soliloquy, the speech by a character in a literary composition, usually a play, delivered while the speaker is either alone addressing the audience directly or the other actors are silent. It is most commonly used to reveal the innermost concerns or thoughts of the speaker, thus pointing up the drama of internal conflict, as in Richard III's opening speech, Now is the winter of our discontent. The form was quite popular in Elizabethan drama, notably in the plays of Shakespeare. The soliloquy may also act simply as a vehicle for information about absent characters or events occurring at some other time or place. In the modern theater the soliloquy has tended to disappear completely, although experimentations in its use were attempted by such playwrights as Eugene O'Neill, who sought through the soliloquy to achieve a greater psychological realism. See monologue.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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