General Question

BronxLens's avatar

What would be a great monologue to memorize?

Asked by BronxLens (1539points) August 22nd, 2008

As a man, I would like to learn it, among other reasons, as a way to mix a memorization challenge with my appreciation for literature.

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36 Answers

flyawayxxballoon's avatar

A soliloquy or monologue from one of Shakespeare’s plays would be fantastic, for example, the famous, “To be, or not to be…” soliloquy from Hamlet.

generalspecific's avatar

I’ve heard wonderful things about Randy Pauch’s Last Lecture but I haven’t actually seen it myself because I’m planning on reading his book soon so it’s a bit of a shot in the dark but I thought I’d throw it out there anyway

shrubbery's avatar

There’s a great one in Macbeth, I can’t remember what Act or anything though sorry. If I do I’ll be back.

genevievejones's avatar

zoo story by Edward Albee. 2 great male characters. that play always made me wish i had the other bits.

gailcalled's avatar

The Hamlet soliloquy has been done to death. Check this one out..(Wikipedia)

In William Shakespeare’s play Richard II, the famous England speech is attributed to John of Gaunt as he lay on his deathbed.

This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear’d by their breed and famous by their birth
—Act II, scene i, 42–54

shrubbery's avatar

I found the one from Macbeth. It’s not very long but I really like it. I learned it for school.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

—Macbeth (V.v.19)

gailcalled's avatar

St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V

“Is this a dagger I see before me?” Macbeth:

“The quality of mercy is not strained”: Merchant of Venice

flyawayxxballoon's avatar

@Gail; Though the Hamlet soliloquy has been done many times, I don’t think that it’s possible to overdo it. It’s just fantastic. However, I agree that doing something less-well-known would stand out a little more and be more interesting and new.

lefteh's avatar

If you feel like branching out into modern cinema, go for the “You can’t handle the truth” speech from A Few Good Men.

shrubbery's avatar

You could try Al Pacino’s speech in Any Given Sunday too.

delirium's avatar

Titus Andronicus, Act II, scene iv.

When marcus finds Lavinia (his niece) in the forest after she was ravished and mutilated by Demetrius and Chiron. Those two joke back and forth a bit, teasing her cruelly, and leave. Marcus then stumbles upon her…


Who is this? my niece, that flies away so fast!
Cousin, a word; where is your husband?
If I do dream, would all my wealth would wake me!
If I do wake, some planet strike me down,
That I may slumber in eternal sleep!
Speak, gentle niece, what stern ungentle hands
Have lopp’d and hew’d and made thy body bare
Of her two branches, those sweet ornaments,
Whose circling shadows kings have sought to sleep in,
And might not gain so great a happiness
As have thy love? Why dost not speak to me?
Alas, a crimson river of warm blood,
Like to a bubbling fountain stirr’d with wind,
Doth rise and fall between thy rosed lips,
Coming and going with thy honey breath.
But, sure, some Tereus hath deflowered thee,
And, lest thou shouldst detect him, cut thy tongue.
Ah, now thou turn’st away thy face for shame!
And, notwithstanding all this loss of blood,
As from a conduit with three issuing spouts,
Yet do thy cheeks look red as Titan’s face
Blushing to be encountered with a cloud.
Shall I speak for thee? shall I say ‘tis so?
O, that I knew thy heart; and knew the beast,
That I might rail at him, to ease my mind!
Sorrow concealed, like an oven stopp’d,
Doth burn the heart to cinders where it is.
Fair Philomela, she but lost her tongue,
And in a tedious sampler sew’d her mind:
But, lovely niece, that mean is cut from thee;
A craftier Tereus, cousin, hast thou met,
And he hath cut those pretty fingers off,
That could have better sew’d than Philomel.
O, had the monster seen those lily hands
Tremble, like aspen-leaves, upon a lute,
And make the silken strings delight to kiss them,
He would not then have touch’d them for his life!
Or, had he heard the heavenly harmony
Which that sweet tongue hath made,
He would have dropp’d his knife, and fell asleep
As Cerberus at the Thracian poet’s feet.
Come, let us go, and make thy father blind;
For such a sight will blind a father’s eye:
One hour’s storm will drown the fragrant meads;
What will whole months of tears thy father’s eyes?
Do not draw back, for we will mourn with thee
O, could our mourning ease thy misery!

Bri_L's avatar

@ Shrubbery – I memorized that for high school. I got an A+ for it.

I can listen to Al Pacino’s speech about how God says Look but don’t touch, touch but don’t eat, eat but don’t enjoy, etc. I can’t think of the movie. It has Keaneou Reeves.

Hobbes's avatar

I second shrubbery’s suggestion – that’s a great speech. You could also do the “dagger speech” from Macbeth.

Act 2, Scene 1


Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppress’d brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going;
And such an instrument I was to use.
Mine eyes are made the fools o’ the other senses,
Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,
And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
Which was not so before. There’s no such thing:
It is the bloody business which informs Thus to mine eyes.
Now o’er the one halfworld Nature seems dead,
and wicked dreams abuse The curtain’d sleep; witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate’s offerings, and wither’d murder,
Alarum’d by his sentinel, the wolf,
Whose howl’s his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.
With Tarquin’s ravishing strides, towards his design
Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,
Hear not my steps, which way they walk,
for fear Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
And take the present horror from the time,
Which now suits with it.
Whiles I threat, he lives:
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.

A bell rings

I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell.

delirium's avatar

Also, this is from tom stoppard’s WONDERFUL, witty, satirical play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
Excellent funny quotes from the play
(Yes, it does go back and forth, but the second person is not necessary.)

ROS: It could go on for ever. Well, not for ever, I suppose. (Pause.)
Do you ever think of yourself as actually dead, lying in a box with a lid on
ROS: Nor do I, really…. It’s silly to be depressed by it. I mean one
thinks of it like being alive in a box, one keeps forgetting to take into
account the fact that one is dead… which should make a difference ...
shouldn’t it? I mean, you’d never know you were in a box, would you? It
would be just like being asleep in a box. Not that I’d like to sleep in a
box, mind you, not without any air – you’d wake up dead, for a start and
then where would you be? Apart from inside a box. That’s the bit I don’t
like, frankly. That’s why I don’t think of it….
(GUIL stirs restlessly, pulling his cloak round him.)
Because you’d be helpless, wouldn’t you? Stuffed in a box like that, I
mean you’d be in there for ever. Even taking into account the fact that
you’re dead, really… ask yourself, if I asked you straight off – I’m
going to stuff you in this box now, would you rather be alive or dead?
Naturally, you’d prefer to be alive. Life in a box is better than no life at
all. I expect. You’d have a chance at least. You could lie there thinking -
well, at least I’m not dead! In a minute someone’s going to bang on the lid
and tell me to come out. (Banging on the floor with his fists.) “Hey you,
whatsyername! Come out of there!”

andrew's avatar

If you’re going to memorize something, please memorize literature and not a movie. It just grates me the wrong way to hear yet ANOTHER rendition of Pulp Fiction or Monty Python.

I think the important thing is to find something that speaks to you. I suggest grabbing a copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets, reading them until you find one that interests you, and memorize that.

The great thing about sonnets is that they’re self-contained little easy-to-memorize morsels. They’re made to be memorized and recited.

I advise against the Hamlet (unless it really speaks to you, though horatio’s speech at the end is wonderful). MacB, also, will be melodramatic without proper context and training. Crispin’s Day speech is wonderful. Prologue from Henry V is good “O for a muse of fire”—but for what you’re looking for, I think a sonnet will serve you the best.

Either that, or a John Donne poem.

What is it you’re looking to express? I can give you more suggestions based on that.

Noticing your “As a man” intro to your question, you might like to take a look at Berowne’s monologue from Love’s Labour III.i.

JackAdams's avatar

Comedian/actor/singer Danny Kaye (1913–87) memorized the following:

Everybody’s heard of Peter Piper
And the Peck of Pickled peppers that he picked
That’s such a silly simple children’s game
That it hasn’t even got a name
But I’d like to bet that it’ll trip ya
Like to betcha that you’ll have to say you’re licked
If Peter Piper you pronounce with ease
Then twist your tongue around these.
Moses supposes his toeses are roses
But Moses supposes erroneously
For Moses’s toeses are toeses, not roses
As Moses supposes his toeses to be

Kistle will whistle at bustly Miss Russell
Who’ll rustle and bustle ‘til Kistle will roar
Now Russell’s asked Axle for Kistle’s dismissal
And this’ll teach Kissle to whistle no more

That’s a tongue twister
It seems so easy ‘til the word gets sprung
If you insist you want to try a list
Step up Mister and Twist your tongue

Hetta is hoping to hop to Tahiti
To hag a hibiscus to hang on her hat
Now Hetta has hundreds of hats on her hat-rack,
So how can a hop to Tahiti help that? Ho Ho Ho Ho

Theata thought Thora was thumping her thimble
But Thomas thought Thora was thumping her thumb
Said Theta, she surely is thumping her drum

Tito and Tato were tattooed in toto
But Toto was only tattooed on his toe
Tato told Tito where Toto was tattooed
But Tito said Toto’s tattoo wouldn’t show

Sheila is selling her shop at the seashore
For shops at the seashore are so sure to lose
Now Sheila’s not sure of what she should be selling
Should she sell seashells, or should she sell shoes

Twistopher Twistle was twing to whistle but Twistopher twisted his tongue

August 23, 2008, 5:57 AM EDT

BarbieM's avatar

I second the suggestion for the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V.

If we are mark’d to die, we are enough
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

trumi's avatar

In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, as Cameron kills the car. Wonderful little monologue :)

gailcalled's avatar

I’m with Andrew here. Pick something that will raise goose bumps.

Yeats; Sailing to Byzantium, The Isle of Innisfree
Shelley; Ozymandeus
Frost; The Ovenbird
G M Hopkins; The Windhover
Matthew Arnold; Dover Beach
Any Psalm but the 21st.
Parts of the biblical Song of Solomon
Shakespeare early sonnets.

gailcalled's avatar

(My brother, Don, memorized the To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy when he was five. Rather like a mechanical toy, but he had the words right…

gailcalled's avatar

John Donne; To His Coy Mistress…and this sonnet (I love this question).


DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee, 5
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.

Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell, 10
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

stratman37's avatar

Christopher Walken’s part in Pulp Fiction where he tells the young character (played by Bruce Willis) about his Dad’s watch.

crisedwards's avatar

If you want to pick Shakespeare, go for the Sonnets. Most of the good ones from the plays are overused.

BronxLens's avatar

Thanks all. I’ll look into everyone’s suggestions (JackAdams, that one is a mouthful LoL. Sounds perfect for a family/friends gathering =)

I prefer to steer away from the heavy language of Shakespeare. I have studied it and am aware of its beauty but was I to recite this anywhere where people are not familiar with the rich poetic images ridden language he uses, I would just get blank stares.

In spirit, any movie dialogue such as the ones aforementioned would do a better job, but I also prefer to stir away from them and instead find a stronger source, in literary terms.

Andrew, answering your question, I’m looking to have something with a generally optimistic yet realistic take on life, not a Hallmark’s moment mind you ;) but something that addresses a bit of life, with all the mess and glories that encompass it, perhaps with a dash of W.H. Auden’s Funeral Blues , a sprinkle of Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s Determination , a smidgen of a Robert W. Service’s ballad and a heap of Jose De Diego’s En la Brecha – I know it’s in Spanish. My apologies. In essence it talks about how one, if feeling down, should emulate nature in ones perseverance to grow, move forward, renew ourself, regrow, resist and fight.

Again, thank you all. I am learning about some true jewels of inspired reading that I wasn’t familiar with.

nina's avatar

‘IF’ by Rudyard Kipling.
It will always raise your spirits in a pinch.

janbb's avatar

Your second post put me in a different direction from where I was going. An essay that I found particularly affecting and inspiring is “High Tide in Tuscon” by Barbara Kingsolver; should be some good parts in there to memorize. I also just heard the poem “My Boy Jack” by Rudyard Kipling, written after he learned of his son’s death in World War I. Very moving and relevant today. (And Kipling had pushed Gt. Britain to get involved in the war.) Another poem that speaks to me is “Little Gdding” by T. S. Eliot. It’s long but I think the first section is nearly perfect in diction and imagery. Some of Dylan Thomas, particularly “Poem in October”, is also very lyrical and would be great to memorize and speak aloud.

gailcalled's avatar

This is short, easy to memorize and always rings MY chimes.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

gailcalled's avatar

And this – even shorter and easier to memorize (but immensely compressed and complex on analysis).

Robert Frost;

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

gailcalled's avatar

And finally this, which I memorized years ago and still remember. (You would have to be a young man.)

A. E. Housman. 1859–

33. “Loveliest of Trees”

LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

mowens's avatar

A few good men- jac nicolson monologe

Devils advocate, Al pacinos ending monologe

la_reine's avatar

A Shakespearean sonnet. Because it is self-contained. And you never know when you might want to declare it to someone! I like number 29, “As an unperfect actor on the stage…” and the one that starts “When in disgrace with fortune…” can’t remember which number that one is

gailcalled's avatar

And #18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more temperate..

la_reine's avatar

which number is “as an unperfect actor..” then?!

gailcalled's avatar

As an imperfect actor on the stage,
Who with his fear is put besides his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart;
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love’s rite,
And in mine own love’s strength seem to decay,
O’ercharg’d with burthen of mine own love’s might.
O let my books be, then, the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast;
Who plead for love, and look for recompense
More than that tongue that more hath more express’d.
O learn to read what silent love hath writ;
To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.

wildpotato's avatar

Captain Beefheart’s “Well” on “Trout Mask Replica”:

Light floats down day river on a
Red raft o’ blood
Night blocks out the heaven
Like a big black shiny bug
It’s hard, soft shell shinin’
White in one spot, well
It’s hard place that I’m livin
But I’m doin’ well, well
The white ice horse melted like a
Spot of silver, well
His mane went last
Then disappeared the tail
My life ran through my veins
Whistlin’ hollow, well
I froze in solid motion, well
I heard the beetle clickin, well well
I sensed the thickest silent scream
Then I begin to dream
My mind cracked like custard
Ran red until it sealed
Turned to wooden and rode like a wheel well well
Thick black felt birds are flyin’
With capes of solid chrome
With feathers of solid chrome
And beaks of solid bone
And bleached the air around them
White and cold, well well
‘Till it showed in pain
The hollow cane clicked like ever after
It’s shadow vanished shinin’ silence well well

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