Shakespeare monologues are a requirement for many undergrad, grad school, and theater company auditions around the globe. While there are many beautiful, well-known monologues, there are also quite a few hidden gems. You’ll find only verse monologues below, as schools and theater companies often want to see your skill with verse. Keep in mind that overused monologues tend to change over time, so check in with whatever program, school, or theater you’re applying to, as they’ll often tell you what to stay away from.
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”
You may have heard of Hermione’s other monologue, “Sir, spare your threats,” and although it is a gorgeous speech, it’s performed often. If you can get away with a longer speech, “Since what I am to say must be but that” is an excellent monologue. You still get Hermione’s strength, grace, and deep connection to honor–and her incredibly clear and precise mind–but earlier in the scene than “Sir, spare your threats.” 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.” Her “Brave warriors, Clifford and Northumberland” and “I called thee then vain flourish of my fortune” from “Henry VI Part III” and “Richard III” respectively, are done more often. I recommend looking at some of her earlier speeches, especially if you’re younger. In this more intimate scene with Suffolk, she questions him over the situation in England where her new husband King Henry VI does not fully command power. 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. Much of the play for the Princess is fun and games, flirtation, and duels of wit, but the play takes a serious turn near the end when she receives word that her father, the King of France, has died. 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. This speech is at the beginning of an incredible scene the night before Caesar is assassinated, one of many sleepless nights for Brutus since “Cassius first did whet me against Caesar.” Brutus is alone and, as is always the custom in Shakespeare, speaks to the audience about why he believes Caesar must be killed. Tip: Keep in mind what Brutus later puts into words in this scene: “Between the acting of a dreadful thing and the first motion, all the interim is like a phantasma or a hideous dream.”
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. After being told repeatedly to have “Christian mercy” throughout the scene, Shylock deftly points out that many of the Christians in the court are slave owners, and that if the Duke doesn’t uphold his contract, none of Venice’s laws will have any force. The Duke has no answer but to either dismiss the court or call for Bellario. This monologue is short but incredibly effective.
6. Malcolm, “Macbeth”: Act IV, Scene 3
“Macduff, this noble passion”
Malcom 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.” Malcolm is the son of the murdered king and has a claim to the crown, yet he cannot be sure whether Macduff is there to take his life or deliver him to Macbeth. Malcolm’s tactic up until now has been to tell Macduff that he’s even worse than Macbeth, but here Malcolm is finally moved to reveal his true character.
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