Shakespeare is famously known for his masterful and downright revolutionary use of blank verse. Blank verse put simply; is un-rhyming verse written in iambic pentameter. Shakespeare, of course, was not the only playwright in his time, or any time for that matter, to employ the use of blank verse, he had many very talented contemporaries and mates such as Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, and John Webster to name a few, who all made expert use of blank verse, but we remember Shakespeare because he is truly one of the best even to this day.
But we’re not here to talk about that, we’re here to talk about prose. Prose is essentially everyday writing used in fiction, non-fiction, and plays alike, and is the most common form of writing across the board. Shakespeare used prose most not just when he didn’t feel like writing in verse but usually to tell the actors, the director and the audience something about the characters status, objective, or state of mind. It’s also worth noting that Shakespeare most commonly used prose in his comedies. Which is why it can sometimes be hard to find a comedic monologue to audition with. Which leads us to our next point…
More often than not if you are auditioning for a Shakespeare play, or are asked to prepare a Shakespeare monologue you will be asked to prepare something written in blank verse. This is usually so that the director or casting director can gauge your ability to work with blank verse and perform Shakespeare. So all of this is to say if you are planning on using one of these for an audition, just double check with whoever you’re auditioning for that performing a prose monologue is okay. With that being said, I sure hope you do because there are some crackers to be found. Here are some of our favourite prose monologues!
Bottom – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (IV.i)
When my cue comes, call me, and I will
answer. My next is, ‘Most fair Pyramus’. Heigh-ho!
Peter Quince? Flute the bellows-mender? Snout the
tinker? Starveling? Gods my life! Stolen hence, and
left me asleep? I have had a most rare vision. I have
had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it
was. Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this
dream. Methought I was – there is no man can tell
what. Methought I was – and methought I had – but
man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say what
methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the
ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to
taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report
what my dream was. I will get Peter Quince to write a
ballad of this dream. It shall be called ‘Bottom’s
Dream’, because it hath no bottom; and I will sing it
in the latter end of a play, before the duke.
Peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall
sing it at her death. (Exit.)
Rosalind – As You Like It (Epilogue)
It is not the fashion to see the lady the
Epilogue, but it is no more unhandsome than to see the
lord the Prologue. If it be true that good wine needs
no bush, ’tis true that a good play needs no epilogue.
Yet to good wine they do use good bushes, and good
plays prove the better by the help of good epilogues.
What a case am I in then, that am neither a good
epilogue, nor cannot insinuate with you in the behalf
of a good play. I am not furnished like a beggar,
therefore to beg will not become me. My way is to
conjure you, and I’ll begin with the women. I charge
you, O women, for the love you bear to men, to like as
much of this play as please you. And I charge you, O
men, for the love you bear to women (as I perceive by
your simpering none of you hates them), that between
you and the women the play may please. If I were a
woman I would kiss as many of you as had beards that
pleased me, complexions that liked me and breaths
that I defied not. And I am sure as many as have good
beards, or good faces, or sweet breaths will for my
kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell.
Touchstone – As You Like It (V.IV)
Upon a lie seven times removed – bear
your body more seeming, Audrey – as thus, sir. I did
dislike the cut of a certain courtier’s beard. He sent me
word if I said his beard was not cut well, he was in the
mind it was. This is called the ‘retort courteous’. If I
sent him word again it was not well cut, he would send
me word he cut it to please himself. This is called the
‘quip modest’. If again it was not well cut, he disabled my judgement. This is called the ‘reply churlish’. If again it was not well cut, he would answer I spake not
true. This is called the ‘reproof valiant’. If again it was
not well cut, he would say I lie. This is called the
‘countercheck quarrelsome’ – and so to the ‘lie
circumstantial’ and the ‘lie direct’.
And how oft did you say his beard was not well cut?
I durst go no further than the lie
circumstantial, nor he durst not give me the lie direct;
and so we measured swords and parted.
Can you nominate in order now the degrees of the lie?
O sir, we quarrel in print, by the book, as
you have books for good manners. I will name you the
degrees: the first, the retort courteous; the second, the
quip modest; the third, the reply churlish; the fourth,
the reproof valiant; the fifth, the counter-check
quarrelsome; the sixth, the lie with circumstance; the
seventh, the lie direct. All these you may avoid but the
lie direct and you may avoid that too with an ‘if’. I knew
when seven justices could not take up a quarrel, but
when the parties were met themselves, one of them
thought but of an ‘if’: as, ‘if you said so, then I said so’;
and they shook hands and swore brothers. Your ‘if’ is
the only peacemaker; much virtue in ‘if’.
Dogberry – Much Ado About Nothing (IV.ii)
Dost thou not suspect my place? Dost thou
not suspect my years? O, that he were here to write me
down an ass! But masters, remember that I am an ass;
though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am
an ass. No, thou villain, thou art full of piety, as shall be
proved upon thee by good witness. I am a wise fellow,
and which is more, an officer, and which is more, a
householder, and which is more, as pretty a piece of
flesh as any is in Messina, and one that knows the law
– go to! – and a rich fellow enough – go to! – and a
fellow that hath had losses, and one that hath two
gowns, and everything handsome about him. – Bring
him away. – O, that I had been writ down an ass!
Shylock – The Merchant of Venice (III.i)
To bait fish withal; if it will feed nothing else, it will
feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me and hindered
me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at
my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains,
cooled my friends, heated mine enemies, and what’s his
reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew
hands, organs, dimensions , senses, affections, passions?
Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons,
subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as
a Christian is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you
tickle us do we not laugh? if you poison us do we not
die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we
are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If
a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge!
If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance
be by Christian example? Why, revenge! The villainy
you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I
will better the instruction.
Trinculo – The Tempest (II.ii)
Here’s neither bush nor shrub to bear off any
weather at all, and another storm brewing; I hear it sing
i’th’ wind. Yond same black cloud, yond huge one, looks
like a foul bombard that would shed his liquor. If it
should thunder as it did before, I know not where to hide
my head. Yond same cloud cannot choose but fall by
pailfuls. [ Sees Caliban. ]What have we here, a man or a
fish? Dead or alive? A fish: he smells like a fish, a very
ancient and fish-like smell, a kind of – not of the newest– poor-John. A strange fish! Were I in England now (as once I was) and had but this fish painted, not a holidayfool there but would give a piece of silver. There would this monster make a man; any strange beast there makes
a man. When they will not give a doit to relieve a lame
beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian. Legged231
like a man and his fins like arms! Warm, o’my troth! I do
now let loose my opinion, hold it no longer: this is no
fish, but an islander that hath lately suffered by a
thunderbolt. Alas, the storm is come again. My best
way is to creep under his gaberdine; there is no other
shelter hereabout. Misery acquaints a man with
strange bedfellows! I will here shroud till the dregs of the
storm be past.
Malvolio – Twelfth Night (Or What You Will) (II.V)[Reads.] M.O.A.I. This simulation is not as the former. And yet to crush this a little it would bow to me, for every one of these letters are in my name. Soft,
here follows prose. [Reads.]If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars246
I am above thee, but be not afraid of greatness. Some are
born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness
thrust upon them . Thy fates open their hands: let thy bloodand spirit embrace them, and, to inure thyself to what
thou art like to be, cast thy humble slough and appear
fresh. Be opposite with a kinsman, surly with servants.
Let thy tongue tang arguments of state; put thyself into
the trick of singularity . She thus advises thee that sighs for247
thee. Remember who commended thy yellow stockings and
wished to see thee ever cross-gartered – I say remember. Goto, thou art made if thou desir’st to be so; if not, let me see
thee a steward still, the fellow of servants and not worthy
to touch Fortune’s fingers. Farewell. She that would alterservices with thee,
The Fortunate Unhappy .
Daylight and champaign discovers not more. This is
open. I will be proud, I will read politic authors, I will
baffle Sir Toby, I will wash off gross acquaintance, I
will be point-device the very man. I do not now fool
myself to let imagination jade me; for every reason
excites to this, that my lady loves me. She did commend
my yellow stockings of late, she did praise my leg
being cross-gartered, and in this she manifests herself
to my love and with a kind of injunction drives me
to these habits of her liking. I thank my stars, I am
happy. I will be strange, stout, in yellow stockings and
cross-gartered even with the swiftness of putting on.
Jove and my stars be praised! Here is yet a postscript.
[Reads.] Thou canst not choose but know who I am. If thou
entertain’st my love, let it appear in thy smiling – thy smiles
become thee well. Therefore in my presence still smile, dear
my sweet, I prithee. Jove, I thank thee. I will smile, I will
do everything that thou wilt have me.
Hamlet – Hamlet (III.iii)
Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced
it to you – trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth
it as many of our players do, I had as lief the town-crier
spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with
your hand, thus, but use all gently; for, in the very
torrent, tempest and, as I may say, whirlwind of your
passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that
may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul to
hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to
tatters , to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings,
who for the most part are capable of nothing but
inexplicable dumb-shows and noise.I would have such
a fellow whipped for o’erdoing Termagant – it out-
Herods Herod. Pray you avoid it.
Mercutio – Romeo And Juliet (II.IV)
More than Prince of Cats . O, he’s the
courageous captain of compliments: he fights as you
sing pricksong, keeps time, distance and proportion.
He rests his minim rests , one, two, and the third
in your bosom; the very butcher of a silk button,
a duellist, a duellist, a gentleman of the very first
house, of the first and second cause. Ah, the immortal
passado, the punto reverso, the hay!
The pox of such antic , lisping, affecting
fantasticoes , these new tuners of accent! By Jesu, a
very good blade, a very tall man, a very good whore!
Why, is not this a lamentable thing, grandsire, that we
should be thus afflicted with these strange flies, these
fashion-mongers, these pardon-me’s who stand so
much on the new form that they cannot sit at ease on
the old bench? O, their bones, their bones!
There are so many great Shakespearean prose pieces to explore, but hopefully this gives you a good starting place. If you’re interested in exploring less known Shakespearean monologues check out our article on: 10 Underused/Overlooked Shakespeare Monologues.