As far as monologues for actors go, Shakespeare remains an excellent source of inspiration and a challenge. Shakespeare monologues differ significantly in substance from today's screenplays. In their time, Shakespearean monologues were indispensable to an Elizabethan audience, which the Bard enthralled with gorgeous language as much as theatrics and drama.
Here are 10 Shakespeare monologues for women that aren't usually worked on that would be great practice for actors of all levels.
1. A Midsummer Night's Dream – Act III, Scene 2
“O spite! O hell! I see you all are bent To set against me for your merriment: If you were civil and knew courtesy, You would not do me thus much injury. Can you not hate me, as I know you do, But you must join in souls to mock me too? If you were men, as men you are in show, You would not use a gentle lady so; To vow, and swear, and superpraise my parts, When I am sure you hate me with your hearts. You both are rivals, and love Hermia; And now both rivals, to mock Helena: A trim exploit, a manly enterprise, To conjure tears up in a poor maid's eyes With your derision! none of noble sort Would so offend a virgin, and extort A poor soul's patience, all to make you sport.”
2. The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene 2
If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches and poor men's cottages princes' palaces. It is a good divine that follows his own instructions: I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching. The brain may devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps o'er a cold decree: such a hare is madness the youth, to skip o'er the meshes of good counsel the cripple. But this reasoning is not in the fashion to choose me a husband. O me, the word 'choose!' I may neither choose whom I would nor refuse whom I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father. Is it not hard, Nerissa, that I cannot choose one nor refuse none?
3. Troilus and Cressida – Act I, Scene 2
Words, vows, gifts, tears, and love's full sacrifice, He offers in another's enterprise;
But more in Troilus thousandfold I see
Than in the glass of Pandar's praise may be;
Yet hold I off. Women are angels, wooing:
Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing.
That she beloved knows nought that knows not this:
Men prize the thing ungain'd more than it is:
That she was never yet that ever knew
Love got so sweet as when desire did sue.
Therefore this maxim out of love I teach:
Achievement is command; ungain'd, beseech:
Then though my heart's content firm love doth bear,
Nothing of that shall from mine eyes appear.
4. Macbeth – Act IV, Scene 3 (this one is popular but we love it)
The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan Under my battlements. Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood; Stop up the access and passage to remorse, That no compunctious visitings of nature Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts, And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers, Wherever in your sightless substances You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night, And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, To cry 'Hold, hold!'
5. Twelfth Night, Or What You Will – Act III, Scene 1
O, what a deal of scorn looks beautiful In the contempt and anger of his lip! A murderous guilt shows not itself more soon Than love that would seem hid: love's night is noon. Cesario, by the roses of the spring, By maidhood, honour, truth and every thing, I love thee so, that, maugre all thy pride, Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide. Do not extort thy reasons from this clause, For that I woo, thou therefore hast no cause, But rather reason thus with reason fetter, Love sought is good, but given unsought better.
6. King Lear – Act I, Scene 4
This admiration, sir, is much o' th' savour Of other your new pranks. I do beseech you To understand my purposes aright. As you are old and reverend, you should be wise. Here do you keep a hundred knights and squires; Men so disorder'd, so debosh'd, and bold That this our court, infected with their manners, Shows like a riotous inn. Epicurism and lust Make it more like a tavern or a brothel Than a grac'd palace. The shame itself doth speak For instant remedy. Be then desir'd By her that else will take the thing she begs A little to disquantity your train, And the remainder that shall still depend To be such men as may besort your age, Which know themselves, and you.
7. Julius Caesar – Act II, Scene 2
Caesar, I never stood on ceremonies, Yet now they fright me. There is one within, Besides the things that we have heard and seen, Recounts most horrid sights seen by the watch. A lioness hath whelped in the streets; And graves have yawn'd, and yielded up their dead; Fierce fiery warriors fought upon the clouds, In ranks and squadrons and right form of war, Which drizzled blood upon the Capitol; The noise of battle hurtled in the air, Horses did neigh, and dying men did groan, And ghosts did shriek and squeal about the streets. O Caesar! these things are beyond all use, And I do fear them.
8. The Taming of the Shrew – Act IV, Scene 3
The more my wrong, the more his spite appears. What, did he marry me to famish me? Beggars that come unto my father's door Upon entreaty have a present alms; If not, elsewhere they meet with charity; But I, who never knew how to entreat, Nor never needed that I should entreat, Am starv'd for meat, giddy for lack of sleep; With oaths kept waking, and with brawling fed; And that which spites me more than all these wants- He does it under name of perfect love; As who should say, if I should sleep or eat, 'Twere deadly sickness or else present death. I prithee go and get me some repast; I care not what, so it be wholesome food.
9. Othello – Act I, Scene 3 (This one too)
That I did love the Moor to live with him, My downright violence and storm of fortunes May trumpet to the world: my heart's subdued Even to the very quality of my lord: I saw Othello's visage in his mind, And to his honour and his valiant parts Did I my soul and fortunes consecrate. So that, dear lords, if I be left behind, A moth of peace, and he go to the war, The rites for which I love him are bereft me, And I a heavy interim shall support By his dear absence. Let me go with him.
10. Richard III – Act IV, Scene 4
Bear with me; I am hungry for revenge, And now I cloy me with beholding it. Thy Edward he is dead, that stabb'd my Edward: Thy other Edward dead, to quit my Edward; Young York he is but boot, because both they Match not the high perfection of my loss: Thy Clarence he is dead that kill'd my Edward; And the beholders of this tragic play, The adulterate Hastings, Rivers, Vaughan, Grey, Untimely smother'd in their dusky graves. Richard yet lives, hell's black intelligencer, Only reserved their factor, to buy souls And send them thither: but at hand, at hand, Ensues his piteous and unpitied end: Earth gapes, hell burns, fiends roar, saints pray. To have him suddenly convey'd away. Cancel his bond of life, dear God, I prey, That I may live to say, The dog is dead!