There are many things to consider when choosing a monologue. You may love King Lear as a play, but if you are fifteen years old, you need to consider if delivering a monologue from a character that has three grown daughters, who is stepping down as King and is aproximately 75-80 years old, would be the best choice for you?
Is this going to showcase your talents?
When you are going for auditions you want producers or talent scouts to be able to see you perform a piece that helps them imagine roles and characters that they could cast you in.
So, we will look at two pieces from the famous Romeo and Juliet Act 2 scene 2, “The Balcony Scene.”
Juliet is 13 years old in the classic play. Romeo is not given a specific age but we can imagine he is somewhere between 13-16 years old.
These characters are perfect parts for teenagers.
Firstly it is always important to begin by reading the full play. It’s not enough to read the synopsis or pick a monologue and not know and understand the context of the monologue. Reading the full play is important so you understand the beginning middle and end of the story and how the monologue you have chosen fits into the story. It will also deepen your understanding of the world that the writer has created, and the character that you are playing. Reading the whole play also helps you to know what has happened before and after the monologue.
Characters need to come from somewhere. An actor doesn’t just walk onto a stage and begin acting, we must see a journey and it is far more interesting to be able to create a background for your character. However when you are reading the whole play you can be making mental notes about your characters background.
What other characters say about your character, what your character says about him or herself. Any other information that the writer has given you about your character in stage directions or their action in the play.
Before Romeo begins speaking what is arguably one of the most famous Shakespearan Soliloquy’s; a series of important events have happened to him:
Romeo meets Juliet for the first time
Romeo falls madly in “lust” with Juliet
Romeo discovers Juliet is the daughter of his sworn enemy.
Romeo runs away and hides from his friends Mercutio and Benvolio
All of this has just happened before Romeo see’s Juliet on the balacony. So Important questions to ask before you begin speaking the lines are
What is Romeo’s state of mind?
What is he thinking and feeling
How is this shown in his body language?
“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east and Juliet is the sun!”
Romeo’s first line is a question. What is he asking? Is Romeo expecting to see Juliet or is he caught off guard?
“Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou her maid art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off.”
Why does Romeo wish for the Sun to Kill the moon?
“It is my lady, O, it is my love! (10)
O that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing; what of that?
Her eye discourses, I will answer it.
I am too bold: ’tis not to me she speaks.
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp. Her eyes in heaven (20)
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand
O that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!”
How does Romeo feel about Juliet? What does he want?
You must read your monologue over and over, and ask questions about what the character wants, what they think, and how they feel? Reading it out loud is also important. Play with the pace, tone and expression. There are hundreds of possibilities of how to deliver a line.
Many famous actors have played the role of Romeo from Lawrence Olivier to Leonardo DiCaprio and each one of them puts their own spin on the role. The more questions you ask yourself as you are studying your monologue about your characters objective, their behavior and why they say the things they say, helps inform how you deliver the lines.
Try not to get stuck feeling there is only one way to deliver the monologue, especially early on, it is important to play and explore all of the possibilities.
Sparknotes is a great online tool to help students with a direct translation of the Shakespearean text. Spark Notes also offers comprehensive information about the play and characters.
Now let’s have a look at Juliet’s monologue. Once again let’s begin by looking at what has happened to Juliet before her soliloquy:
Juliet meets Romeo for the first time
Juliet fall in “lust” with Romeo
Juliet discovers that Romeo is the son of her worst enemy
Juliet is called away from the party
Juliet is standing on her own balcony, when she begins her monologue.
Questions to ask yourself are:
What is Juliet’s state of mind?
What is she thinking and feeling?
How is this shown in her body language?
“O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”
What is Juliet asking?
What is it that she declares?
In the full play Romeo speaks next but it is widely acceptable for audition pieces to be edited. For the purposes of an audition, you can tailor your piece to showcase your abilities. There is nothing wrong with this, unless you have been instructed to do otherwise by the company who are auditioning you. So if you choose to perform Juliet’s soliloquy you can cut Romeo’s lines and continue to the next part of her speech.
It may be helpful if you are unsure of how to edit your piece, to organize a coaching session. Starlit has many professional drama coaches that can not only help advise on pieces but also help you prepare your piece for an audition.
(aside) Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?
‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy.
What is it that Juliet rationalizes as being the real enemy?
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.
Why does she compare Romeo to a rose?
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name, which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
Juliet describes Romeo as possessing a dear perfection. Think about how long she has known Romeo for and what this says about her judgement of him and her state of mind. You must keep asking yourself questions as you read and re-read your piece. Writers will often give you little clues, little nuggets of gold about what the character is thinking and feeling. Think about where your character is when they are delivering the monologue and how you can create that space. Can you add some simple blocking or movement? Once again you can always seek some professional coaching to help you prepare your piece and Starlit Voice can help recommend suitable pieces and advise and guide you on how to get it audition ready.