Shakespeare wrote a lot of plays. A LOT. This means that there is a LOT of choice for when you come to choosing your Classical monologue piece - but how do you know what to pick? Here is a handy little list for you to refer to when you need to whip a bit of The Bard out of your bag:
If it’s full on drama you’re after, look no further than Cymbeline, Act 3 Scene 4. Imogen discovers Posthumus’ letter condemning her to death for adultery, and begs Pisano to kill her with his sword.
Hamlet is filled with passion, from beginning to end. This speech from Laertes to Ophelia in Act 1 Scene 3 warns her to beware of Hamlet. We all know how that turned out.
Henry V is perfect dramatic audition speech fodder. Act 1 Scene 2 contains Henry himself’s response to the Dauphin, and it contains strong, fiery language (no, not THAT type of strong language!)
You can apply quite a lot of Othello’s teachings to today’s relationships, no? Well, in an ironic sense, that is. Act 4 Scene 3, Emilia’s speech to Desdemona about how women should expect their husbands to be decent towards them is a great place to start.
There is a lot of romance is a lot of Shakespeare’s plays - we’re not just talking Romeo and Juliet here. The Comedy of Errors, Act 3 Scene 2, where Antipholous is wooing Luciana, is filled with sweet and loving poetry, and is a fine opportunity to dust off your inner lovelorn teenager.
Surprisingly enough, some of Shakespeare’s most amusing writings are hidden in his most bloodthirsty tragedies. Macbeth, Act 2 Scene 3 is a fine example. The Porter’s speech is right on target - just remember to not overplay the drunkenness. And don’t actually get drunk before you perform it; that won’t help you at all.
Shakespeare, like many writers of his time, played around with gender roles by disguising his characters as the opposite sex. Rosalind’s speech in As You Like It, Act 3 Scene 5, is amusing not only because of the speech itself (where Rosalind chastises Phoebe for her dismissal of Silvius’ attentions) but because Rosalind is dressed as a man as she gives the speech.
You should always be careful about “overacting” a scene that gives you an opportunity to get physical, but Trinculo’s speech in The Tempest, Act 2 Scene 2 should give you a chance to act using more than just your words and voice.
Choosing Romeo and Juliet scenes can be tricky, as many of them have been done to death. This one, a less well known Juliet speech in Act 2 Scene 2, contains some beautiful poetic language that is heartfelt and tender.
If you want a slightly sombre piece for your monologue, you could do worse than choosing Love’s Labour Lost. In Act 5, Scene 2, the Princess begs Ferdinand to prove his love in a speech that is darkly romantic.
As you can see, you can pretty much use Shakespeare to convey any mood or feeling. Enjoy!
Mark Westbrook is the Course Leader of the Professional Acting Diploma at Acting Coach Scotland