39 Classical Monologues for Actors

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Many auditions require actors to have classical monologues prepared and it’s no wonder! Classical monologues contain some of the most in-depth and human stories that exist. With the right classical piece, every actor can find something amazing to explore. But finding that piece isn’t always easy with so many options available. Our Backstage Experts and writers are here to help solve that problem! 

From drama to comedy, here are some fantastic classical monologues for actors to consider.


Shakespeare Monologues for Women

Backstage Expert and acting coach Erin Roth has three tips for choosing the perfect Shakespeare monologue: “find one that matches you as an actor (energy or type-wise), find one you don’t have to make internal cuts to for time’s sake, and find one that resonates with you on a deep, visceral level.” Need help getting started in your search? Roth has rounded up some great Shakespeare monologue options for women! 

1. Isabella, “Measure for Measure”: Act 2, Scene 2
“Could great men thunder”

“Isabella’s ‘To whom should I complain’ monologue is better known and was rediscovered during the #MeToo movement for its devastatingly timely situation and subject matter. If you’re looking for another Isabella monologue that is less well-known though, this one is fantastic.” 

2. Miranda, “The Tempest”: Act 1, Scene 2
“If by your art, my dearest father”

“If you’re a younger actor or new to Shakespeare, Miranda is a great place to start. No matter how powerful or interesting the characters, Shakespeare is always writing about families: brothers and sisters, mothers and sons, fathers and daughters. Miranda has just seen a ship dashed by a storm and she suspects that her father, who has powerful magical powers, was responsible.”

3. Ophelia, “Hamlet”: Act 3, Scene 1
“O what a noble mind is here o’erthrown”

“This is both a beautiful monologue and an example of Shakespeare’s brilliant stagecraft. Ophelia has no one else to talk to—her brother is gone, her father is using her for political purposes, Hamlet has just said some devastating things to her—so she talks to the audience in a soliloquy.”

4. Portia, “Julius Caesar”: Act 2, Scene 1
“Is Brutus sick? And is it physical”

“Shakespeare writes brilliantly about marriages and this Portia and Brutus scene is no exception. Brutus is conspiring to kill Julius Caesar but he has not confided in his wife. Portia knows something is wrong.”

5. Cressida, “Troilus and Cressida”: Act 3, Scene 2
“Hard to seem won, but I was won, my lord”

“If you’re looking for a comedic monologue, this is an excellent choice. Cressida is in love with Troilus and this monologue comes right after the first time she tells him. To unlock the comedy in this piece you’ve got to fully mean what you say at each moment and commit to the turns and changes as fully as possible—all without adding unnecessary pauses.”

6. Titania, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: Act 2, Scene 1
“Set your heart at rest. The fairyland buys not the child of me”

“Titania, Queen of the Fairies, is in a dispute with Oberon, King of the Fairies, over a changeling boy she is raising. Another brilliant examination of a marriage-like relationship, this quarrel has severe consequences for humanity and the environment.” 

You can learn more about these monologues here!

Shakespeare Monologues for Men

Acting coach and Backstage Expert Erin Roth says that “Shakespeare explores incredible themes, heightened situations, and the times in our lives that change us forever.” What better material to bring to your next audition? To help you find a Shakespeare piece that’s right for you, Roth has rounded up some great options for men!

1. Hamlet, “Hamlet”: Act I, Scene 2
“O that this too too sullied flesh would melt”

“This monologue is a beautiful example of the power that speaking holds in Shakespeare’s plays. Speaking brings Hamlet into his presence. It brings him into understanding that something is amiss and confirms why he is feeling the way he is feeling.”

2. Antigonus, “The Winter’s Tale”: Act III, Scene 3
“Come poor babe”

“What happens when we’re tasked with impossible, inhumane, soul-wrenching tasks by our leaders?... Antigonus makes some very interesting choices.”

3. Richard III, “Richard III”: Act I, Scene 2
“Was ever woman in this humor wooed?”

“In Shakespeare’s stunning portrait of a sociopathic tyrant, this monologue is a rare moment of change for Richard III. He has what he thinks is an amazing realization in this monologue: maybe he isn’t as ugly or misshapen as he thought.”

4. Egeus, “Midsummer Night’s Dream”: Act I, Scene I
“Full of vexation come I, with complaint”

“We often skid over the more difficult and darker moments in ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ In this monologue Egeus has brought his daughter Hermia, Lysander, and Demetrius before Theseus, the Duke of Athens.

5. Bassiano, “The Merchant of Venice”: Act III, Scene 2
“So may the outward shows be least themselves”

“It is worth investigating whether or how much [Bassanio] loves Portia, and how much he loves Antonio, but one thing is clear: he is not what he pretends to be. In this monologue the stakes are high. If Bassanio chooses the wrong casket, he has vowed never to get married.”

6. Claudius, “Hamlet”: Act III, Scene 3
“O my offense is rank, it smells to heaven”

“This monologue happens after Claudius leaves the play, brought into consciousness by watching his own crime committed on stage. Claudius’ thought process and the journey he goes on in this monologue are incredible. Can he pray? Can he be forgiven for his crime?”

You can learn more about these monologues here!

Alternative Classical Monologues for Men

Backstage writer Laurence Cook says that “your classical pieces need to be strong, able to show off your skills and contrast with contemporary monologues.” This may be a tall order, but Cook has come up with some great options for alternative classical monologues for men! 

1. “Wendoll: A Woman Killed With Kindness” by Thomas Heywood
“Wendoll is torn between pursuing Anne and doing right by Frankford. He says it’s bad enough to think about sleeping with another man’s wife–but actually attempting it will send him straight to hell. He tries to ‘drive away’ his passion, first with song, then with prayer and then by resolving to forget her.”

2. “Wendoll: A Woman Killed With Kindness” by Thomas Heywood
“Wendoll considers the role of fate (“my stars”) and wonders if his parents did something evil to deserve such a badly-behaved son. He weighs his actions against those of his good-natured friend Frankford and compares his affair with Anne to the sin of murder.”

3. “Ferdinand: The Duchess of Malfi” by John Webst
“Ferdinand is standing over the bodies of his sister and his two young nephews who he ordered to be murdered. His servant Bosola hired goons to strangle the Duchess and her children, but on seeing the dead bodies, Ferdinand wishes Bosola had not followed his orders or might have intervened to save their lives.”

4. “Hippolito: The Honest Whore” by Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton
“Hippolito is in mourning for his lover who he believes is dead. In an effort to cheer him up, Hippolito’s friends take him to see a prostitute, Bellafront. Hippolito declines Bellafront’s advances and says that all prostitutes are liars and that she’ll try to ensnare him in a trap. Bellafront disagrees and says she’s ‘an honest whore’ – but Hippolito is unconvinced.”

5. “Gaveston: Edward II” by Christopher Marlowe
“Gaveston was exiled by Edward’s father (Edward I) for running away from war to compete in a tournament. He and the prince Edward were the best of friends, and being apart has made Gaveston miserable. Now that Edward has become king of England, Gaveston is ecstatic to receive a letter saying he is allowed to return home.”

You can learn more about these monologues here!

Alternative Classical Monologues for Women

According to Backstage writer Laurence Cook, “picking a classical audition speech is a minefield.” There are plenty of mistakes to be made when choosing the right monologue, but Cook has selected some great alternative classical monologues for women that can’t go wrong!

1. “Moll: The Roaring Girl,” by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker
“Moll has just challenged Laxton to a duel, which he has tried to laugh off, saying he won’t fight with a woman. In the 17th century, ‘roaring’ meant a boisterous, hyper-masculine way of behaving, which pretty much sums up Moll. She does what she wants, instead of what people expect of her.”

2. “Bel-Imperia: The Spanish Tragedy,” by Thomas Kyd
“Bel-Imperia is a young, intelligent and strong-willed noblewoman in the Spanish court. She talks to Hieronimo, a knight and the father of the murdered Horatio.”

3. “Dido: Dido, Queen of Carthage,” by Christopher Marlowe
“Dido is a strong and independent queen who begins the story adamant she’ll never marry but, having been poisoned by Cupid, has now fallen deeply in love with Aeneas. She speaks to her attendants.”

4. “Isabella: Women Beware Women,” by Thomas Middleton
This is an aside from early in the play. It gives Isabella the opportunity to talk frankly with the audience and to comment on some of the action. But taken out of context, it’s important to convey that Isabella is being forced to be married and that the husband-to-be is a fool.”

5. “Alice: Arden of Faversham,” by Anonymous
“Alice and Mosby have been having a passionate affair, even though she is the wife of a respected gentleman while he is ‘lowly.’ They believe the only way to continue seeing each other is to have Alice’s husband Arden murdered. But at this point Alice has changed her mind.”

You can learn more about these monologues here!

Shakespeare Monologues for Kids

Backstage Expert and acting coach Denise Simon makes it clear that “one of the most troubling areas of study for young actors is Shakespeare.” But this doesn’t mean that kids should avoid the Bard’s work! Rather, it’s about finding the best pieces to learn with. Here Simon has rounded up some of the best Shakespeare monologue options for kids. 

1. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: Puck
“What better character to get kids interested in Shakespeare than the mischievous, high-energy Puck. Puck has many great monologues in the show, from breaking the fourth wall to provide helpful commentary to carrying out King Oberon’s demands, and they can be performed by any child.” 

2. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: Snug the Lion
“This is a great segue into Shakespeare for very young actors. It’s short and easily understood with some coaching and it provides the adorable irony of a gentle child playing a fierce lion.”

3. “Macbeth”: Witches
“Kids love getting to play these heightened, extreme personalities while still working to find the humanity hidden beneath the surface.”

4. “The Tempest”: Ariel
“This is a great piece for young actors to explore with physicality, giving them the chance to build a spirit and how they think it would move.” 

5. “As You Like It”: Rosalind
“The long string of insults flows well because of the engaging language, which will keep young girls excited and connected to the story. It’s also a great avenue for kids to express some of their unspoken frustrations, which is always a cathartic experience.” 

You can learn more about these monologues here!

Shakespeare Monologues for Teens

Backstage Expert and acting coach Denise Simon knows that Shakespeare “is the kind of material that will really push a young actor to dig deep with his nuanced characters.” But it can also be especially difficult for teens to find the right Shakespeare monologue. Luckily, Simon has rounded up some good options!

1. “King John”: Blanch
“If you want high stakes, you can’t get any higher than deciding whether to support your family or your husband in a war...The strong conflict gives young actors the freedom to play heightened emotions, which, coupled with the complex relationship between Blanch and her husband, makes this monologue a great challenge for any girl looking to expand her acting horizons.”

2. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: Helena
“Always a fan favorite, here the conniving Helena laments her inability to woo Hermia’s suitor Demetrius. Her desire for beauty, as though conforming her appearance to match Hermia’s will make her worthy of love, is one many teen girls can relate to as is her lovesick despondency.” 

3. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: Lysander
“Elsewhere in our Midsummer love-rectangle we have Lysander, begging Hermia’s father to allow her to marry him instead of Demetrius. Aside from the hilarity of calling Demetrius ‘spotted and inconsistent’ to his face, Lysander showcases unexpected bravery in this scene, essentially standing up to the adults in the room, which is a dream that all teens share.”

4. “Henry VI Part 1”: Joan of Arc
“Who wouldn’t want to play one of the toughest, most headstrong women in history? In Act 5, Scene 4 Joan of Arc attempts to escape execution by reminding her tormenters of their own moral failings during the war.”

5. “Romeo and Juliet”: Romeo
“The character is age-appropriate and has the same confusion about life indicative of being a teen. His monologues tackle themes of love, fate, and grief, and use complex metaphors to paint a dynamic picture of what it means to grow up.” 

6. “Two Gentlemen of Verona”: Launce
“In Act 2, Scene 3 Launce explains all the reasons why his dog is the cruelest member of his family, being the only one to not cry when Launce left. Unfortunately, he can’t stop mixing his metaphors, confusing himself in the process. The language in this speech is definitely a challenge, even tripping up Launce, but it’s a hilarious, self-aware piece that an actor can really have fun with.” 

You can learn more about these monologues here!

Underrated Shakespeare Monologues

Backstage Expert and acting coach Erin Roth knows that Shakespeare monologues are a requirement for many auditions. Unfortunately, with so many overused pieces, it can be hard to find the “hidden gems.” Need help finding the perfect underused Shakespeare monologue? Roth is here to help with these options! 

1. Hermione, “The Winter’s Tale”: Act III, Scene 2
“Since what I am to say must be but that” and “More than mistress of”

“If you can get away with a longer speech, ‘Since what I am to say must be but that’ is an excellent monologue...If you’re in need of a shorter monologue, look no further than a few lines later in the scene for ‘More than mistress of’ spoken by Hermione as well.”

2. Queen Margaret, “Henry VI Part II”: Act I, Scene 3
“My Lord of Suffolk say is this the guise”

“Margaret is a strong, passionate, and complicated woman who appears in four of Shakespeare’s plays: the three parts of ‘Henry VI’ and ‘Richard III’...I recommend looking at some of her earlier speeches, especially if you’re younger...Like or dislike her, you’ve got to understand her situation, invest in her perspective, and fight for it.”

3. The Princess, “Love’s Labour’s Lost”: Act V, Scene 2
“A time methinks too short”

“This monologue spoken by the Princess of France is a great monologue for an actor looking for a coming-of-age character...This monologue is not that just of a young lady turning into a woman, but a Princess turning into a Queen.”

4. Brutus, “Julius Caesar”: Act II, Scene 1
“It must be by his death. And for my part”

“I often see people interested in Cassius and Marc Antony, but Brutus should not be overlooked...Brutus is alone and, as is always the custom in Shakespeare, speaks to the audience about why he believes Caesar must be killed.”

5. Shylock, “The Merchant of Venice”: Act IV, Scene 1
“What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong?”

“If you want to do Shylock but need a verse monologue, I’d recommend one of his less-done verse speeches in the courtroom scene. His ‘To bait fish withal’ prose speech, although tempting as it’s one of the most moving in Shakespeare, is often done. This play is complicated and its characters multilayered; Shylock is no exception.”

6. Malcolm, “Macbeth”: Act IV, Scene 3
“Macduff, this noble passion”

“Malcolm is often overlooked or misunderstood in this great play. ‘Macbeth’ isn’t just about a husband and wife murdering a good king, it’s also about what happens afterwards to a country governed by a tyrant where ‘each new morn new widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows strike heaven on the face.’ ”

You can learn more about these monologues here!

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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