Soliloquy is a speech made by a character when he is alone. The
audience hears it but the other characters are not expected to
hear it. It is very common in Renaissance plays. Shakespeare in
particular made use of soliloquies in his play a lot. Playwrights
use this device to reveal the thoughts or the feelings of specific
characters in reaction to certain events or situations.
“Customarily, the soliloquy is a means of giving expression to a
complex state of mind and feeling, and in most cases the speaker
is seen struggling with problems of utmost consequence. This
accounts for the intensity we find in soliloquys” (Scholes and
Klaus 29).Here, the character thinks aloud as he talks to himself.
He pretends that the audience is not there. Soliloquy also offers
the dramatist a means of providing a point of view on the action
of the play. Apart from serving as a means for revealing
characters, it is used to make significant commentaries on events
of the play. In the first soliloquy in Hamlet, Hamlet presents the
state of his mind and his view on the world:
O that this too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon against self-slaughter. O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
From it we learn of his father’s death, the incestuous affair between his
mother and his uncle and it foreshadows the catastrophe at the end of
the play when he predicts that the affair will come to no good. He
But two months dead- nay, not so much, not twoSo excellent a king, that was to this
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not permit the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth,
Must I remember? Why, she would hang him
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on. And yet within a monthLet me not think on it- Frailty, your name is womanA little month, before those shoes were old
With which he followed my poor fathers’s body,
Like Niobe, all tears- why, sheO God, a beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourned longer- married with my uncle,…
She married- O most wicked speed! To post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not, and it cannot come to good
Break my heart, for I must hold my tongue.
(Act i scene ii)
Aside is a dramatic convention in which a character speaks to
himself or makes a comment in the presence of another
character. However, that other character is not expected to hear
the comment but the audience hears it. There is an actual
stepping aside of the character who utters an aside from the
other characters on the stage. This makes it more unrealistic
because it is not possible for him to make the remark in their
presence and they will not hear it. An aside is a very brief
remark and in most cases it is indicated in the stage direction.
Here is an example taken from Hamlet when Hamlet feigns
madness and is discussing with
POL. [Aside] Though this is madness, yet there is
method in it. Will you walk out of the air my lord?