The 10 Best Audition Monologues for Actors

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Let’s be clear: A list of the best monologues for actors will never be perfect. I have audition monologues that I personally love, such as Hamlet’s advice to the players—beautiful poetry, a great character, and funny to boot—but not everyone can or should play Hamlet. The monologue must fit the actor and vice versa. If it doesn’t fit you, and you don’t love performing it, what good does it do to learn it?

And while we’re on the subject of the classics, when you’re asked to audition with a short Shakespearean monologue, don’t fool yourself into thinking you should do one of the sonnets just to be different. There are scores of glorious characters and monologues in Shakespeare’s plays, some in poetry, some in prose.


What makes a good audition monologue?

A good audition monologue is:

  • An actual monologue: What a monologue is not is dialogue stitched together that eliminates the other character’s lines. You’ll want to choose a piece that vocalizes a single character’s thoughts, spoken uninterrupted to people—not with people.
  • Short: Although it can be tempting to extend your monologue time to thoroughly express your talents, resist the temptation and stick to just one to two minutes so you don’t annoy the people you’re supposed to impress.
  • Active: To really draw in your audience, choose a monologue that takes place in the moment rather than one that passively shares a memory. You want to make your audience feel like they’re engaging with a real person, not listening to a villain origin story. 
  • Acting-forward: Monologue auditions should highlight your acting skills, such as your ability to emote, speech cadence, and characterization. Don’t choose the “Maybe I’m Not Good Enough” monologue from “La La Land” in hopes of breaking into a dance performance. Focus on the action of the monologue, not the action of your movement.
  • Emotional: A good monologue doesn’t need to be a tearjerker, but it should build a strong emotional connection with your audience, whether that’s through humor, melancholy, romance, or some other form of emotional outreach.
  • Surprising, but not shocking: Consider using a less popular monologue to add an element of surprise to your audition. However, this doesn’t mean that you should strive for shock value—avoid offensive language and obscene scenarios if possible. “I think you do much better surprising the auditor with a monologue they haven’t seen 50 times that week,” says acting coach Cathryn Hartt. “I like anything from ‘The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe’ by Jane Wagner. For guys, I’ve always loved ‘Equus.’”

What are the 10 best audition monologues?

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What follows is merely a jumping-off place. Read, read more, and then read even more. Fall in love with the writer’s words and choose the monologue that best allows you to show that love. Find plays you’re familiar with and read plays others suggest to you. If you see a play you like, why not read all of that playwright’s work? 

To get you started, here are 10 top monologues for auditions.

1. “Measure for Measure” by William Shakespeare: Act 3, Scene 1

A young actor might want to look at the character of Claudio in this play. He has a superb monologue addressed to his sister, after having been arrested for lewd behavior. She tells him to give up his life rather than force her to give up her virginity. Claudio, who suddenly realizes that his very life is at stake, tries to make his sister understand how desperate he feels.

Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprison’d in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendent world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and incertain thought
Imagine howling: ’tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.

2. “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare: Act 2, Scene 2

A more mature person with a keen sense of humor should try Trinculo’s speech in “The Tempest.” It begins as he looks for shelter in the storm and comes upon a surprise. The monologue includes some very funny lines and descriptions as Trinculo is truly disgusted at what he sees, feels, and smells.

Here’s neither bush nor shrub, to bear off
any weather at all, and another storm brewing;
I hear it sing i’ the wind: yond same black
cloud, yond huge one, looks like a foul
bombard that would shed his liquor. If it
should thunder as it did before, I know not
where to hide my head: yond same cloud cannot
choose but fall by pailfuls. What have we
here? a man or a fish? dead or alive? A fish:
he smells like a fish; a very ancient and fish-
like smell; a kind of not of the newest Poor-
John. A strange fish! Were I in England now,
as once I was, and had but this fish painted,
not a holiday fool there but would give a piece
of silver: there would this monster make a
man; any strange beast there makes a man:
when they will not give a doit to relieve a lame
beggar, they will lazy out ten to see a dead
Indian. Legged like a man and his fins like
arms! Warm o’ my troth! I do now let loose
my opinion; hold it no longer: this is no fish,
but an islander, that hath lately suffered by a
Alas, the storm is come again! my best way is to
creep under his gaberdine; there is no other
shelter hereabouts: misery acquaints a man with
strange bed-fellows. I will here shroud till the
dregs of the storm be past.

3. “Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare: Act 2, Scene 2

Any young actor would want to play Viola. How often do you get to act out the confusion of being disguised as a boy and having a beautiful woman fall head over heels in love with you?

I left no ring with her: what means this lady?
Fortune forbid my outside have not charm’d her!
She made good view of me; indeed, so much,
That sure methought her eyes had lost her tongue,
For she did speak in starts distractedly.
She loves me, sure; the cunning of her passion
Invites me in this churlish messenger.
None of my lord’s ring! why, he sent her none.
I am the man: if it be so, as ’tis,
Poor lady, she were better love a dream.
Disguise, I see, thou art a wickedness,
Wherein the pregnant enemy does much.
How easy is it for the proper-false
In women’s waxen hearts to set their forms!
Alas, our frailty is the cause, not we!
For such as we are made of, such we be.
How will this fadge? my master loves her dearly;
And I, poor monster, fond as much on him;
And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me.
What will become of this? As I am man,
My state is desperate for my master's love;
As I am woman,—now alas the day!—
What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe!
O time! thou must untangle this, not I;
It is too hard a knot for me to untie!

4. “The Seagull” by Anton Chekhov: Konstantin’s mother monologue

Anton Chekhov is one of my favorite playwrights. Konstantin, the young leading man in this play, is talking to his beloved uncle about his selfish mother. It is a moving, sad, and honest piece in which Konstantin proves his mother does not love him. By the way, when doing a monologue from a play originally written in a foreign language, be sure to choose a translation that works for you and sounds natural on your tongue.

She loves me, she loves me not; she loves me, she loves me not; she loves me, she loves me not. You see? My mother doesn't love me. Of course not! She wants to live, to love, to wear bright dresses, and here I am, twenty-five years old, a constant reminder that she is no longer young. When I’m not there, she’s only thirty-two, but when I am, she's forty-three—and for that, she hates me. Besides, she knows I don’t accept the theater. She loves the theater, she thinks she is serving humanity and the sacred cause of art, while in my opinion, the theater of today is hidebound and conventional. When the curtain goes up, and, in a room with three walls and artificial light, those great geniuses, those priests of holy art, show me how people eat, drink, love, walk about, and wear their jackets; when from those banal scenes and phrases they try to fish out a moral—some little moral that is easily grasped and suitable for domestic use; when, in a thousand variations, I am served the same thing over and over and over again—then I flee, as Maupassant fled from the Eiffel Tower, which made his brain reel with vulgarity.

5. “The Seagull” by Anton Chekhov: Masha’s husband monologue

Masha, one of the most wonderful, fascinating characters in all of modern drama, has a terrific monologue about her future husband, a schoolteacher who is in love with her but whom she cannot stand. 

I am telling you all these things because you write books and they may be useful to you. I tell you honestly, I should not have lived another day if he had wounded himself fatally. Yet I am courageous; I have decided to tear this love of mine out of my heart by the roots. By marrying Medviedenko. Oh, if you knew what it is to love without hope for years and years, to wait forever for something that will never come! I shall not marry for love, but marriage will at least be a change, and will bring new cares to deaden the memories of the past. Shall we have another drink? Don't look at me with that expression on your face. Women drink oftener than you imagine, but most of them do it in secret, and not openly, as I do. They do indeed, and it is always either vodka or brandy. To your good health! You are so easy to get on with that I am sorry to see you go.

6. “Dream Girl” by Elmer Rice: Georgina’s morning monologue

Georgina, the title character in this play, wakes up and performs her morning ritual in front of a mirror before going to work. It is charming, funny, and very, very true.

All right, mother! I’m practically dressed! Maybe your mother is right, Georgina. Maybe it’s time you cut out the daydreaming—time you stopped mooning around and imagining yourself to be this extraordinary creature with a strange and fascinating psychological life. Still, to be honest, compared to the average girl you meet, I’m really quite complex. Intelligent and well-informed, too. And a good conversationalist. Well, for heaven’s sake! Honestly, some people! And my looks are nothing to be ashamed of, either. I have a neat little figure and my legs are really very nice. Of course, my nose is sort of funny. but my face definitely has character—not just one of those magazine-cover deadpans. If I could only stop lying awake for hours, dreaming up all the exciting things that could happen but never do. Well, maybe this is the day when things really will begin to happen to me. Maybe Wentworth and Jones will accept my novel. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! With a published novel, I’d really be somebody. Reviews in all the book sections royalty checks coming in; women nudging each other at Barney’s and whispering: ‘Don’t look now, but that girl over there—the one with the smart hat—that’s Georgina Allerton, the novelist.’ Gee, that would be thrilling! To feel that I’d accomplished something, to feel that I had a purpose in life!! Only it wouldn’t make up for Jim. Fifty novels wouldn’t make up for Jim. If Miriam only appreciated him. But she doesn’t. She doesn’t understand him. What to do? What to do? Here I am, 23 years old—no, let’s face it—24 next month! And that’s practically thirty! Thirty years old—and nothing to show for it. Suppose nothing ever does happen to me. That’s a frightening thought! Just to go on and on like this, on through middle age, on to senility, never experiencing anything. What a prospect!

7. “Invitation to a March” by Arthur Laurents: Camilla’s intro monologue

Arthur Laurents’ play begins with the middle-aged leading lady, Camilla Jablonski, addressing the audience, telling us who she is, where she lives, what she wants, and how she’s going to get it—all of it real and funny. 

Hello. I’m Camilla Jablonski. I’d like to welcome you to the South Shore of Long Island. I love it here: you can breathe. Take a breath. Go on, take a big one. Don’t be afraid; the air is still good here. Besides, it’s summer, and who can be afraid of anything in summer? [She takes off her hat.] This house used to be on my father’s farm. Thirty-five years ago he was hoodwinked into buying a half-mile of these dunes sight unseen. He thought he was getting a kingdom of farmland, but in those days the whole kit and kaboodle of beach wasn’t worth a pile of—I don’t know you well enough yet. So, he hired out as a hand, and scrimped and saved all over again. Still, it took me, my four brothers, and one helluva depression to get the old man his farm. By the time he died—eight-three he was, with his hair still red and his fist still shaking—this beach was worth ten farms. Think he cared? Not two hoots and a holler in hell. A farm was what he wanted, a farm was what he got. But everything’s changing so fast: that wonderful old man’s farm is part of an air base now and I had the house moved across our local Mason-Dixon line. That’s the big highway out there. North are the truck farmers and the handymen. South: the commuters, summer people—and now: us. But there she is, sitting pretty on these dunes. And there you are, sitting pretty in the ocean. Don’t worry, the tide is out.

8. “The Diary of a Scoundrel” by Alexander Ostrovsky: Gloumov’s monologue

Gloumov, the young leading man, speaks to his love, Kleopatra, in a bitterly moving monologue. The Rodney Ackland translation is a fine one and readily available.

Look into my eyes. Can’t you see there that I’d rather die than cause you a moment’s pain? Until I met you I was a shy, timid boy, uncertain of myself, always troubled with longings and desires which you, and you alone, have taught me to understand. I was so lonely that I thought I’d lose my reason sometimes and always I was searching, searching for the one woman in the world on whom I could pin my dreams and hopes. But I was poor, insignificant and women turned away from me. And then I met you. I shall never forget the first time I saw you—you were wearing that beautiful pink dress with brown bows on. My heart missed a beat and then started to pound so violently that I thought I should faint. You were so young, so beautiful, so far, far above me!… When we were introduced I hardly dared to speak. But you didn’t turn away, you weren’t cold and cruel like the other great society ladies of today, you were sweet and gracious and when I told you I loved you, Kleopatra, you listened. Oh, if you only knew how many times your sweet, gentle smile has stopped me on the very brink of impropriety. But even that day when I forgot myself, you didn’t turn me from the house! Oh, my God, what happiness you’ve given me. What happiness, what happiness!

9. “Fear and Misery of the Third Reich” by Bertolt Brecht: The Jewish wife’s monologue

A Jewish woman is talking to herself and then to her gentile husband as she packs her suitcases and finally leaves him. She feels that her religion will ruin her husband’s life. He doesn’t try to stop her.

Yes, I’m packing. Don’t pretend you haven’t noticed anything the last few days. Nothing really matters, Fritz, except just one thing: if we spend our last hour together without looking at each other’s eyes. That’s a triumph they can’t be allowed, the liars who force everyone else to lie. Ten years ago when somebody said no one would think I was Jewish, you instantly said yes, they would. And that’s fine. That was straightforward. Why take things in a roundabout way now? I’m packing so they shan’t take away your job as senior physician. And because they’ve stopped saying good morning to you at the clinic, and because you’re not sleeping nowadays. I don’t want you to tell me I mustn’t go. And I’m hurrying because I don’t want to hear you telling me I must. It’s a matter of time. Principles are a matter of time. They don’t last forever, any more than a glove does. (There are good ones which last a long while. But even they only have a certain life.) Don’t get the idea that I’m angry. Yes, I am. Why should I always be understanding? What’s wrong with the shape of my nose and the color of my hair? I’m to leave the town where I was born just so they don’t have to go short of butter. What sort of people are you, yourself included? You work out a quantum theory and the Trendelenburg test, then allow a lot of semi-barbarians to tell you you’re to conquer the world but you can’t have the woman you want. The artificial lung, and the dive-bomber! You are monsters or you pander to monsters. Yes, I know I’m being unreasonable, but what good is reason in a world like this? There you sit watching your wife pack and saying nothing.”

10. “Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick” by Terry Johnson: Imogen’s monologue

This is an extremely funny play about the movie business. Imogen, an attractive actor who has had too much to drink, talks to anyone who will listen about how she wants to be remembered as an artist and not as a woman with a beautiful chest. 

I’m surprised you even remembered me. I’m flattered. I mean, who was I then? I was out and about, I know, but I’d barely left LAMDA and honestly I knew nothing. I was nothing. This is such a strange business. You get a job, you meet someone, you like them, you maybe sleep with them, the job ends, then you never see them again even though you always say you will. I made some really good friends on ‘When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth,’ except Raquel of course, but she doesn’t make friends she just takes the odd hostage. Thing is, I haven’t seen anyone since. Except there was a particularly persistent caveman who I did see once but his wife was pregnant and he just cried all evening. Everything’s so…temporary. That’s what’s nice about working with you lot; you’re one big happy family. I’d love to work with you lot again.… You know what I wish? I wish I had smaller breasts. Then I’d get to play some women with small breasts, and they’re always the best parts. I’d really like to play women with no breasts at all, you know, like in Ibsen. I should never have done the centerfold. I’m actually very versatile. ‘An impressive multifaceted performance’; that’s what they said about me as Jenny Grubb in ‘Loving.’ And that wasn’t just taking off the glasses and letting my hair down, that was acting actually. I was acting her repressed sexuality. What I’m saying is, I’m not just some stupid girl from Elmhurst with a fucked knee, you know. I’m not just the Countess of Cleavage; all right? It’s so hard to convince people I’m a serious actress, but I really think it’s beginning to happen.”

Two bonus picks

Actor on stagewavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

Edward Allan Baker is a favorite contemporary playwright. His plays take place in Providence, Rhode Island, for the most part, and the specific accent is quite important. Three of his one-acts—“A Dead Man’s Apartment,” “Rosemary With Ginger,” “Face Divided”—have some great audition options. All are very serious and have desperate characters, often in life-or-death situations.

J.D. Salinger and Philip Roth both write great dialogue. Pick up their novels and stories and find a monologue you like. Zooey’s monologue to his sister at the end of Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey” is a good example. Yes, it is much too long for an audition, but it is brilliant and you can do a piece of it.

Remember that the audition is not about the monologue—it’s about you. Choose carefully, and when you’re tired of one monologue, switch to another.

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