Dramatic monologue
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Introduction to the dramatic monologue in poetry with nineteenth and twentieth century examples

Introduction to the dramatic monologue in poetry with nineteenth and twentieth century examples

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Dramatic monologue Dramatic monologue Presentation Transcript

  • Poetic forms & genres
    Dramatic Monologue
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
  • Monologue
    • A monologue is a speech delivered by a single person. In a play, when a character utters a monologue expressing his or her private thoughts, this is called a soliloquy.
    • Prosopopaeia: a classical rhetorical device in which a writer uses another person or object to communicate.
    • Monologues popular in medieval religious verse
    • Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: each tale spoken in a different character's voice.
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
  • Monologue – history cont'd
    • Renaissance and Elizabethan writers such as Marlowe, Drayton and Raleigh all wrote monologues
    • Restoration and Augustan verse did not much use this form.
    • Nor did Romantic poets, who tended to write as though they themselves were the speaker.
    • Robert Browning made the dramatic monologue a popular form in the Victorian Period.
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
    • A Lyric Poem implies the speaker is the poet, or a version of the poet.
    • A Dramatic Lyric has a dramatic situation:
    • BUSY old fool, unruly Sun,         Why dost thou thus,Through windows, and through curtains, call on us ? Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run ?         Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide         Late school-boys and sour prentices,     Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,     Call country ants to harvest offices ;
    Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime, Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.
    • (from Donne, 'The Sun Rising')
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
  • Robert Browning (1812-1889)
    • Men and Women (1855) a collection of 51 poems – all but the last one are written in the voice of characters.
    • E.g. 'Fra Lippo Lippi': in the voice of the 15th century real-life Italian monk and painter, Filippo Lippi
    • Explores the conflict of a religious life or a life of leisure, and the importance of art and beauty.
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
  • From Fra Lippo Lippi
    I am poor brother Lippo, by your leave!
    You need not clap your torches to my face.
    Zooks, what's to blame? You think you see a monk!
    What 'tis past midnight, and you go the rounds,
    And here you catch me at an alley's end
    Where sportive ladies leave their door ajar?
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
  • ‘...we're made so that we love
    First when we see them painted, things we have passed
    Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see;
    And so they are better, painted - better to us,
    Which is the same thing. Art was given for that;
    God uses us to help each other so,
    Lending our minds out...’
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
  • ‘Your hand, sir, and good-bye: no lights, no lights!
    The street's hushed, and I know my own way back,
    Don't fear me! There's the grey beginning. Zooks!’
    [ends]
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
  • From My Last Duchess (1842)
    ‘That's my last duchess painted on the wall,Looking as if she were alive. I callThat piece a wonder, now: FràPandolf's handsWorked busily a day, and there she stands.
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
  • M. H. Abrams notes the following three features of the dramatic monologue:
    • A single person, who is patently not the poet, utters the speech that makes up the whole of the poem, in a specific situation at a critical moment
    • This person addresses and interacts with one or more other people; but we know of the auditors' presence, and what they say and do, only from clues in the discourse of the single speaker.
    • The main principle controlling the poet's choice and formulation of what the lyric speaker says is to reveal to the reader, in a way that enhances its interest, the speaker's temperament and character
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
    • The Dramatic Monologue was important for the Victorian poets, Robert Browning and Alfred Tennyson in particular, and especially Browning, who wrote some of the most well-known Dramatic Monologues in English poetry.
    • After them, the Modernists of the twentieth century, including T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, also used the Dramatic Monologue though often in a more problematised manner.
    • A decline in certainties from the Romantic period onwards: the poet is more inclined to examine individual, subjective experience rather than refer to external authority (Robert Langbaum in The Poetry of Experience)
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
    • By the early twentieth century, Modernists felt that their culture was fragmented and disintegrating, along with the whole idea of truth
    • Modernist dramatic monologue deliberately undermines the naturalistic conception of character.
    • e.g. 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' (T. S. Eliot 1917): a distinct character speaking in the poem, or a voice more closely associated with the poet? Some critics have called these sorts of poems 'Mask-lyrics'.
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
  • ‘LET us go then, you and I,
    When the evening is spread out against the sky
    Like a patient etherised upon a table;
    Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
    The muttering retreats        5
    Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
    And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
    Streets that follow like a tedious argument
    Of insidious intent
    To lead you to an overwhelming question …        10
    Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
    Let us go and make our visit. ‘
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
  • However, there is still a considerable interest in writing what are clearly dramatic monologues among 20thC poets, many of them women.
    From 'The Farmer's Bride' (Charlotte Mew, 1916):
    ‘Three Summers since I chose a maid, Too young maybe - but more's to do     At harvest-time than bide and woo.     When us was wed she turned afraid Of love and me and all things human; Like the shut of a winter's day. Her smile went out, and 'twasn't a woman--     More like a little, frightened fay.     One night, in the Fall, she runned away. ..’
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
  • Carol Ann Duffy, 'The World's Wife', 1999
    • an entire collection made up of dramatic monologues in various female voices (wives or female equivalents of male figures in myth or history).
    From 'Mrs. Aesop':
    'By Christ, he could bore for Purgatory. He was small,
    didn't prepossess. So he tried to impress. Dead men,
    Mrs. Aesop, he'd say, tell no tales. Well, let me tell you now
    that the bird in his hand shat on his sleeve,
    never mind the two worth less in the bush. Tedious.'
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
  • Vicki Feaver 'The Handless Maiden' (1994)
    Other poets (often but not all women poets) have turned to fable and myth to voice their concerns: Vicki Feaver for example has also written dramatic monologues in the voice of mythical ('The Handless Maiden') and Biblical heroines ('Judith').
    ‘I cried for my hands
    my father cut off; for the lumpy, itching scars
    of my stumps; for the silver hands
    my husband gave me – that spun and wove
    but had no feeling...’
    (from 'The Handless Maiden')
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
  • In a different monologue, 'Judith', Feaver speaks in the voice of the Old Testament character whose husband was killed in battle and who expresses her anger and grief as she seeks revenge:
    'In the end I think I almost became Judith; though I was obviously ambivalent about this close personal identification because the early drafts of the poem veer between a first person voice and a safe, more distant, third person narration...It is obvious to me now that the poem was a vehicle for the grief and rage I was feeling when I wrote it. The story is Judith's but the emotions are mine'
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres
  • Questions to consider...
    • Who is speaking and what is the situation? If there is an 'unseen interlocutor' what is the relationship between speaker and other character(s)?
    • What does the speaker want from the addressee, if there is one?
    • Does the speaker change or reveal anything over the course of the monologue?
    • What do we as readers think about what we hear? Is there a message?
    Sarah Law Poetic Forms & Genres