistency of women, and how his mother, who seemed at the time to love his father, had no qualms about marrying his own uncle―barely 2 months after his father's death.
Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 7
― William Shakespeare
Spoken by Macbeth
If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly: if the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success; that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We'ld jump the life to come. But in these cases
We still have judgment here; that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice
To our own lips. He's here in double trust;
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;
And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim, horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself
And falls on the other.
What it Means
In this soliloquy, Macbeth laments about killing Duncan, the king. He hopes that all the negative consequences of Duncan's death would not follow him, but he knows that the end of it all will only be violent. He wonders why, when faced with a choice, human beings choose the violent option, and thus, write their own end consequently.
Othello, Act 1 Scene 1
― William Shakespeare
Spoken by Iago
Despise me, if I do not. Three great ones of the city,
In personal suit to make me his lieutenant,
Off-capp'd to him: and, by the faith of man,
I know my price, I am worth no worse a place:
But he; as loving his own pride and purposes,
Evades them, with a bombast circumstance
Horribly stuff'd with epithets of war;
And, in conclusion, Nonsuits my mediators;
for, 'Certes,' says he, 'I have already chose my officer.'
And what was he? Forsooth, a great arithmetician,
One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,
A fellow almost damn'd in a fair wife;
That never set a squadron in the field,
Nor the division of a battle knows
More than a spinster; unless the bookish theoric,
Wherein the toged consuls can propose
As masterly as he: mere prattle, without practise,
Is all his soldiership. But he, sir, had the election:
And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof
At Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds
Christian and heathen, must be be-lee'd and calm'd
By debitor and creditor: this counter-caster,
He, in good time, must his lieutenant be,
And I-God bless the mark!-his Moorship's ancient.
What it Means
In this soliloquy, Iago is seen giving voice to his dissatisfaction over the fact that Othello has appointed Cassio as his lieutenant. He believes that Cassio only has his theories in place, whereas Iago possesses the great military qualities that generals and lieutenants are made of. He thus feels that Othello has been unjust to him.
Henry V, Act 1 Scene 2
― William Shakespeare
Spoken by Prince Henry
I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyok'd humour of your idleness:
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wonder'd at,
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work;
But when they seldom come, they wish'd for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So, when this loose behaviour I throw off,
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am
By so much shall I falsify men's hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o'er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I'll so offend to make offence a skill;
Redeeming time when men think least I will.
What it Means
In this soliloquy, the young prince speaks about how he's merely giving an impression of leading a wild life, in reality, this is not his true nature. He believes that once he reveals his true nature, the people of his kingdom will be far more impressed.
These instances of soliloquy in different works of literature highlight the importance of this literary device. Used in the most opportune of times and revealing what they do, these soliloquies are not a mere embellishment, but a necessary device in the work that they are used in.