Is the dramatic monologue a powerful or a limited mode of expression
Different styles of expression whether through play or poetry, are only determined of being powerful or limited if the expression itself is able to convey its specific message. This message is usually the different aspects of the expression; regardless of whether it being the characters, plot, theme, and/or setting. With this in thought, should the dramatic monologue be a powerful or limited mode of expression really depends on its uniqueness of the way it portrays this particular message. Dramatic monologues are dramatic narrative hybrids.
This unique type of genre is concerned with the state of mind, an emphasis on emotion or thought rather than action. Dramatic monologues can be considered as powerful modes of expression for its distinctive highlight on better character interpretation. Its main aim is the depiction of a main character and the latter’s personality. As dramatic monologues focuses on the emotions and/or thoughts of the character it beckons an analysis and interpretation. There is a use of rhetorical question in order to anticipate the audiences’ demands for information.
The audience, then, completes the dramatic scene from within, by means of inference and imagination, finalizing the nature of this main character and the play. Monologues also create a sense of empathy as, for once, the state of mind is allowed to speak for itself without explicit authorial interference. This technique allows the audience to sympathize as well as to learn the character’s insights of their objectives. Sympathy is produced as the audience plays an active role in the monologue, having to form the above-mentioned interpretation.
Thus, the audience accesses the speaker’s qualities and arguments while simultaneously empathizing with the character’s predicament. This can be seen in Io’s monologue in Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound. A victim of Zeus’s love, Io is exiled from her home because Zeus wishes to deflower her. She is later transformed into a cow, and wanders the earth waiting for salvation. Despite her already exceedingly tragic fate, her monologue begins with her reluctance to follow Zeus and how she tells her sad fate, “I know not how I can deny your wish,
So in clear word all ye desire to know ,That shall ye hear;–Yet am I ashamed to tell”. She continues with her dreadful experiences, which is heartrending, the monologue she relates is filled with personal encounters, and thus wins over the heart of the audience. Also, by “participating” in the dialogue, we are implicated in it, duped into momentarily identifying with the character. We begin to understand the reasons behind their objectives, their actions. Like in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth as one of Shakespeare’s most frightening female character. Also read about dramatic irony in the “Lottery”
She is a deeply ambitious woman who lusts for power and position. Early in the play she seems to be stronger and more ruthless of the two as she urges her husband to kill Duncan and seize the crown. If not for her monologue later, we would think of her as a cold blooded and merciless killer. However, because of her monologue, we understand her sensitivity and by the close of the play, when she has been reduced to sleepwalking through the castle, desperately trying to wash away an invisible bloodstain, we comprehend with her sense of guilt and even sympathize the sensitivity that became her weakness.
Similarly for Emily of Emerald Hill, a monodrama, we truly appreciate Emily’s good intentions instead of what her family experiences (Emily’s overprotective-ness). Reason being as we hear her inner thoughts, unlike her family who could only see the outer surface. That is one of the advantages of a dramatic monologue and its ability to portray what others cannot see. However, there are also drawbacks for the use of dramatic monologues. Disadvantages such as the incapability of being kept in the dark.
For we need to keep in mind that even dramatic monologues, as autobiographical representation, cannot hope to capture everything in the scene as it is only the character’s one point of view, and we have no knowledge of what the other characters’ are thinking of. Just like “Emily of Emerald Hill”, it shows the insights of a Peranakan woman’s life, intriguing the audience’s mind with her way of life and how different she thinks compared to non- Peranakans.
Nevertheless, it is still very one sided and to the extent that the audience becomes jaded and uninterested for the very biased point of view in the monodrama. Therefore, I can conclude that dramatic monologues are powerful modes of expressions, with their vivid represent of the main character’s point of view. Yet, if the monologue is carried out to such a great extent, such in Emily of Emerald Hill, it tends to become boring, leaving a bad impression.