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Audience Monologue

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Most monologues in the world of theater are directed from one character on stage to another, or to multiple characters, or sometimes to someone or something that is not even there (which makes it an apostrophe). An Audience Monologue is when a character delivers a speech to the audience. This does not require Breaking the Fourth Wall; the audience does not need to be referred to as an audience, and the character does not need to recognize his or her fictional nature. Rather, the effect is that the audience is drawn into the play as a (frequently ambiguous) separate entity in the plot. Sometimes the audience is meant to be a crowd assembled at the scene being portrayed; sometimes the audience is supposed to be a projection of the character's own consciousness, making the monologue reflect an interior thought process.

Often referred to as a soliloquy, although soliloquies are not necessarily directed to the audience. Lady Macbeth's famous "Come thick night" soliloquy is directed first to her absent husband, and then to the "spirits that tend on mortal thoughts".

Note that, when the Fourth Wall is left otherwise intact, an Audience Monologue technically is talking to someone who is not there, at least In-Universe.

Musical theater often uses songs for this effect, which means the Audience Monologue proper is more frequently used in non-musical plays. It is also a staple of Narrators throughout theatrical history.


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  • The Glass Menagerie begins and ends with these from Tom; the opening explaining the setting and conventions of the play, and the closing explaining the aftermath of the play.
  • The Laramie Project is almost entirely composed of these, as most of the text is taken straight from interviews with real Laramie residents.
  • Many Shakespearian soliloquies can be played this way, especially Iago's in Othello. However, they are just as often addressed to God(s) or forces of nature, and sometimes played as the character speaking his or her thoughts aloud to him/herself.
    • The best (and most famous) example is Prospero's monologue at the end of The Tempest. It's Shakespeare's farewell to the theatre, and one last request for applause.
    • Pretty much all early modern theatre is full of Audience Monologues— as is anything written before the advent of stage lighting, in fact. Before light could be directed at the stage, everything had to be performed in ambient light, which meant that the actors could see the audience quite easily. And of course, it's much easier to talk to people you can see. (Plus, in a company of maybe sixteen or so, it's a whole lot more convenient to use the audience for armies or court scenes or whatever than to bring a bunch of extras onstage.)
  • Equus features (and indeed, opens with) Dr. Martin Dysart talking at length and frequently to the audience. Who the character is supposed to be addressing is up for interpretation, but the easy answer is that these are enactments of his own internal struggles.
    • Peter Schaffer's other famous play Amadeus more or less duplicates this effect with its own older male lead, Salieri. In the movie, his monologues are depicted as being part of a confession to a priest.
  • The final scene of Angels in America is one of these by Prior, occasionally interrupted by a conversation going on within the scene itself. Before this, Harper's last scene consists of one of these as well. Part II (Perestroika) begins with one by Aleksii Antedilluvianovich Prelapsarianov, the World's Oldest Bolshevik (don't ask), in which the audience is substitute for an assembly at the Kremlin.
  • Father Flynn in Doubt has several of these, most of which address the audience as a congregation.
  • reasons to be pretty by Neil La Bute contains one of these by each of the main characters.
  • Gallimard in M. Butterfly addresses the audience a lot, as do a few other characters. The whole play is rather fourth-wall-breaky, really.
  • Near the end of Nikolai Gogol's The Inspector General, as the officials are turning on each other, the Mayor addresses the audience: "What are you laughing at? You are laughing at yourselves!"
  • Act 2, Scene 1 of Sara Ruhl's Dead Man's Cellphone is nothing but 4-6 pages of the titular dead man alone onstage speaking to the audience about his last day alive - it's the first time he's spoken in the play, being, well, dead and all.
  • Anna Deveare Smith's Twilight:Los Angeles is a good example of this storytelling device.
  • Medea opens with the Nurse explaining what's happened to piss Medea off. Lampshaded when the children's tutor comes up to her and asks why she's talking to herself.
  • Brian Friel's Faith Healer is nothing but this. A two hour play in four scenes, each scene is one character monologing. Some of each monologue discusses the same events from different points of view.
  • The titular Heidi of The Heidi Chronicles gives a massive one (it's three full pages long!) in the middle of Act II with the understanding that shes giving a "speech" (YMMV) at a women's luncheon in the mid-80s and the audience is the luncheon attendees.
    • Earlier in the same act, Heidi, Peter, and Scoop give a television interview. April, the host, delivers opening and closing monologues to the "cameras" (audience).
  • In The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder, each of the four acts has a monologue by a different character.
    • In Act 1, Vandergelder describes his world view, summed up by the sentence "Ninety-nine percent of the people in the world are fools and the rest of us are in great danger of contamination", and explains why he's nevertheless planning to risk being a bit foolish by getting married.
    • In Act 2, Cornelius describes the wonders of being in love, and how he won't care what happens if Vandergelder catches him skipping work and fires him, because the memory of this day will sustain him.
    • In Act 3, Malachi describes his philosophy that everybody should have one vice to keep them honest, but no more. (His used to be petty theft, but then he became an alcoholic so now he's scrupulously honest with other people's property.)
    • In Act 4, Miss Van Huysen steps forward to deliver a monologue to the audience, but gets sidetracked before she finishes the first sentence. The real monologue comes a bit later, from Mrs. Levi, explaining why she intends to marry Vandergelder herself.
    • The play ends with another short address to the audience from Barnaby, attempting to come up with a moral to the story.
  • The Boys Next Door, about a group of mentally disabled men living in a group home together, has several, most of which come from Jack, the men's caretaker, as he talks about life with the men, the prejudices they face, and his own increasing sense of burnout. The most moving of these monologues, though, belongs to Lucien, a severely mentally handicapped man, forced to appear before a judge when he's in danger of losing his disability funds. For this brief monologue, Lucien becomes a confident, articulate adult, addressing the audience about the trials of his disability and how the system may try to ignore him, but he will not simply go away. When he is finishes, he sits back down, and it's revealed that no time has passed and he hasn't said a word, because he's unaware of what's actually happening.

     Theatre: Musical  

  • John Adams' opening speech in 1776.
  • The narrator of The Drowsy Chaperone is a musical theatre enthusiast sitting in his living room talking to the audience about the titular Show Within a Show, providing a running commentary as the action of that show unfolds. So, basically, almost everything he says is in this vein.
  • Tevye's monologues (at least the ones not directed to God) are directed towards the audience in Fiddler on the Roof.
  • Hello, Dolly! contains a few, mainly held over from Thornton Wilder's play, The Matchmaker, on which the musical is based. Cornelius's monologue about the wonders of being in love survives almost intact. Dolly's monologue about her goals also mostly survives, although it's split into smaller monologues at the beginning, middle and end, instead of being delivered in a single lump. Vandergelder's monologue about foolishness is cut down to a few sentences addressed to his clerk, and Malachi's monologue is gone entirely (along with Malachi himself). The musical also adds an entirely new monologue, from Minnie, giving her some much-needed characterization.
  • Most songs in Ordinary Days are sung as if the singer is explaining their current situation to the audience. Jason and Claire even have a couple of duets that are sung as if they are both speaking to the audience, rather than speaking to each other.
  • The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee has Schwartzy's political speech.
  • Pungeon Master Jack Point talks to "himself" - but really to the audience - frequently. Most notable in his first scene in Act Two.
    Point: (Reads.) "The Merrie Jestes of Hugh Ambrose. No. 7863. The Poor Wit and the Rich Councillor. A certayne poor wit, being an-hungered, did meet a well-fed Concillor. 'Marry, fool?' quoth the Concillor, 'whither away?' 'In truth,' said the poor wag, 'in that I have eaten naught these two dayes, I do wither away, and that right rapidly!' The Councillor laughed hugely, and gave him a sausage." Humph! The Councillor was easier to please than my new master the Lieutenant. I would like to take post under that Councillor. Ah! 'Tis but melancholy mumming when poor, heart-broken, jilted Jack Point must needs turn to Hugh Ambrose for original light humour!
  • In Spamalot, the Lady of the Lake gives an example of this trope in Act II when she suddenly barges onto the stage and sings a song to the audience complaining about how long it's been since her character had any stage time.

Alternative Title(s): Address The Audience