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.


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    • profile image


      3 months ago

      Great work; but may I add this: as typically filmed, the "to be..." speech is a soliloquy. But the play makes clear that Polonius and Claudius mean to hide and spy on Hamlet as he encounters Ophelia (so as to test Polonius's "love madness" thesis) (see III, i, 32-37). We might suppose that they were privy to Hamlet's famous speech, as well, since it breaks off with Ophelia's entrance. Supposing that to be true, for the moment (and Branagh films it this way), we come to this bit of intrigue: is it a soliloquy if the character supposes he or she is alone but is, in fact, not? Fun to reflect on such things!

    • profile image

      Muhammad Sumaar 

      4 years ago

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

      thumbs up (Y)

    • profile image

      Asma nayeem 

      4 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Nagrshwar Rao 

      5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      nishu nishma 

      5 years ago

      gud job and thanks

    • kgmonline profile image

      Geri MIleff 

      6 years ago from Czech Republic

      Thank you for the defining this very clearly.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      thanks a lot for helping.

    • profile image


      7 years ago



    • profile image


      7 years ago

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

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      exellant effort

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      thanx a lot fr helping

    • profile image

      bumite ibk 

      8 years ago

      i love it

    • profile image

      Pitar Pypar 

      8 years ago

      I love this.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanx, very helpful

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very useful hub. Voted up.


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