24 Best Classical Dramatic Monologues For Women
1. Oedipus the King
A monologue from the play by Sophocles
JOCASTA – 1
Why should a mortal man, the sport of chance,
With no assured foreknowledge, be afraid?
Best live a careless life from hand to mouth.
This wedlock with thy mother fear not thou.
How oft it chances that in dreams a man
Has wed his mother! He who least regards
Such brainsick fantasies lives most at ease.
JOCASTA – 2
My lords, ye look amazed to see your queen
With wreaths and gifts of incense in her hands.
I had a mind to visit the high shrines,
For Oedipus is overwrought, alarmed
With terrors manifold. He will not use
His past experience, like a man of sense,
To judge the present need, but lends an ear
To any croaker if he augurs ill.
Since then my counsels naught avail, I turn
To thee, our present help in time of trouble,
Apollo, Lord Lycean, and to thee
My prayers and supplications here I bring.
Lighten us, lord, and cleanse us from this curse!
For now we all are cowed like mariners
Who see their helmsman dumbstruck in the storm.
2. Life Is A Dream
A monologue from the play by Pedro Calderon De La Barca
Is not that glimmer there afar —
That dying exhalation — that pale star —
A tiny taper, which, with trembling blaze
Flickering ‘twixt struggling flames and dying rays,
With ineffectual spark
Makes the dark dwelling place appear more dark?
Yes, for its distant light,
Reflected dimly, brings before my sight
A dungeon’s awful gloom,
Say rather of a living corse, a living tomb;
And to increase my terror and surprise,
Drest in the skins of beasts a man there lies:
A piteous sight,
Chained, and his sole companion this poor light.
Since then we cannot fly,
Let us attentive to his words draw nigh,
Whatever they may be.
3. The White Devil
A monologue from the play by John Webster
Act – 4, Scene – 2
What have I gained by thee but infamy?
Thou hast stained the spotless honour of my house,
And frightened thence noble society:
Like those which, sick o’ th’ palsy, and retain
Ill-scenting foxes ’bout them, are still shunned
By those of choicer nostrils. What do you call this house?
Is this your palace? Did not the judge style it
A house of penitent whores? Who sent me to it?
Who hath the honour to advance Vittoria
To this incontinent college? Is’t not you?
Is’t not your high preferment? Go, go brag
How many ladies you have undone, like me.
Fare you well sir; let me hear no more of you.
I had a limb corrupted to an ulcer,
But I have cut it off: and now I’ll go
Weeping to heaven on crutches. For your gifts,
I will return them all; and I do wish
That I could make you full executor
To all my sins – that I could toss myself
Into a grave as quickly: for all thou art worth
I’ll not shed one tear more – I’ll burst first.
A monologue from the play by Sophocles
Bethink thee, sister, of our father’s fate,
Abhorred, dishonored, self-convinced of sin,
Blinded, himself his executioner.
Think of his mother-wife (ill sorted names)
Done by a noose herself had twined to death
And last, our hapless brethren in one day,
Both in a mutual destiny involved,
Self-slaughtered, both the slayer and the slain.
Bethink thee, sister, we are left alone;
Shall we not perish wretchedest of all,
If in defiance of the law we cross
A monarch’s will?—weak women, think of that,
Not framed by nature to contend with men.
Remember this too that the stronger rules;
We must obey his orders, these or worse.
Therefore I plead compulsion and entreat
The dead to pardon. I perforce obey
The powers that be. ‘Tis foolishness, I ween,
To overstep in aught the golden mean.
ANTIGONE – 1
Yea, for these laws were not ordained of Zeus,
And she who sits enthroned with gods below,
Justice, enacted not these human laws.
Nor did I deem that thou, a mortal man,
Could’st by a breath annul and override
The immutable unwritten laws of Heaven.
They were not born today nor yesterday;
They die not; and none knoweth whence they sprang.
I was not like, who feared no mortal’s frown,
To disobey these laws and so provoke
The wrath of Heaven. I knew that I must die,
E’en hadst thou not proclaimed it; and if death
Is thereby hastened, I shall count it gain.
For death is gain to him whose life, like mine,
Is full of misery. Thus my lot appears
Not sad, but blissful; for had I endured
To leave my mother’s son unburied there,
I should have grieved with reason, but not now.
And if in this thou judgest me a fool,
Methinks the judge of folly’s not acquit.
ANTIGONE – 2
Tomb, bridal chamber,
eternal prison in the caverned rock,
whither I go to find mine own, those
many who have perished, and whom
Persephone hath received among the dead!
Last of all shall I pass thither, and far most
miserably of all, before the term of my life is spent.
But I cherish good hope that my coming will be
welcome to my father, and pleasant to thee, my mother, and welcome, brother, to thee; for, when you died,
with mine own hands I washed and dressed you,
and poured drink-offerings at your graves;
and now, Polyneices, ’tis for tending thy corpse
that I win such recompense as this. And yet
I honored thee, as the wise will deem, rightly.
Never had I been a mother of children,
or if a husband had been moldering in death,
would I have taken this task upon me in the city’s despite.
What law, ye ask, is my warrant for that word?
The husband lost, another might have been found,
and child from another, to replace the first-born;
but, father and mother hidden with Hades,
no brother’s life could ever bloom for me again.
Such was the law whereby I held thee first in honor;
but Creon deemed me guilty of error therein,
and of outrage, ah brother mine!
And now he leads me thus, a captive in his hands;
no bridal bed, no bridal song hath been mine,
no joy of marriage, no portion in the nurture of children; but thus, forlorn of friends, unhappy one,
I go living to the vaults of death.
And what law of Heaven have I transgressed?
Why, hapless one, should I look to the gods anymore–what ally should I invoke–when by piety
I have earned the name of impious? Nay, then,
if these things are pleasing to the gods,
when I have suffered my doom,
I shall come to know my sin; but if the sin
is with my judges, I could wish them
no fuller measure of evil than they,
on their part, mete wrongfully to me.
5. The Cid
A monologue from the play by Pierre Corneille
Act – 1, Scene – 2
INFANTA – 1
I remember it so well, that I would shed my blood rather than degrade my rank. I might assuredly answer to thee,
that, in noble souls, worth alone ought to arouse passions; and, if my love sought to excuse itself, a thousand famous examples might sanction it.
But I will not follow these—where my honor is concerned, the captivation of my feelings does not abate my courage,
and I say to myself always, that, being the daughter of a king, all other than a monarch is unworthy of me.
When I saw that my heart could not protect itself, I myself gave away that which I did not dare to take;
and I put, in place of my self, Chimène in its fetters, and I kindled their passions [lit. fires] in order to extinguish my own.
Be then no longer surprised if my troubled soul with impatience awaits their bridal; thou seest that my happiness [lit. repose] this day depends upon it.
If love lives by hope, it perishes with it; it is a fire which becomes extinguished for want of fuel; and, in spite of the severity of my sad lot,
if Chimène ever has Rodrigo for a husband, my hope is dead and my spirit, is healed. Meanwhile, I endure an incredible torture; even up to this bridal.
Rodrigo is dear to me; I strive to lose him, and I lose him with regret, and hence my secret anxiety derives its origin.
I see with sorrow that love compels me to utter sighs for that [object] which [as a princess] I must disdain.
I feel my spirit divided into two portions; if my courage is high, my heart is inflamed [with love]. This bridal is fatal to me, I fear it, and [yet] I desire it;
I dare to hope from it only an incomplete joy; my honor and my love have for me such attractions,
that I [shall] die whether it be accomplished, or whether it be not accomplished.
INFANTA – 2
Act – 5, Scene – 2
Shall I listen to thee still, pride of my birth, that makest a crime out of my passions?
Shall I listen to thee, love, whose delicious power causes my desires to rebel against this proud tyrant?
Poor princess! to which of the two oughtest thou to yield obedience? Rodrigo, thy valor renders thee worthy of me;
but although thou art valiant, thou art not the son of a king. Pitiless fate, whose severity separates my glory and my desires!
Is it decreed [lit. said], that the choice of [a warrior of] such rare merit should cost my passion such great anguish?
O heaven! for how many sorrows [lit. sighs] must my heart prepare itself, if, after such a long, painful struggle,
it never succeeds in either extinguishing the love, or accepting the lover!
But there are too many scruples, and my reason is alarmed at the contempt of a choice so worthy;
although to monarchs only my [proud] birth may assign me, Rodrigo, with honor I shall live under thy laws.
After having conquered two kings, couldst thou fail in obtaining a crown? And this great name of Cid, which thou hast just now won—
does it not show too clearly over whom thou art destined to reign? He is worthy of me, but he belongs to Chimène; the present which I made of him [to her], injures me.
Between them, the death of a father has interposed so little hatred, that the duty of blood with regret pursues him.
Thus let us hope for no advantage, either from his transgression or from my grief, since, to punish me,
destiny has allowed that love should continue even between two enemies.
6. Fuente Ovejuna
A monologue from the play by Lope De Vega
Does this my hair not tell the tale?
Can you not see these scars,
these signs of savage blows, this blood?
And are you men of honour?
Are you my father and my kin?
Are you so cold, so cruel
your very souls aren’t torn apart
to see such suffering?
But no, your town is aptly named,
and you’re not men, but sheep!
Let me be armed for battle, then,
if you’re so hard of heart,
such stocks and stones, such tigresses . . .
no, worse than tigresses . . .
for they, when hunters steal their young
and slay them, till they reach the sea
and plunge beneath its waves.
Not tigresses, but timid hares,
not Spaniards, but barbarians,
too chicken-hearted to deny
your women to other men!
Why not wear distaffs at your waists?
Why gird on useless swords?
I swear to God we women alone
shall make those tyrants pay
for our indignities, and bill
those traitors for our blood.
And you, you effete effeminates,
I sentence to be stoned
as spinsters, pansies, queens and cowards,
and forced henceforth to wear
our bonnets and our overskirts,
with painted, powdered faces.
Our valorous Commander means
to have Frondoso hanged
—uncharged, untried and uncondemned—
from yonder battlements.
He’ll serve all you unmanly men
the same, and I’ll rejoice;
for when this honourable town
is womanless, that age
shall dawn which once amazed the world,
the age of Amazons.
A monologue from the play by Aeschylus
Ah, ah the fire! it waxes, nears me now–
Woe, woe for me, Apollo of the dawn!
Lo, how the woman-thing, the lioness
Couched with the wolf–her noble mate afar–
Will slay me, slave forlorn! Yea, like some witch,
She drugs the cup of wrath, that slays her lord,
With double death–his recompense for me!
Ay, ’tis for me, the prey he bore from Troy,
That she hath sworn his death, and edged the steel!
Ye wands, ye wreaths that cling around my neck,
Ye showed me prophetess yet scorned of all–
I stamp you into death, or e’er I die–
Down, to destruction! Thus I stand revenged–
Go, crown some other with a prophet’s woe.
Lookl it is he, it is Apollo’s self
Rending from me the prophet-robe he gave.
God! while I wore it yet, thou saw’st me mocked
There at my home by each malicious mouth–
To all and each, an undivided scorn.
The name alike and fate of witch and cheat–
Woe, poverty, and famine–all I bore;
And at this last the god hath brought me here
Into death’s toils, and what his love had made,
His hate unmakes me now: and I shall stand
Not now before the altar of my home,
But me a slaughter-house and block of blood
Shall see hewn down, a reeking sacrifice.
Yet shall the gods have heed of me who die,
For by their will shall one requite my doom.
He, to avenge his father’s blood outpoured,
Shall smite and slay with matricidal hand.
Ay, he shall come–tho’ far away he roam,
A banished wanderer in a stranger’s land–
To crown his kindred’s edifice of ill,
Called home to vengeance by his father’s fall:
Thus have the high gods sworn, and shall fulfil.
And now why mourn I, tarrying on earth,
Since first mine Ilion has found its fate
And I beheld, and those who won the wall
Pass to such issue as the gods ordain?
I too will pass and like them dare to die! (She turns and looks upon
the palace door.) Portal of Hades, thus I bid thee hail!
Grant me one boon–a swift and mortal stroke,
That all unwrung by pain, with ebbing blood
Shed forth in quiet death, I close mine eyes.
8. Tis Pity, She’s A Wh*re
A monologue from the play by John Ford
Do you know me now? Look, perjured man, on her
Whom thou and thy distracted lust have wronged.
Thy sensual rage of blood hath made my youth
A scorn to men and angels, and shall I
Be now a foil to thy unsated change?
Thou know’st, false wanton, when my modest fame
Stood free from stain or scandal, all the charms
Of Hell or sorcery could not prevail
Against the honour of my chaster bosom.
Thine eyes did plead in tears, they tongue in oaths
Such and so many, that a heart of steel
Would have been wrought to pity, as was mine:
And shall the conquest of my lawful bed,
My husband’s death urged on by his disgrace,
My loss of womanhood, be ill rewarded
With hatred and contempt? No, know Soranzo,
I have a spirit doth as much distaste
The slavery of fearing thee, as thou
Dost loathe the memory of what hath passed.
PIeasures, farewell, and all ye thriftless minutes
Wherein false joys have spun a weary life.
To these my fortunes now I take my leave.
Thou, precious Time, that swiftly rid’st in post
Over the world, to finish up the race
Of my last fate, here stay thy restless course,
And hear to ages that are yet unborn
A wretched, woeful woman’s tragedy.
My conscience now stands up against my lust
With depositions charactered in guilt,
And tells me I am lost: now I confess
Beauty that clothes the outside of the face
Is cursèd if it be not clothed with grace.
Here like a turtle (mewed up in a cage)
Unmated, I converse with air and walls,
And descant on my vile unhappiness.
O Giovanni, that hast had the spoil
Of thine own virtues and my modest fame,
Would thou hadst been less subject to those stars
That luckless reigned at my nativity:
O would the scourge due to my black offence
Might pass from thee, that I alone might feel
The torment of an uncontrolled flame.
That man, that blessed friar,
Who joined in ceremonial knot my hand
To him whose wife I now am, told me oft
I trod the path to death, and showed me how.
But they who sleep in lethargies of lust
Hug their confusion, making Heaven unjust,
And so did I.
Forgive me, my good genius, and this once
Be helpful to my ends. Let some good man
Pass this way, to whose trust I may commit
This paper double-lined with tears and blood:
Which being granted, here I sadly vow
Repentance, and a leaving of that life
I long have died in.
9. Spring’s Awakening
A monologue from the play by Frank Wedekind
Why have you made my dress so long, Mother? If I‟d known you were going to make my dress as long as that I‟d rather have stayed thirteen.
The little girl-dress suits me better than that old sack. Let me wear it a little longer, Mother! Just for the summer!
This penitential robe will keep. Hold it till my next birthday. I‟d only trip on it now! Who knows? Maybe I won‟t be around.
Oh, Mother, please don‟t be sad! Such ideas come to me in the evening when I can‟t go to sleep. And I don‟t feel sad, either.
I know I‟ll sleep all the better. Is it sinful to think of such things, Mother? Oh Mother, a girl doesn‟t get diphtheria in the back of her knees, why so fainthearted?
You don‟t feel the cold at my age, „specially not in the legs. And would it be any better if I was too hot, Mother?
You can think yourself lucky if one fine morning your little precious doesn‟t cut her sleeves off or come home in the evening without shoes and stockings.
When I wear my penitential robe I‟ll be dressed like the queen of the fairies underneath…. Don‟t scold, Mother darling. No one will ever see it!
10. ChOephori Or The Libation Bearers
A monologue from the play by Aeschylus
Ye captive women, ye who tend this home,
Since ye are present to escort with me
These lustral rites, your counsel now I crave.
How, while I pour these off’rings on the tomb,
Speak friendly words? and how invoke my Sire?
Shall I declare that from a loving wife
To her dear lord I bear them? from my mother?
My courage fails, now know I what to speak,
Pouring libations on my father’s tomb.
Or shall I pray, as holy wont enjoins,
That to the senders of these chaplets, he
Requital may accord, ay! meed of ill.
Or, with no mark of honour, silently,
For so my father perished, shall I pour
These offerings, potion to be drunk by earth,
Then, tossing o’er my head the lustral urn,
(As one who loathèd refuse forth has cast,)
With eyes averted, back retrace my steps?
Be ye partakers in my counsel, friends,
For in this house one common hate we share.
Through fear hide not the feelings of your heart;
For what is destined waits alike the free
And him o’ermastered by another’s hand;–
If ye have aught more wise to urge, say on.
11. Miss Julie
A monologue from the play by August Strindberg
MISS JULIE – 1
Don’t you think I can stand the sight of blood? You think I am weak.
Oh, I should like to see your blood flowing—to see your brain on the chopping block, all your sex swimming in a sea of blood.
I believe I could drink out of your skull, bathe my feet in your breast and eat your heart cooked whole.
You think I am weak; you believe that I love you because my life has mingled with yours;
you think that I would carry your offspring under my heart, and nourish it with my blood—give birth to your child and take your name!
Hear, you, what are you called, what is your family name? But I’m sure you have none. I should be “Mrs. Gate-Keeper,” perhaps, or “Madame Dumpheap.”
You dog with my collar on, you lackey with my father’s hallmark on your buttons. I play rival to my cook—oh—oh—oh!
You believe that I am cowardly and want to run away. No, now I shall stay. The thunder may roll.
My father will return—and find his desk broken into—his money gone! Then he will ring—that bell.
A scuffle with his servant—then sends for the police—and then I tell all—everything! Oh, it will be beautiful to have it all over with—if only that were the end!
And my father—he’ll have a shock and die, and then that will be the end. Then they will place his swords across the coffin—and the Count’s line is extinct.
The serf’s line will continue in an orphanage, win honors in the gutter and end in prison.
MISS JULIE – 2
Perhaps. But you are too. Everything is wonderful for that matter. Life, people -everything. Everything is wreckage, that drifts over the water until it sinks, sinks.
I have the same dream every now and then and at this moment I am reminded of it.
I find myself seated at the top of a high pillar and I see no possible way to get down. I grow dizzy when I look down, but down I must.
But I’m not brave enough to throw myself; I cannot hold fast and I long to fall -but I don’t fall. And yet I can find no rest or peace until I shall come down to earth;
and if I came down to earth I would wish myself down in the ground. Have you ever felt like that?
MISS JULIE – 3
You only say that. And for that matter I have no secrets. You see, my mother was not of noble birth.
She was brought up with ideas of equality, woman’s freedom and all that.
She had very decided opinions against matrimony, and when my father courted her she declared that she would never be his wife -but she did so for all that.
I came into the world against my mother’s wishes, I discovered, and was brought up like a child of nature my mother,
and taught everything that a boy must know as well; I was to be an example of a woman being as good as a man –
I was made to go about in boy’s clothes and take care of the horses and harness and saddle and hunt, and all such things;
in fact, all over the estate women servants were taught to do men’s work, with the result that the property came near being ruined -and so we became the laughing stock of the countryside.
At last my father must have awakened from his bewitched condition, for he revolted, and ran things according to his ideas.
My mother became ill -what it was I don’t know, but she often had cramps and acted queerly –
sometimes hiding in the attic or the orchard, and would even be gone all night at times. Then came the big fire which of course you have heard about.
The house, the stables -everything was burned, under circumstances that pointed strongly to an incendiary,
for the misfortune happened the day after the quarterly insurance was due and the premiums sent in father were strangely delayed his messenger so that they arrived too late.
12. The Seagull
A monologue from the play by Anton Chekov
How strange to see a famous actress weeping, and for such a trifle! Is it not strange, too, that a famous author should sit fishing all day?
He is the idol of the public, the papers are full of him, his photograph is for sale everywhere,
his works have been translated into many foreign languages, and yet he is overjoyed if he catches a couple of minnows.
I always thought famous people were distant and proud; I thought they despised the common crowd which exalts riches and birth,
and avenged themselves on it by dazzling it with the inextinguishable honour and glory of their fame.
But here I see them weeping and playing cards and flying into passions like everybody else.
13. Trojan Women
A monologue from the play by Euripides
O Mother, fill mine hair with happy flowers,
And speed me forth. Yea, if my spirit cowers,
Drive me with wrath! So liveth Loxias,
A bloodier bride than ever Helen was
Go I to Agamemnon, Lord most high
Of Hellas! . . . I shall kill him, mother; I
Shall kill him, and lay waste his house with fire
As he laid ours. My brethren and my sire
Shall win again . . .
But part I must let be,
And speak not. Not the axe that craveth me,
And more than me; not the dark wanderings
Of mother-murder that my bridal brings,
And all the House of Atreus down, down, down . .
Nay, I will show thee. Even now this town
Is happier than the Greeks. I know the power
Of God is on me: but this little hour,
Wilt thou but listen, I will hold him back!
14. Lady Windermere’s Fan
A monologue from the play by Oscar Wilde
Believe what you choose about me. I am not worth a moment’s sorrow. But don’t spoil your beautiful young life on my account!
You don’t know what may be in store for you, unless you leave this house at once.
You don’t know what it is to fall into the pit, to be despised, mocked, abandoned, sneered at–to be an outcast!
to find the door shut against one, to have to creep in by hideous byways, afraid every moment lest the mask should be stripped from one’s face,
and all the while to hear the laughter, the horrible laughter of the world, a thing more tragic than all the tears the world has ever shed.
You don’t know what it is. One pays for one’s sins, and then one pays again, and all one’s life one pays. You must never know that.–
As for me, if suffering be an expiation, then at this moment I have expiated all my faults, whatever they have been;
for to-night you have made a heart in one who had it not, made it and broken it.–But let that pass.
I may have wrecked my own life, but I will not let you wreck yours. You–why, you are a mere girl, you would be lost.
You haven’t got the kind of brains that enables a woman to get back. You have neither the wit nor the courage.
You couldn’t stand dishonor! No! Go back, Lady Windermere, to the husband who loves you, whom you love.
You have a child, Lady Windermere. Go back to that child who even now, in pain or in joy, may be calling to you.
God gave you that child. He will require from you that you make his life fine, that you watch over him.
What answer will you make to God if his life is ruined through you? Back to your house, Lady Windermere–your husband loves you!
He has never swerved for a moment from the love he bears you. But even if he had a thousand loves, you must stay with your child.
If he was harsh to you, you must stay with your child. If he ill-treated you, you must stay with your child.
If he abandoned you, your place is with your child.
15. The Spanish Tragedy
A monologue from the play by Thomas Kyd
Is this the love thou bear’st Horatio?
Is this the kindness that thou counterfeits?
Are these the fruits of thine incessant tears?
Hieronimo, are these thy passions,
Thy protestations and thy deep laments,
That thou wert wont to weary men withal?
O unkind father! O deceitful world!
With what excuses canst thou show thyself–
With what dishonor and the hate of men–
From this dishonor and the hate of men,
Thus to neglect the loss and life of him
Whom both my letters and thine own belief
Assures thee to be causeless slaughteréd?
Hieronimo, for shame, Hieronimo,
Be not a history to aftertimes
Of such ingratitude unto thy son.
Unhappy mothers of such children then!
But monstrous fathers to forget so soon
The death of those whom they with care and cost
Have tendered so, thus careless should be lost.
Myself a stranger in respect of thee,
So loved his life as still I wish their deaths.
Nor shall his death be unrevenged by me,
Although I bear it out for fashion’s sake,
For here I swear, in sight of heaven and earth,
Shouldst thou neglect the love thou shouldst retain,
And give it over and devise no more,
Myself should send their hateful souls to hell
That wrought his downfall with extremest death.
A monologue from the play by Euripides
Women of Corinth, I am come to show
My face, lest ye despise me. For I know
Some heads stand high and fail not, even at night
Alone—far less like this, in all men’s sight:
And we, who study not our wayfarings
But feel and cry—Oh we are drifting things,
And evil! For what truth is in men’s eyes,
Which search no heart, but in a flash despise
A strange face, shuddering back from one that ne’er
Hath wronged them? . . . Sure, far-comers anywhere,
I know, must bow them and be gentle. Nay,
A Greek himself men praise not, who alway
Should seek his own will recking not. . . . But I—
This thing undreamed of, sudden from on high,
Hath sapped my soul: I dazzle where I stand,
The cup of all life shattered in my hand,
Longing to die—O friends! He, even he,
Whom to know well was all the world to me,
The man I loved, hath proved most evil.—Oh,
Of all things upon earth that bleed and grow,
A herb most bruised is woman. We must pay
Our store of gold, hoarded for that one day,
To buy us some man’s love; and lo, they bring
A master of our flesh! There comes the sting
Of the whole shame. And then the jeopardy,
For good or ill, what shall that master be;
Reject she cannot: and if he but stays
His suit, ’tis shame on all that woman’s days.
So thrown amid new laws, new places, why,
‘Tis magic she must have, or prophecy—
Home never taught her that—how best to guide
Toward peace this thing that sleepeth at her side.
And she who, labouring long, shall find some way
Whereby her lord may bear with her, nor fray
His yoke too fiercely, blessed is the breath
That woman draws! Else, let her pray for death.
Her lord, if he be wearied of the face
Withindoors, gets him forth; some merrier place
Will ease his heart: but she waits on, her whole
Vision enchainèd on a single soul.
And then, forsooth, ’tis they that face the call
Of war, while we sit sheltered, hid from all
Peril!—False mocking! Sooner would I stand
Three times to face their battles, shield in hand,
Than bear one child.
A monologue from the play by Johann Wolfgang Goethe
Thou wilt unloose my chain,
And in thy lap wilt take me once again.
How comes it that thou dost not shrink from me?–
Say, dost thou know, my friend, whom thou mak’st free?
My mother have I put to death;
I’ve drowned the baby born to thee.
Was it not given to thee and me?
Thee, too!–‘Tis thou! It scarcely true doth seem–
Give me thy hand! ‘Tis not a dream!
Thy dear, dear hand!–But, ah, ’tis wet!
Why, wipe it off! Methinks that yet
There’s blood thereon.
Ah, God! what hast thou done?
Nay, sheathe thy sword!
Thou must outlive us.
Now I’ll tell thee the graves to give us:
Thou must begin to-morrow
The work of sorrow!
The best place give to my mother,
Then close at her side my brother,
And me a little away,
But not too very far, I pray!
And here, on my right breast, my baby lay!
Nobody else will lie beside me!–
Ah, within thine arms to hide me,
That was a sweet and a gracious bliss,
But no more, no more can I attain it!
I would force myself on thee and constrain it,
And it seems thou repellest my kiss:
And yet ’tis thou, so good, so kind to see!
18. The Changeling
A monologue from the play by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley
BEATRICE – 1
Oh, come not near me, sir; I shall defile you.
I am that of your blood was taken from you
For your better health; look no more upon’t,
But cast it to the ground regardlessly:
Let the common sewer take it from distinction.
Beneath the stars, upon yon meteor
Ever [hung] my fate, ‘mongst things corruptible;
I ne’er could pluck it from him. My loathing
Was prophet to the rest but ne’er believ’d;
Mine honour fell with him, and now my life.
Alsemero, I am a stranger to your bed;
Your bed was coz’ned on the nuptial night,
For which your false bride died.
BEATRICE – 2
This fellow has undone me endlessly;
Never was bride so fearfully distress’d.
The more I think upon th’ ensuing night,
And whom I am to cope with in embraces–
One [who’s] ennobled both in blood and mind,
So clear in understanding, that’s my plague now,
Before whose judgment will my fault appear
Like malefactors’ crimes before tribunals,
There is no hiding on’t–the more I dive
Into my own distress. How a wise man
Stands for a great calamity! There’s no venturing
Into his bed, what course soe’er I light upon,
Without my shame, which may grow up to danger.
He cannot but in justice strangle me
As I lie by him, as a cheater use me;
‘Tis a precious craft to play with a false die
Before a cunning gamester. Here’s his closet,
The key left in’t, and he abroad i’ th’ park.
Sure ’twas forgot; I’ll be so bold as look in’t.
Bless me! A right physician’s closet ’tis,
Set round with vials, every one her mark too.
Sure he does practice physic for his own use,
Which may be safely call’d your great man’s wisdom.
What manuscript lies here? The Book of Experiment,
Call’d Secrets in Nature: so ’tis, ’tis so.
[Reading] “How to know whether a woman be with child or no.” I hope I am not yet; if he should try, though–
Let me see, folio forty-five. Here ’tis,
The leaf tuck’d down upon’t, the place suspicious.
[Reading] “If you would know whether a woman be with child or not, give her two spoonfuls of the white water in glass C. Where’s that glass C? Oh, yonder I see’t now.
[Reading] “And if she be with child,
she sleeps full twelve hours after; if not, not.”
None of that water comes into my belly.
I’ll know you from a hundred; I could break you now
Or turn you into milk, and so beguile
The master of the mystery, but I’ll look to you.
Ha! That which is next, is ten times worse.
[Reading] “How to know whether a woman be a maid or not.” If that should be apply’d, what would become of me?
Belike he has a strong faith of my purity,
That never yet made proof; but this he calls
[Reading] “A merry slight but true experiment,
The author, Antonius Mizaldus.
Give the party you suspect the quantity
of a spoonful of the water in the glass M,
which upon her that is a maid makes three several effects: ’twill make her incontinently gape,
then fall into a sudden sneezing, last into a violent laughing; else dull, heavy, and lumpish.”
Where had I been?
I fear it, yet ’tis seven hours to bedtime.
A monologue from the play by Euripides
Let me then speak; but where shall I begin.
Thy insults to recount? With what conclude?
Or how pursue the train of my discourse?
I never with the opening morn forbore
To breathe my silent plaints, which to thy face
I wished to utter, from my former fears
If e’er I should be free: I now am free.
Now, to thee living what I wished to speak,
I will recount. Thou hast destroyed my hopes,
Made me an orphan, him and me bereft
Of a dear father, by no wrongs enforced.
My mother basely wedding, thou hast slain
The glorious leader of the Grecian arms,
Yet never didst thou tread the fields of Troy.
Nay, such thy folly, thou couldst hope to find
My mother, shouldst thou wed her, nought of ill
To thee intending: hence my father’s bed
By thee was foully wronged. But let him know
Who with forbidden love another’s wife
Corrupts, then by necessity constrained
Receives her as his own, should he expect
To find that chastity preserved to him,
Which to her former bed was not preserved,
He must be wretched from his frustrate hope.
And what a life of misery didst thou lead,
Though not by thee deemed ill? Thy conscious mind
Of thy unholy nuptials felt the guilt:
My mother knew that she an impious man
In thee had wedded; and, polluted both,
Thou hadst her fortune, she thy wickedness.
‘Mongst all the Argives, this had fame divulged,
The man obeys the wife, and not the wife
Her husband: shameful this, when in the house
The woman sovereign rules, and not the man.
And when of children speaks the public voice
As from the mother, not the father sprung,
To me it is unpleasing. He who weds
A wife of higher rank and nobler blood,
Sinks into nothing, in her splendour lost.
Thus truth unknown, thy pride was most deceived,
Thyself as great thou vauntedst, in the power
Of riches vainly elevate; but these
Are nothing, their enjoyment frail and brief;
Nature is firm, not riches; she remains
For ever, and triumphant lifts her head.
But unjust wealth, which sojourns with the base,
Glitters for some short space, then flies away.
To women thy demeanour I shall pass
Unmentioned, for to speak it ill beseems
A virgin’s tongue; yet I shall make it known
By indistinct suggestion. Arrogance
Swelled thy vain mind, for that the royal house
Was thine, and beauty graced thy perfect form.
But be not mine a husband whose fair face
In softness with a virgin’s vies, but one
Of manly manners; for the sons of such
By martial toils are trained to glorious deeds:
The beauteous only to the dance give grace.
Perish, thou wretch, to nothing noble formed;
Such was thou found, and vengeance on thy head
At length hath burst; so perish all, that dare
Atrocious deeds! Nor deem, though fair his course
At first, that he hath vanquished Justice ere
He shall have reached the goal, the end of life.
20. Dido, Queen Of Carthage
A monologue from the play by Christopher Marlowe
Speaks not Æneas like a conqueror?
O blessed tempests that did drive him in!
O happy sand that made him run aground!
Henceforth you shall be our Carthage gods.
Ay, but it may be, he will leave my love,
And seek a foreign land call’d Italy:
O that I had a charm to keep the winds
Within the closure of a golden ball;
Or that the Tyrrhene sea were in mine arms,
That he might suffer shipwreck on my breast,
As oft as he attempts to hoist up sail!
I must prevent him; wishing will not serve.–
Go bid my nurse take young Ascanius,
And bear him in the country to her house;
Æneas will not go without his son;
Yet, lest he should, for I am full of fear,
Bring me his oars, his tackling, and his sails.
What if I sink his ships? O, he will frown!
Better he frown than I should die of grief.
I cannot see him frown; it may not be:
Armies of foes resolv’d to win this town,
Or impious traitors vow’d to have my life,
Affright me not; only Æneas frown
Is that which terrifies poor Dido’s heart:
Not bloody spears, appearing in the air,
Presage the downfall of my empery,
Nor blazing comets threaten Dido’s death;
It is Æneas’ frown that ends my days.
If he forsake me not, I never die;
For in his looks I see eternity,
And he’ll make me immortal with a kiss.
A monologue from the play by Aeschylus
Not slighted are ye, powers august! through rage
Curse not with hopeless blight the abode of man.
I too on Zeus rely; why speak of that?
And sole among the gods I know the key
That opes the halls where sealèd thunder sleeps.
But such we need not. Be appeased by me,
Nor scatter o’er the land, from froward tongue,
The harmful seed that turneth all to bane.
Of bitter rage lull ye the murky wave;
Be venerated here and dwell with me.
Sharing the first fruits of this ample realm,
For children offered, and for nuptial rite,
This word of mine thou wilt for ever praise.
I’ll bear thine anger, for mine elder thou,
And wiser art, in that regard, than I.
Yet me, with wisdom, Zeus not meanly dowers.
But if now ye seek some alien soil,
Will of this land enamour’d be; of this
You I forewarn; for onward-flowing time
Shall these my lieges raise to loftier fame;
And thou, in venerable seat enshrined
Hard by Erectheus’ temple, shalt receive
Honours from men and trains of women, such
As thou from other mortals ne’er may’st win.
But cast ye not abroad on these my realms,
To waste their building strength, whetstones of blood,
Evoking frantic rage not born of wine;
Nor, as out-plucking hearts of fighting cocks,
Plant ye among my townsmen civil strife,
Reckless of kindred blood; let foreign war
Rage without stint, affording ample scope
For him who burns with glory’s mighty rage.
No war of home-bred cocks, I ween, is that!
Such terms I proffer, thine it is to choose;
Blessing and blest, with blessèd rites revered,
To share this country dear unto the gods.
22. A Doll’s House
A monologue from the play by Henrik Ibsen
It is perfectly true, Torvald. When I was at home with papa, he told me his opinion about everything, and so I had the same opinions;
and if I differed from him I concealed the fact, because he would not have liked it. He called me his doll-child, and he played with me just as I used to play with my dolls.
And when I came to live with you—I mean that I was simply transferred from papa’s hands into yours.
You arranged everything according to your own taste, and so I got the same tastes as you–or else I pretended to,
I am really not quite sure which–I think sometimes the one and sometimes the other.
When I look back on it, it seems to me as if I had been living here like a poor woman–just from hand to mouth.
I have existed merely to perform tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so. You and papa have committed a great sin against me.
It is your fault that I have made nothing of my life. You neither think nor talk like the man I could bind myself to.
As soon as your fear was over–and it was not fear for what threatened me, but for what might happen to you–
when the whole thing was past, as far as you were concerned it was exactly as if nothing at all had happened.
Exactly as before, I was your little skylark, your doll, which you would in future treat with doubly gentle care, because it was so brittle and fragile.
Torvald–it was then it dawned upon me that for eight years I had been living here with a strange man, and had borne him three children–.
Oh! I can’t bear to think of it! I could tear myself into little bits!
A monologue from the play by Euripides
Admetus, you see the things I suffer; and now before I die I mean to tell you what I wish.
To show you honour and-at the cost of my life-that you may still behold the light, I die; and yet I might have lived and wedded any in Thessaly I chose, and dwelt with happiness in a royal home.
But, torn from you, I would not live with fatherless children, nor have I hoarded up those gifts of youth in which I found delight.
Yet he who begot you, she who brought you forth, abandoned you when it had been beautiful in them to die, beautiful to die with dignity to save their son!
They had no child but you, no hope if you were dead that other children might be born to them.
Thus I should have lived my life out, and you too, and you would not lament as now, made solitary from your wife, that you must rear our children motherless!
But these things are a God’s doing and are thus. Well! Do not forget this gift, for I shall ask-not a recompense,
since nothing is more precious than life, but-only what is just, as you yourself will say, since if you have not lost your senses you must love these children no less than I.
Let them be masters in my house; marry not again, and set a stepmother over them, a woman harsher than I,
who in her jealousy will lift her hand against my children and yours. Ah! not this, let not this be, I entreat you!
The new stepmother hates the first wife’s children, the viper itself is not more cruel.
The son indeed finds a strong rampart in his father-but you, my daughter, how shall you live your virgin life out in happiness?
How will you fare with your father’s new wife? Ah! Let her not cast evil report upon you and thus wreck your marriage in the height of your youth!
You will have no mother, O my child, to give you in marriage, to comfort you in childbed when none is tenderer than a mother!
And I must die. Not to-morrow. nor to-morrow’s morrow comes this misfortune on me, but even now I shall be named with those that are no more.
Farewell! Live happy! You, my husband, may boast you had the best of wives; and you, my children, that you lost the best of mothers!
(She falls back.)
24. The Duchess Of Malfi
A monologue from the play by John Webster
Act – 1, Scene – 1
DUCHESS – 1
Now she pays it
The misery of us that are born great,
We are forced to woo because none dare woo us:
As a tyrant doubles with his words,
And fearfully equivocates, so we
Are forced to express our violent passions
In riddles and in dreams, and leave the path
Of simple virtue which was never made
To seem the thing it is not. Go, go brag
You have left me heartless, mine is in your bosom,
I hope ‘twill multiply love there. You do tremble.
Make not your heart so dead a piece of flesh
To fear more than to love me. Sir, be confident,
What is’t distracts you? This is flesh and blood, sir,
‘Tis not the figure cut in alabaster
Kneels at my husband tomb. Awake, awake, man,
I do here put off all vain ceremony
And only do appear to you a young widow
That claims you for her husband; and like a widow,
I use but half a blush in’t.
DUCHESS – 2
Act – 4, Scene – 2
Oh that it were possible we might
But hold some two days conference with the dead,
From them I should learn somewhat I am sure
I never shall know here. I’ll tell thee a miracle,
I am not mad yet, to my cause of sorrow.
Th’heaven o’er my head seems made of molten brass,
The earth of flaming sulphur, yet I am not mad;
I am acquainted with sad misery
As the tanned galley-slave is with his oar.
Necessity makes me suffer constantly,
And custom makes it easy. Who do I look like now?