What is a Soliloquy? Definition and Example

Updated on May 11, 2016

What Is a Soliloquy?

If you are a student of English literature, or you read English literature including dramas, plays, and novels, you might have come across a technical term, very frequently used, the soliloquy.

This article will cover:

1. What is a soliloquy?

2. What purpose does it serve?

3. What role does it play in the development of a drama?

4. A video example of Hamlet's most praised soliloquy.

What Is a Soliloquy?

The term "soliloquy" ( so-lil-o-quee) is generally used as a means of character revelation or character manifestation to the audience or the reader of the drama. Soliloquy is used as a tool or process by which the dramatist conveys the secret thoughts and/or intentions of the character, to the audience or the reader of the drama, but; also while doing so, it preserves the secrecy of those thoughts from the other characters of that drama.

A soliloquy is generally made when the character is alone, or when he/she thinks to be alone, in order to preserve the secrecy from other characters.

What Purpose Does it Serve?

The main purpose of a soliloquy remains to acquaint the audience or the reader, the secret thoughts and/or intentions that the character is having in his mind.

It also puts light on the external relationships, thoughts, and the future actions related to the character and to the other characters of the drama. Hence, it also discloses the feelings, the thoughts that the character has in his mind for the others.

How Do Soliloquies Advance Plot?

The soliloquy acquaints us of the development of the play with what the speaker decides to do in his mind. It means that, after having the knowledge of the secret thoughts of the character, and his/her intentions, we can presume what is next to come.

A Famous Example

Here is an example of a soliloquy. In this soliloquy example, Prince Hamlet, is conveying his secret thoughts and intentions. You can notice though that it is only in between the listener and Hamlet. Thus, the secrecy of his intentions will remain intact.

This is Hamlet's fourth soliloquy (To Be, or Not to Be). It is one of the most excellent and celebrated soliloquies and is a pillar in English literature.

Hamlet's 4th Soliloquy (to be or not to be) - Act 3, Scene 1.

You can clearly understand by watching the video, as a soliloquy example, that what is a soliloquy?

You can observe that Hamlet, in this example of soliloquy, shares his thoughts with the audience, while no other characters are involved in it i.e. preserving the secrecy of thoughts. And when Ophelia comes in, he stops the soliloquy.


1. A soliloquy means, when a character of a drama/play conveys his/her secret thoughts and/or intentions to the audience or the readers.

2. While doing so, he/she preserves the secrecy of those thoughts/intentions from other characters of the drama. It just the character and the reader.

3. It helps the audience/reader to better understand: the character, his thoughts, his intentions, and the presumable development of the play.

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        Muhammad Sumaar 2 years ago

        Excellent piece of work , its precise and specific , got whole idea about Soliloquy .

        thumbs up (Y)

      • profile image

        Asma nayeem 2 years ago

        wish I had discovered it earlier. thank you so much.

      • profile image

        Nagrshwar Rao 3 years ago

        Brilliant work . excellent commentary.So beautiful.I Love & like it.

      • profile image

        nishu nishma 3 years ago

        gud job and thanks

      • kgmonline profile image

        Geri MIleff 4 years ago from Czech Republic

        Thank you for the defining this very clearly.

      • profile image

        bassim 4 years ago

        thanks a lot for helping.

      • profile image

        shurley 5 years ago



      • profile image

        vino 5 years ago

        Tnks a lot For the Author for his great effort.!

      • profile image

        hina 5 years ago

        exellant effort

      • profile image

        pooja 5 years ago

        thanx a lot fr helping

      • profile image

        bumite ibk 5 years ago

        i love it

      • profile image

        Pitar Pypar 5 years ago

        I love this.

      • profile image

        Elizza 6 years ago

        Thanx, very helpful

      • profile image

        Binaya.Ghimire 6 years ago

        Very useful hub. Voted up.