The dramatic monologue, frequently confused with the soliloquy found in plays, is a type of poem that reveals the speaker's character through the monologue addressed to a second, silent person. Alfred Tennyson introduced this form of poetry, and Robert Browning perfected it. When composing your own dramatic monologue, keep several things in mind.
Dramatic Monologue Requirements
For your poem to be true to the dramatic monologue style, it must meet three requirements. Glenn Everett, associate professor of English at the University of Tennessee, indicates that the reader of the poem has to take the part of the silent listener. The speaker has to use an argumentative tone in making his case and the reader has to "complete the dramatic scene from within, by means of inference and imagination."
When composing your dramatic monologue the first thing you need to decide upon is the situation. Who is the speaker and what is she reacting against? For example, the situation may one of a scorned lover, her partner caught in the arms of another woman or a woman wrongly accused of breaking her vows. The other point to remember is to whom the speaker is talking and why. It might be a friend, a child, a lover, a betrayer or a judge.
More Writing Ideas
When explaining the situation, the speaker is trying to convince the silent listener of his case. A good dramatic monologue will have the speaker use tactics to win over the listener. Poetic techniques such as the use of metaphors, similes, alliteration and onomatopoeia enhance his argument and also the poem's aesthetic quality. Often the speaker appears to second-guess himself. Include a few lines in your poem where the speaker displays a hint of doubt in himself.
Giving the reader space to complete the dramatic scene is the third characteristic of a dramatic monologue and the most difficult to do. One idea is to restrict the speaker so that he does not reveal all of the situation. This provokes the reader to fill in the gaps to grasp the full picture. When writing, assume the listener already knows the general circumstances and focus on one point in particular. For example, a speaker can reflect on the purpose of wedding bands and vows rather than the actual affair. By using poetic techniques like metaphors, you can also skirt around the subject without mentioning it by name.