22 Best Classical Dramatic Monologues For Men
A monologue from the play by Euripides
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Plays of Euripides in English, vol. ii. Trans. Shelley Dean Milman. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1922.
My friends, I deem the fortune of my wife
Happier than mine, though otherwise it seems;
For never more shall sorrow touch her breast,
And she with glory rests from various ills.
But I, who ought not live, my destined hour
O’erpassing, shall drag on a mournful life,
Late taught what sorrow is. How shall I bear
To enter here? To whom shall I address
My speech? Whose greeting renders my return
Delightful? Which way shall I turn? Within
In lonely sorrow shall I waste away,
As widowed of my wife I see my couch,
The seats deserted where she sat, the rooms
Wanting her elegance. Around my knees
My children hang, and weep their mother lost:
These too lament their mistress now no more.
This is the scene of misery in my house:
Abroad, the nuptials of Thessalia’s youth
And the bright circles of assembled dames
Will but augment my grief: ne’er shall I bear
To see the loved companions of my wife.
And if one hates me, he will say, “Behold
The man, who basely lives, who dared not die,
But, giving through the meanness of his soul
His wife, avoided death, yet would be deemed
A man: he hates his parents, yet himself
Had not the spirit to die.” These ill reports
Cleave to me: why then wish for longer life,
On evil tongues thus fallen, and evil days?
2. Edward II
A monologue from the play by Christopher Marlowe
(Reading from a letter): ‘My father is deceas’d! Come, Gaveston,
And share the kingdom with thy dearest friend.’
Ah! Words that make me surfeit with delight!
What greater bliss can hap to Gaveston
Than live and be the favourite of a king!
Sweet prince, I come; these, these thy amorous lines
Might have enforc’d me to have swum from France,
And, like Leander, gasp’d upon the sand,
So thou would’st smile, and take me in thine arms.
The sight of London to my exil’d eyes
Is as Elysium to a new-come soul.
Not that I love the city, or the men,
But that it harbours him I hold so dear –
The king, upon whose bosom let me die
And with the world be still at enmity.
What need the Arctic people love starlight,
To whom the sun shines by both day and night?
Farewell base stooping to the lordly peers!
My knee shall bow to none but to the king.
As for the multitude, that are but sparks,
Rak’d up in the embers of their poverty;
Tanti, I’ll fawn first on the wind
That glanceth at my lips, and flieth away.
3. Women and Servants
A monologue from the play by Lope de Vega
Perhaps you feel, Violante, that I am too forward. Yet be patient in hating me, as I am in loving you. For although in my arrogance I swore to fall out of love, it is not as easy as falling in love.
Men fall in love so quickly, until they basically go mad, and then, bit by bit, take their distance and fall out of love again. A man might approach love with the best intentions, ready to give his all, and yet find that he walks on a path well trod, through a vale of tears.
I’ve come to ask you for another three days’ time, at least, in order to forget you. For I cannot persuade you, Violante, that I hate you from simply listening to you, when I hardly know you.
When I walk away and think I shall forget you, it turns out I am headed straight for love.
I’ve looked elsewhere, and found some others who are by no means bad, but they don’t have that disdain that makes me long for you. You must try harder to hate me, my lady; but no, for if you do, then I will love you all the more.
For me to hate you, you must love me, and that you will not do.
A monologue from the play by Molière
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Dramatic Works of Molière, Vol. II. Ed. Charles Heron Wall. London: George Bell & Sons, 1898.
No, I am not a revered doctor, brother; no, all the knowledge of this world has not found its abode in me. I have merely the science of discerning truth from falsehood.
And as I know nothing in the world so noble and so beautiful as the holy fervour of genuine piety, so there is nothing, I think, so odious as the whitewashed outside of a specious zeal; as those downright imposters,
those bigots whose sacrilegious and deceitful grimaces impose on others with impunity, and who trifle as they like with all that mankind holds sacred; those men who, wholly given to mercenary ends, trade upon godliness,
and would purchase honour and reputation at the cost of hypocritical looks and affected groans; who, seized with strange ardour, make use of the next world to secure their fortune in this; who, with great affectation and many prayers,
daily preach solitude and retirement while they themselves live at Court; who know how to reconcile their zeal with their vices; who are passionate, revengeful, faithless, full of deceit, and who, to work the destruction of a fellow-man,
insolently cover their fierce resentment with the cause of Heaven. They are so much the more dangerous in that they, in their bitter wrath, use against us those weapons which men revere; and their anger, which everybody lauds, assassinates us with a consecrated weapon.
There are too many such mean hypocrites in the world; but from them the truly pious are easy to distinguish. Our age offers us abundant and glorious examples, my brother.
Look at Ariston, look at Périande, Oronte, Alcidamus, Polydore, and Clitandre. No one will refuse them this title. They are no pretenders to virtue. You never see in them this unbearable ostentation, and their piety is human and tractable.
They never censure the doings of others; they think there is too much pride in such censure; and leaving lofty words to others, they only reprove our actions by their own virtue.
They do not trust to the appearance of evil, and are more inclined to judge kindly of others. We find no cabals, no intrigues among them; all their anxiety is to live a holy life.
They never persecute the sinner, but they hate the sin. They do not care to display for the interest of Heaven a more ardent zeal than Heaven itself displays. These are people after my own heart; it is thus we should live; this is the pattern for us to follow.
Tartuffe is not of this stamp, I know. You speak with the best intention of his goodness, but I fear you are dazzled by false appearances.
5. Sejanus, His Fall
A monologue from the play by Ben Jonson
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Sejanus, His Fall (1603).
What excellent fools
Religion makes of men! Believes Terentius,
If these were dangers–as I shame to think them–
The gods could change the certain course of fate?
Or, if they could, they would now, in a moment,
For a beef’s fat, or less, be bribed t’ invert
Those long decrees? Then think the gods, like flies,
Are to be taken with the steam of flesh,
Or blood, diffused about their altars; think
Their power as cheap as I esteem it small.
Of all the throng that fill th’ Olympian hall,
And, without pity, lade poor Atlas’ back,
I know not that one deity, but Fortune,
To whom I would throw up, in begging smoke,
One grain of incense; or whose ear I’d buy
With thus much oil. Her I indeed adore;
And keep her grateful image in my house,
Sometimes belonging to a Roman king,
But now called mine, as by the better style.
To her I care not if, for satisfying
Your scrupulous fancies, I go offer. Bid
Our priest prepare us honey, milk, and poppy,
His masculine odours, and night-vestments. Say
Our rites are instant, which performed, you’ll see
How vain, and worthy laughter, your fears be.
6. Six Characters Looking For An Author
A monologue from the play by Luigi Pirandello
For the drama lies all in this—in the conscience that I have, that each one of us has. We believe this conscience to be a single thing, but it is many-sided. There is one for this person, and another for that. Diverse consciences.
So we have this illusion of being one person for all, of having a personality that is unique in all our acts. But it isn’t true. We perceive this when, tragically perhaps, in something we do, we are as it were, suspended, caught up in the air on a kind of hook.
Then we perceive that all of us was not in that act, and that it would be an atrocious injustice to judge us by that action alone, as if all our existence were summed up in that one deed. Now do you understand the perfidy of this girl?
She surprised me in a place, where she ought not to have known me, just as I could not exist for her; and she now seeks to attach to me a reality such as I could never suppose I should have to assume for her in a shameful and fleeting moment of my life.
I feel this above all else. And the drama, you will see, acquires a tremendous value from this point.
7. The Dream Play
A monologue from the play by August Strindberg
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Plays by August Strindberg, v. 1. Trans. Edwin Björkman. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912.
Look at these walls. Does it not look as if the wall-paper itself had been soiled by every conceivable sin? Look at these documents into which I write tales of wrong. Look at myself — No smiling man ever comes here;
nothing is to be seen here but angry glances, snarling lips, clenched fists — And everybody pours his anger, his envy, his suspicions, upon me. Look — my hands are black, and no washing will clean them.
See how they are chapped and bleeding — I can never wear my clothes more than a few days because they smell of other people’s crimes — At times I have the place fumigated with sulphur, but it does not help.
I sleep near by, and I dream of nothing but crimes — Just now I have a murder case in court — oh, I can stand that, but do you know what is worse than anything else? — That is to separate married people!
Then it is as if something cried way down in the earth and up there in the sky — as if it cried treason against the primal force, against the source of all good, against love– And do you know, when reams of paper have been filled with mutual accusations,
and at last a sympathetic person takes one of the two apart and asks, with a pinch of the ear or a smile, the simple question: what have you really got against your husband?–or your wife?–then he, or she, stands perplexed and cannot give the cause.
Once–well, I think a lettuce salad was the principal issue; another time it was just a word–mostly it is nothing at all. But the tortures, the sufferings–these I have to bear– See how I look! Do you think I could ever win a woman’s love with this countenance so like a criminal’s?
Do you think anybody dares to be friendly with me, who has to collect all the debts, all the money obligations, of the whole city?– It is a misery to be a man!
A monologue from the play by Lord Byron
Farewell! He’s gone; and on his finger bears my signet,
Which is to him a sceptre. He is stern
As I am heedless and the slaves deserve
To feel a master. What may be the danger,
I know not: he hath found it, let him quell it.
Must I consume my life—this little life—
In guarding against all may make it less!
It is not worth so much! It were to die
Before my hour, to live in dread of death,
Tracing revolt; suspecting all about me,
Because they are near; and all who are remote,
Because they are far. But if it should be so—
If they should sweep me off from earth and empire,
Why, what is earth or empire of the earth?
I have loved, and lived, and multiplied my image;
To die is no less natural than those
Acts of this clay! ‘Tis true I have not shed
Blood as I might have done, in oceans, till
My name became the synonym of death—
A terror and a trophy. But for this
I feel no penitence; my life is love:
If I must shed blood, it shall be by force.
Till now, no drop from an Assyrian vein
Hath flow’d for me, nor hath the smallest coin
Of Nineveh’s vast treasures o’er been lavish’d
On objects which could cost her Sons a tear:
If then they hate me, ’tis because I hate not:
If they rebel, ’tis because I oppress not.
Oh, men! ye must be ruled with scythes, not sceptres,
And mow’d down like the grass, else all we reap
Is rank abundance, and a rotten harvest
Of discontents infecting the fair soil,
Making a desert of fertility.—
I’ll think no more.
9. Le Cid
A monologue from the play by Pierre Corneille
O rage! O despair! O inimical old age! Have I then lived so long only for this disgrace? And have I grown grey in warlike toils, only to see in one day so many of my laurels wither?
Does my arm [i.e. my valor], which all Spain admires and looks up to [lit. with respect]—[does] my arm, which has so often saved this empire, and so often strengthened anew the throne of its king,
now [lit. then] betray my cause, and do nothing for me? O cruel remembrance of my bygone glory! O work of a lifetime [lit. so many days] effaced in a day! new dignity fatal to my happiness!
lofty precipice from which mine honor falls! must I see the count triumph over your splendor, and die without vengeance, or live in shame? Count, be now the instructor of my prince!
This high rank becomes [lit. admits] no man without honor, and thy jealous pride, by this foul [lit. remarkable] insult, in spite of the choice of the king, has contrived [lit. has known how] to render me unworthy of it.
And thou, glorious instrument of my exploits, but yet a useless ornament of an enfeebled body numbed by age [lit. all of ice], thou sword, hitherto to be feared,
and which in this insult has served me for show, and not for defence, go, abandon henceforth the most dishonored [lit. the last] of his race; pass, to avenge me, into better hands!
10. The Lower Depths
A monologue from the play by Maxim Gorky
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Moscow Art Theatre Series of Plays. Ed. Oliver M. Sayler. New York: Brantanos, 1922.
Some one has to be kind, girl — some one has to pity people! Christ pitied everybody — and he said to us: “Go and do likewise!” I tell you — if you pity a man when he most needs it, good comes of it.
Why — I used to be a watchman on the estate of an engineer near Tomsk — all right — the house was right in the middle of a forest — lonely place — winter came — and I remained all by myself.
Well — one night I heard a noise — thieves creeping in! I took my gun — I went out. I looked and saw two of them opening a window — and so busy that they didn’t even see me.
I yell: “Hey there — get out of here!” And they turn on me with their axes — I warn them to stand back, or I’d shoot — and as I speak, I keep on covering them with my gun,
first on the one, then the other — they go down on their knees, as if to implore me for mercy. And by that time I was furious — because of those axes, you see — and so I say to them:
“I was chasing you, you scoundrels — and you didn’t go. Now you go and break off some stout branches!” — and they did so — and I say: “Now — one of you lie down and let the other one flog him!”
So they obey me and flog each other — and then they began to implore me again. “Grandfather,” they say, “for God’s sake give us some bread! We’re hungry!”
There’s thieves for you, my dear! [Laughs.] And with an ax, too! Yes — honest peasants, both of them! And I say to them, “You should have asked for bread straight away!”
And they say: “We got tired of asking — you beg and beg — and nobody gives you a crumb — it hurts!” So they stayed with me all that winter — one of them, Stepan,
would take my gun and go shooting in the forest — and the other, Yakoff, was ill most of the time — he coughed a lot . . . and so the three of us together looked after the house . . .
then spring came . . . “Good-bye, grandfather,” they said — and they went away — back home to Russia . . . escaped convicts — from a Siberian prison camp . . . honest peasants!
If I hadn’t felt sorry for them — they might have killed me — or maybe worse — and then there would have been a trial and prison and afterwards Siberia — what’s the sense of it?
Prison teaches no good — and Siberia doesn’t either — but another human being can . . . yes, a human being can teach another one kindness — very simply!
11. The Honest Whore
A monologue from the play by Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton
Methinks a toad is happier than a whore.
That, with one poison, swells; with thousands more
The other stocks her veins. Harlot? Fie, fie!
You are the miserablest creatures breathing,
The very slaves of nature. Mark me else.
You put on rich attires – others’ eyes wear them;
You eat, but to supply your blood with sin.
And this strange curse e’en haunts you to your graves.
From fools you get, and spend it upon slaves.
Like bears and apes, y’are baited and show tricks
For money; but your bawd the sweetness licks.
Indeed, you are their journeywomen, and do
All base and damned works they list set you to,
So that you ne’er are rich; for do but show me,
In present memory or in ages past,
The fairest and most famous courtesan,
Whose flesh was dear’st; that raised the price of sin,
And held it up; to whose intemperate bosom,
Princes, earls, lords, the worst has been a knight,
The mean’st a gentleman, have offered up
Whole hecatombs of sighs, and rained in showers
Handfuls of gold; yet, for all this, at last
Diseases sucked her marrow, then grew so poor
That she has begged e’en at a beggar’s door.
And (wherein heaven has a finger) when this idol,
From coast to coast, has leaped on foreign shores,
And had more worship than the outlandish whores;
When several nations have gone over her;
When, for each several city she has seen,
Her maidenhead has been new, and been sold dear;
Did live well there, and might have died unknown
And undefamed – back comes she to her own,
And there both miserably lives and dies,
Scorned even of those that once adored her eyes,
As if her fatal, circled life thus ran:
Her pride should end there where it first began.
What, do you weep to hear your story read?
Nay, if you spoil your cheeks, I’ll read no more.
12. When We Dead Awaken
A monologue from the play by Henrik Ibsen (Adapted by Walter Wykes)
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted with the author’s permission. All inquiries should be directed to the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org
They’re a bunch of pompous windbags! The whole lot of them! They look at my work and … and see something that isn’t there–something that was never in my mind at all!
It’s just a bunch of academic nonsense. On the surface, yes, I’ll admit I give them the “striking likeness” they so desperately desire, that they gape at in astonishment,
but I could never satisfy myself with such a simple task–you should realize that by now. I have to do something to entertain myself–don’t I? So I take a few … artistic liberties,
let’s say … make a few embellishments here and there … leave a little something hidden in each one, something cryptic, lurking behind those lifelike masks,
a subliminal suggestion that my wealthy benefactors are either too stupid or too proud to discern. But someday, perhaps … someday, they shall see it.
As they huddle round these “portrait busts,” as you call them, with their children and their grandchildren, they shall suddenly come to the horrific realization that, at bottom,
they are all a bunch of pompous horse-faces, lop-eared dog-skulls, and fatted swine-snouts! It is these double-faced works of art that our excellent plutocrats come and order of me, and pay for in good round figures!
A monologue from the play by Sophocles
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Greek Dramas. Ed. Bernadotte Perrin. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1904.
Yea, this, my son, should by thy heart’s fixed law–in all things to obey thy father’s will. ‘Tis for this that men pray to see dutiful children grow up around them in their homes–
that such may requite their father’s foe with evil, and honour, as their father doth, his friend. But he who begets unprofitable children–what shall we say that he hath sown,
but troubles for himself, and much triumph for his foes? Then do not thou, my son, at pleasure’s beck, dethrone thy reason for a woman’s sake; knowing that this is a joy that soon grows cold in clasping arms–
an evil woman to share thy bed and thy home. For what wound could strike deeper than a false friend? Nay, with loathing, and as if she were thine enemy, let this girl go to find a husband in the house of Hades.
For since I have taken her, alone of all the city, in open disobedience, I will not make myself a liar to my people–I will slay her. So let her appeal as she will to the majesty of kindred blood.
If I am to nurture mine own kindred in naughtiness, needs must I bear with it in aliens. He who does violence to the laws, or thinks to dictate to his rulers, such a one can win no praise from me.
No, whomsoever the city may appoint, that man must be obeyed, in little things and great, in just things and unjust; and I should feel sure that one who thus obeys would be a good ruler no less than a good subject,
and in the storm of spears would stand his ground where he was set, loyal and dauntless at his comrade’s side. But disobedience is the worst of evils. This it is that ruins cities;
this makes homes desolate; by this, the ranks of allies are broken into headlong rout: but, of the lives whose course is fair, the greater part owes safety to obedience.
Therefore we must support the cause of order, and in no wise suffer a woman to worst us. Better to fall from power, if we must, by a man’s hand; then we should not be called weaker than a woman.
14. The Lucky Chance
A monologue from the play by Aphra Behn
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Works of Aphra Behn, Vol. 3. Ed. Montague Summers. London: Heinemann, 1915.
You are my Lady, and the best of Mistresses–Therefore I would not grieve you, for I know you love this best–but most unhappy Man. [Pause.] My Master sent me yesterday to Mr. Crap,
his Scrivener, to send to one Mr. Wasteall, to tell him his first Mortgage was out, which is two hundred pounds a Year–and who has since engaged five or six hundred more to my Master;
but if this first be not redeem’d, he’ll take the Forfeit on’t, as he says a wise Man ought. Mr. Crap, being busy with a borrowing Lord, sent me to Mr. Wasteall, whose Lodging is in a nasty Place called Alsatia, at a Black-Smith’s.
Well, Madam, this Wasteall was Mr. Gayman! He’s driven to the last degree of Poverty–Had you but seen his Lodgings, Madam! I went to the Black-Smith’s, and at the door,
I encountered the beastly thing he calls a Landlady; who looked as if she had been of her own Husband’s making, compose’d of moulded Smith’s Dust. I ask’d for Mr. Wasteall,
and she began to open–and so did rail at him, that what with her Billinsgate, and her Husband’s hammers, I was both deaf and dumb–at last the hammers ceas’d,
and she grew weary, and call’d down Mr. Wasteall; but he not answering–I was sent up a Ladder rather than a pair of Stairs; at last I scal’d the top, and enter’d the enchanted Castle;
there did I find him, spite of the noise below, drowning his Cares in Sleep. He waked–and seeing me, Heavens, what Confusion seiz’d him! which nothing but my own Surprise could equal.
Asham’d–he wou’d have turn’d away; but when he saw, by my dejected Eyes, I knew him, He sigh’d, and blushed, and heard me tell my Business: Then beg’d I wou’d be secret;
for he vow’d his whole Repose and Life depended on my silence. Nor had I told it now, But that your Ladyship may find some speedy means to draw him from this desperate Condition.
15. The Painter Of His Own Dishonour
A monologue from the play by Pedro Calderón de la Barca
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Eight Dramas of Calderon. Trans. Edward Fitzgerald. London: Macmillan & Co., 1906.
He is resolved. And Serafina,
To whose divinity I offer’d up
My heart of hearts, a purer sacrifice
Than ever yet on pagan altar blazed,
Has play’d me false, is married to another,
And now will fly away on winds and seas,
As fleeting as herself.
Then what remains but that I die? My death
The necessary shadow of that marriage!
Comfort!–what boots it looking after that
Which never can be found? The worst is come,
Which ’twere a blind and childish waste of hope
To front with any visage but despair.
Ev’n that one single solace, were there one,
Of ringing my despair into her ears,
Fails me. Time presses; the accursed breeze
Blows foully fair. The vessel flaps her sails
That is to bear her from me. Look, she comes–
And from before her dawning beauty all
I had to say fades from my swimming brain,
And chokes upon my tongue.
16. The Seven Against Thebes
A monologue from the play by Aeschylus
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Dramas of Aeschylus. Trans. Anna Swanwick. London: George Bell and Sons, 1907.
Burghers of Cadmos, timely words beseem
Him at the stern who guards the city’s weal,
Guiding the helm with lids unsoothed by sleep;
For, if we prosper, God alone is praised,
But if, which Heaven forfend, mischance befall,
One man, Eteocles, through all the town,
In noiseful rhymes and wailings manifold
Would by the folk be chanted; which may Zeus,
True to his sacred name, Averter, turn
From our Cadmeian city; you meanwhile
It now behoveth–him alike who fails
Of youth’s fair prime, and him whose bloom is past,
Yet nursing still his body’s stalwart strength,
And each one grown to manhood, as befits–
The State to aid and shrines of native gods,
That ne’er their homes be erased; to aid
Your children too, and this your mother earth,
Beloved nurse, who, while your childish limbs
Crept on her friendly plain, all nurture-toil
Full kindly entertained, and fostered you
Her denizens to be, in strait like this
Shield-bearing champions, trusty in her cause.
And so far, to the present day, in sooth
God in our favour hath inclined the scale;
For unto us, so long beleaguered here,
War prospers in the main, through heaven’s high will;–
But now, so speaks the seer, augur divine,
Without fire omens, but in ear and mind
Marking, with faultless skill, presageful birds,–
He, lord of these divining arts, declares
That the prime onset of the Achaian host,
Night-plotted, threatens even now the town;
Haste, to the turrets then and bastion-gates
Rush in full panoply;–the breastwork throng,
Take station on the platforms of the towers,
And, biding at the outlets of the ports,
Be of good courage, nor this alien swarm
Dread over-much; God will rule all for good.
Myself have scouts sent forth and army spies,
Who, as I trust, no bootless journey make;
And having heard their tidings, in no wise
Shall I by guileful stratagem be caught.
17. The Duchess of Malfi
A monologue from the play by John Webster
Let me see her face again.
Why didst thou not pity her?
What an excellent honest man mightst thou have been,
If thou hadst borne her to some sanctuary.
Or, bold in a good cause, oppos’d thyself,
With thy advanced sword above thy head,
Between her innocence and my revenge.
I bade thee, when I was distracted of my wits,
Go kill my dearest friend, and thou hast done’t.
For let me but examine the cause:
What was the meanness of her match to me?
Only I must confess I had hope,
Had she continu’d widowed, to have gain’d
An infinite mass of treasure by her death.
And that was the main cause – her marriage –
That drew a stream of gall quite through my heart.
For thee, as we observe in tragedies
That a good actor many times is cursed
For playing a villain’s part, I hate thee for’t,
And, for my sake, say thou hast done much ill well.
18. Uncle Vanya
A monologue from the play by Anton Chekov
Yes, ten years have made me another man. And why? Because I am overworked. Nurse, I am on my feet from dawn till dusk. I know no rest; at night I tremble under my blanket for fear of being dragged out to visit someone who is sick;
I have toiled without repose or a day’s freedom since I have known you; could I help growing old? And then, existence is tedious, anyway; it is a senseless, dirty business, this life, and goes heavily.
Everyone about here is silly, and after living with them for two or three years one grows silly oneself. It is inevitable. [Twisting his moustache.] See what a long moustache I have grown.
A foolish, long moustache. Yes, I am silly as the rest, nurse, but not as stupid; no, I have not grown stupid. Thank God, my brain is not addled yet, though my feelings have grown numb.
I ask nothing, I need nothing, I love no one, unless it is yourself alone.
A monologue from the play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Faust. Trans. Bayard Taylor. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1898.
In misery! In despair! Long wretchedly astray on the face of the earth, and now imprisoned! That gracious, ill-starred creature shut in a dungeon as a criminal,
and given up to fearful torments! To this has it come! to this!–Treacherous, contemptible spirit, and thou hast concealed it from me!–Stand, then,–stand!
Roll the devilish eyes wrathfully in thy head! Stand and defy me with thine intolerable presence! Imprisoned! In irretrievable misery! Delivered up to evil spirits, and to condemning, unfeeling Man!
And thou hast lulled me, meanwhile, with the most insipid dissipations, hast concealed from me her increasing wretchedness, and suffered her to go helplessly to ruin! Dog!
Abominable monster! Transform him, thou Infinite Spirit! transform the reptile again to his dog-shape, in which it pleased him often at night to scamper on before me,
to roll himself at the feet of the unsuspecting wanderer, and hang upon his shoulders when he fell! Transform him again into his favorite likeness, that he may crawl upon his belly in the dust before me,–
that I may trample him, the outlawed, under foot! Not the first! O woe! woe which no human soul can grasp, that more than one being should sink into the depths of this misery,–
that the first, in its writhing death-agony under the eyes of the Eternal Forgiver, did not expiate the guilt of all others! The misery of this single one pierces to the very marrow of my life; and thou art calmly grinning at the fate of thousands!
20. What We Owe Our Lies
A monologue from the play by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón
How can my unlucky stars
so mislead a noble heart
to such malicious judgments?
Go on, oh ingrate, oh cruel one!
It’s so subtle of you,
to deny your fickleness
by inventing faults for me!
Given that Leonor adores me,
and that don Sancho wants me
to take her hand in marriage
who is it up to? Who?
Is it not up to me?
If I loved her and just pretended
to disdain her for your sake,
what would stop me now,
when I know that you know
and that I pretend in vain?
Especially when you’ve so wronged me
in both word and deed,
that I’d be justified in changing my mind,
and even in taking my revenge.
Would I not be knocking down her door?
Would I not be fulfilling my designs?
Would I be here explaining myself to you?
Would I be hanging on your every whim?
So if I leave her and seek you out,
if I flee her and pursue you,
if I adore you and despise her,
if I beg you and resist her,
how can you not be satisfied?
What other possible crimes
am I accused of to justify
this notorious treatment?
Say that you’ve changed your mind, you traitor,
say that don Sancho is richer,
say that I am a poor wretch,
say that your love was feigned,
say that I do not deserve you;
but do not deny my devotions,
when their strength could have pierced
even a heart made of stone!
21. Wendoll: A Woman Killed With Kindness
A monologue from the play by Thomas Heywood
Pursued with horror of a guilty soul,
And with the sharp scourge of repentance lashed,
I fly from mine own shadow. O my stars!
What have my parents in their lives deserved,
That you should lay this penance on their son?
When I but think of Master Frankford’s love,
And lay it to my treason, or compare
My murthering him for his relieving me,
It strikes a terror like a lightning’s flash,
To scorch my blood up. Thus I, like the owl,
Ashamed of day, live in these shadowy woods,
Afraid of every leaf or murmuring blast.
Yet longing to receive some perfect knowledge
How he hath dealt with her. [Sees Anne.] O my sad fate!
Here, and so far from home, and thus attended!
O God! I have divorced the truest turtles
That ever lived together, and, being divided,
In several places make their several moan;
She in the field laments, and he at home.
So poets write that Orpheus made the trees
And stones to dance to his melodious harp,
Meaning the rustic and the barbarous hinds,
That had no understanding part in them;
So she from these rude carters tears extracts,
Making their flinty hearts with grief to rise,
And draw down rivers from their rocky eyes.
A monologue from the play by Jean Racine
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Dramatic Works of Jean Racine. Trans. Robert Bruce Boswell. London: George Bell and Sons, 1911.
Would’st thou have me learn
Now at my age the worthless lore of love?
And shall a heart that years of toil have harden’d
Blindly submit to follow vain delights?
Nay, she attracts my gaze with other charms,
I love in her the blood of royal sires.
Through this alliance to the throne and brought near
By Bajazet, I thus secure a shield
To guard myself against him. Some offence
Is sure to rise, for scarcely has vizier
Been chosen ere the Sultan fears his creature,
And greed or envy soon effects his ruin.
To-day he honours me and courts my favour,
The risks he runs incline his heart toward me.
But stablish’d on the throne, this Bajazet
Perchance will throw aside a useless friend:
And, if my faithful service be forgotten,
The day may come when he will dare to doom me
To death–. I say no more, but ’tis my purpose
To keep him waiting for my head full long.
I know the duty that I owe my masters,
But ’tis for slaves to humour their caprices,
Nor am I so besotted as to lick
The hand that strikes me. Thus it comes to pass
That I within these walls have free admittance,
And with mine eyes may look upon Roxana.
At first she listen’d to my voice, herself
Unseen, and fear’d to break the rigid laws
That guard the harem. But those irksome scruples,
Our converse hampering, ere long were banish’d.
She has herself chosen this nook remote
Where eyes may hearts discover unrestrain’d.
A slave conducts me by a secret passage–
But here she comes, with her loved Atalide.
Stay, and be ready, should there need arise,
To ratify the statement I shall make her.
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