The Septuagenarian Speaks – published December 7, 2018, Siskiyou Daily News.

What’s the difference between a monologue and a soliloquy?  I’m glad you asked.   I’ve been wanting to get this off my chest for a long time.

Many experts explain what the two words mean, and how they are distinguishable, but the most boring one comes from that fountain of knowledge we relied upon in school … CliffsNotes.  To wit: “A monologue – from the Greek monos (‘single’) and legein (‘to speak’) – is a speech given by a single person to an audience.  A soliloquy – from the Latin solus (‘alone’) and loqui (‘to speak’) – is a speech that one gives to oneself.

So, with that valuable information, here is the pop quiz.  Read each passage below, identify where it came from and answer the question – monologue or soliloquy? Some are easy.  Some aren’t.  Pretend it’s a crossword puzzle.  Don’t Google the answers until you are desperate.

  1. “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.
    “I have come to bury Caesar, not to praise him”.
  2. “To be, or not to be – that is the question…”
  3. “The cities swept about me like dead leaves, leaves that were brightly colored but torn away from the branches.  I would have stopped, but I was pursued by something.  It always came upon me unawares, taking me altogether by surprise.  Perhaps it was a familiar bit of music.  Perhaps it was only a piece of transparent glass.”  
  4. “WATCHMAN: But I hope the master of this house may come home soon, so I can grasp his welcome hand in mine.  As for all the rest, I’m saying nothing.  A great ox stands on my tongue.  But this house, if it could speak, might tell some stories.  I speak to those who know about these things.  For those who don’t, there’s nothing I remember.”
  5.  “Wanna know how I got these scars??? …. My father was a drinker …. And a fiend …. So one night, he goes off crazier than usual.  Mommy gets the kitchen knife to defend herself …. He doesn’t like that.  Not …. One …. Bit …”
  6. “I’d hold you up to say to your mother, ‘this kid’s gonna be the best kid in the world.  This kid’s gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew.’ And you grew up good and wonderful.  It was great just watching you, every day was like a privilege.  Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did.  But somewhere along the line you changed.”
  7.  “What have I done? … Sweet Jesus, what have I done? … Become a thief in the night … Become a dog on the run …” 
  8.  “It was funny how, touching the gun, the hands seemed to have an intelligence all their own, a sure movement that needed no guidance of thought … With him that old pistol seemed alive, not an inanimate object, but an extension of the man himself.” 
  9.  “The difference between a divorce and a legal separation is that a legal separation gives a husband time to hide his money.” 
  10.  “Over?  Did you say ‘over?!’  Nothing is over until we decide it is!  Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?  Hell no! … And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough … the tough get goin’ … What the f*** happened to the Delta I used to know?  Where’s the spirit?  Where’s the guts, huh?”
  11.  “Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore.’ ”


The “Monologue vs. Soliloquy” piece generated quite a few emails.   People either asked for the answers or submitted their own.  I responded to their emails with my own set of answers, below.  They were not published in the newspaper.  Some of the answers are slam-dunks, but some are judgment calls, that could go either way

  1. Monologue.  Julius Caesar. Marc Antony at Caesar’s funeral.
  2. Soliloquy.  Hamlet.  Act III, scene I.  But there is a catch.  Hamlet is not alone on the stage.  Ophelia, Claudius, and Polonius are there also, but Hamlet believes he is speaking only to himself.
  3. Soliloquy.  The Glass Menagerie.  Tennessee Williams.
  4. Soliloquy.  Agamemnon.  Aeschylus.  Ancient Greek drama.  In the beginning of the play, Agamemnon, a watchman, is lamenting his dull job waiting for the end of the Trojan War.
  5. Monologue.  Heath Ledger in the movie The Dark Knight.
  6. Monologue.    Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. Delivering a motivational speech to his son.
  7. Soliloquy.  Hugh Jackman’s musical soliloquy as Jean Valjean in the movie Les Misérables.
  8. Soliloquy.  The movie Shane.  Joe Starrett, played by Van Heflin, is describing to no one in particular Shane’s skill at handling a gun.  Here’s a hint: “Shane, Shane come back!” from little Joey.
  9. Monologue.  Johnny Carson.
  10. Monologue.  John Belushi as Bluto delivering an inspirational speech to his Delta fraternity brothers in Animal House.
  11. Monologue or soliloquy? Take your pick. Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.  A talking bird?  I would lean toward monologue.  The narrator is mourning the death of his beloved Lenore.  Mostly the bird only says, “Nevermore.”  But there is one passage where the narrator asks “Lenore? …  This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, ‘Lenore!’ – Merely this and nothing more.”  This suggests a conversation, not just a speech into the ether.

Bob Kaster
Yreka, CA    

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s