Dramatic Monologues: A Brief Introduction Analysis Essay Example

A dramatic monologue is a type of poem where a single person gives a long speech. The speaker talks to someone who does not respond and shares their thoughts and emotions. M. H. Abrahms describes it as a mix of drama and lyric genres. A lyric poem, in contrast, is a relatively short poem where a single speaker expresses their thoughts, feelings, and perception.

The dramatic monologue form, It is not known who invented it, but it was widely used by Victorian poets such as Robert Browning and Alfred Tennyson in “Ulysses”, as well as Dante and more recent poets like Ezra Pound’s “The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter”, Amy Lowell, Robert Frost’s “The Pauper Witch of Grafton”, T. S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, Robert Hayden’s “Night, Death, Mississippi” and other poets from the twentieth century. The dramatic monologue is often considered the most significant contribution of Victorian poetry.

The use of dramatic monologue is a notable innovation in poetry during a particular era, gaining popularity among numerous poets after the 1830s. Robert Browning is often linked to this form, but there are also Old English poems like “The Wanderer” and “The Seafarer,” as well as Robert Burns’ “Holy Willie’s Prayer,” that are considered dramatic monologues. Greek dramas also showcase this technique. However, in recent decades, there has been ongoing debate about the origin of this form, with some critics suggesting it likely emerged during the Victorian period.

The dramatic monologue, with its unique and innovative nature, has sparked a significant body of literature. We will explore the characteristics and individuals associated with this genre. Despite being a highly theatrical form, the dramatic monologue paradoxically exists in an untheatrical realm. It incorporates the essential elements of live theatre, including the pacing, transitions, and cadence of actor-spoken dialogue. Nevertheless, it remains a poetic and personal creation found within a collection of privately enjoyed poems.

Within the framework of a fifty- or hundred-line poem, the vastness of theatrical time and space seems condensed and more elliptical. In simple terms, a dramatic monologue can be viewed as a play that has been reduced to the speech of one character. Although we can infer a broader dramatic situation from this speech, it is the speech itself that represents the larger reality. This form requires us to immerse ourselves in the dramatic scene, using inference and imagination. Hence, these texts act as guidelines for readers to engage in an imagined drama.

Victorian poetry, composed during the 19th century, drew significant inspiration from the cultural circumstances of the Victorian era, encompassing philosophy, psychology, and politics. Commonly delving into themes of introspection and psychological turmoil, it is important to acknowledge that the concept of the dramatic monologue actually originated in the 20th century. Thus, it becomes apparent that there were additional influences shaping this unique poetic style.

M.H. Abrams, an American critic famous for his contributions to Literary Terms and as a general editor of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, argues that it is not feasible to completely track the evolution of aesthetic trends, practices, and ideas that shape the birth and exploration of a genre. Nevertheless, he delineates three essential characteristics of the dramatic monologue in poetry:

  1. A single person utters the speech that makes up the whole poem in a specific situation at a critical moment. The person may or may not be the poet.
  2. This person addresses and interacts with one or more people; however, we only know about their presence and what they say or do from clues in the discourse of the single speaker.
  3. The main principle that controls the poet’s choice and formulation is what is revealed to us about what the lyric speaker says. This enhances its interest along with revealing aspects such as their temperament and character. The poet uses psychology as a subject for their poem where speakers may use either complaining or argumentative tones.

The text indicates the presence of a second point of view, which we agree with. The use of specific rhetorical language separates the dramatic monologue from the soliloquy. The speaker in the dramatic monologue may interact with one or more silent listeners, and information about them is given through hints in the conversation. In dramatic monologues, the listeners can be either physically present or implied by the reader.

Since the listener is not physically there all the time, the true importance has been misinterpreted in most critical evaluations. Although the listener remains silent, they are essentially the second speaker and lose the representation. The presence of the other listener, who remains completely passive, allows us to have a reference point within the narrative and react. A significant part of the reader’s experience lies in piecing together the other side of the story based on hints and implications from the poem.

The primary purpose of self-revelation serves as a distinguishing factor between dramatic monologue and its closely related form, dramatic lyric. Both are monologues spoken in a specific situation during a dramatic moment. However, in a dramatic monologue, the subject being discussed is typically less captivating than the unintentional revelations made by the speaker themselves. According to Robert Langbaum, one of the most influential definitions, the form can be seen as an extension of the inherently Romantic “poetry of experience,” which creates a tension between sympathy and judgment for the reader.

The poet’s obsessions are only visible when we empathize with the speaker, and this impact can be observed in the works of Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot during the twentieth century. In Eliot’s “The Love Song of J,” the poet’s voice is hidden behind a mask, which is a technique that Eliot perfected throughout his career. Recently, multiple poets have presented their own versions of this style, including Sylvia Plath with “Mirror” and “Lady Lazarus,” as well as John Ashbery with “Daffy Duck in Hollywood.”

John Berryman, Robert Hayden, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Christina Rossetti are all poets who utilized the form of dramatic monologue in their works. Berryman used this form in his series of Dream Songs, with poems featuring shifting narrators such as his alter egos Henry and Mr. Bones. Hayden’s poem “Night, Death, Mississippi” demonstrates the interplay between a dramatic monologue and the audience’s perception. Rossetti wrote several dramatic monologues including “Jenny” and “The Blessed Damozel,” while Christina Rossetti also wrote several, including “The Convent Threshold.” Swinburne’s poem “Hymn to Proserpine” falls under the category of dramatic monologue.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Internet

The telephone was invented to facilitate communication beyond our immediate surroundings. However, technological advancements gave rise to the Internet, which is now extensively utilized. The Internet is a valuable resource enabling swift and effortless communication among individuals. It can be accessed via computers or mobile phones, enabling connection regardless of geographical location. Furthermore, the Internet serves multiple functions including gaming, website browsing, chatting, file downloading, and file sharing.

The internet has revolutionized the shopping experience, offering a diverse selection of products across various websites. Customers can conveniently buy or place bids for their preferred items. Moreover, online financial transactions have gained popularity, playing a crucial role in e-commerce and streamlining international business agreements.

Transferring money has become fast and easy, with a simple click allowing you to send funds anywhere. However, some services may have fees. Furthermore, the internet offers a variety of other services such as booking travel tickets, making hotel reservations, and enjoying your favorite movies. It also provides medical assistance through specialized websites.

Spamming, a major issue caused by the internet, involves sending unwanted bulk emails and links to people. These emails can range from advertising to random bulk emails and may contain harmful viruses that can corrupt a system. Besides potential harm, spamming is simply irritating.

Many individuals choose to annoy others on Facebook by spamming them through the simple act of clicking “like” on their statuses or comments instead of sending emails. This action results in sending notifications to others and can be extremely bothersome.

The internet has also brought forth viruses that can cause significant harm to computer systems. Numerous websites are infamous for distributing adware, viruses, and other malicious software that can considerably slow down or even damage computers. To conclude, society is currently experiencing a technological boom, and individuals can choose to embrace or ignore this era. Despite its numerous advantages, the internet is a potent tool that individuals must be highly cautious of due to its disadvantages.

“Berenice” And “The Tell-Tale Heart” By Edgar Allan Poe Analysis

Throughout literature, authors adapt instances from their own lives and integrate them into their works in order to manipulate the psychological aspects of their characters (Campbell 1). It is a rarity, however, for an author to produce a work that can be analyzed both biographically and psychologically. An excellent example of such writers is Edgar Allan Poe. His stories “Berenice” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” are prime examples of how psychological disorders play a role in literature.

Poe is famous for his Gothic-style writings and psychologically thrilling tales that examine the depths of the human psyche. At first glance, his works emit a dark vibe that instigates feelings of doom for the protagonists (Campbell 1). Poe experienced a sequence of tragic events throughout his life, which strained his own psychological health. If one were to investigate Poe’s life, questions should begin to arise about the underlying themes in his work. After reading his stories and poems, it becomes evident that Poe relied heavily on occurrences in his life for inspiration.

The damage presents itself through Edgar Allen Poe’s writings as a neurotic obsession with death and violence. Throughout his literary works, he mirrors his characters’ mental state to that of his own insanity. Two examples of such works are Berenice” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The protagonists in both tales share horrific congruencies, while at the same time remain unparalleled in nature. Psychological disorders are the driving force behind the heinous events that take place. To understand the actions of the protagonists, one must understand the mental illness from which they suffered.

Poe describes both characters as sufferers of monomania – a single pathological preoccupation in an otherwise sound mind, according to Webster’s Dictionary. Emotional monomania is when the patient is obsessed with only one emotion or several related to it. Intellectual monomania is related to only one kind of delirious idea or ideas. In 1880, monomania was one of the seven recognized categories of mental illness by the American Psychiatric Society (1050). However, after the 1850s, monomania faded as a diagnostic category in psychiatry (Cambridge University Press 426).

However, a number of disorders that were once classified under monomania now survive as impulse control disorders, conduct disorders, or delusional disorders. The Tell-Tale Heart” is a standard illustration of a psychological story in which the congruencies between the author and the narrator are flawlessly apparent (lit med. edu). The nervous diction of the narrator and his repeated pleas to the reader only reinforce the suspicion that he is mentally ill. Beyond his demented monologue, the narrator’s consuming obsession with the old man’s eye is further proof of lunacy (Appelbaum).

The terror on display in The Tell-Tale Heart” is both internal (the mind of the narrator) and external (the grisly murder). This horror story depicts the demise of two men: the narrator as well as the author. It is not only a masterful portrait of madness but also an example of how guilt can drive an already distraught man even more insane (Appelbaum). The opening lines, “TRUE! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?” reveal the narrator’s mental state. He insists that he is not mad, but his heightened senses suggest otherwise.

I heard many things in hell. How, then, can I be considered mad? Listen! And observe how healthily and calmly I can tell you the whole story (Poe 29). Poe’s writing style allows the reader to understand what the narrator never suspects and is not meant to suspect – that the narrator is a victim of his own self-torturing obsessions (Gargano 177-81). It can be assumed that the narrator has been tormented by the particular feature attributed to the victim for quite some time. In this tale, the vulture eye” consumes his thoughts and acts as a trigger forcing him to commit murder.

It is impossible to say how the idea first entered my brain, but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. There was no object or passion driving me. I loved the old man; he had never wronged or insulted me. I had no desire for his gold. It was his eye that troubled me – a pale blue eye with a film over it, like that of a vulture’s. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold. Gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man and rid myself of the eye forever (Poe 29).

In allowing his narrator to unburden himself through confession, Poe manipulates the reaction to murder. Instead of freeing the narrator, his actions only serve to augment his agony and intensify his delusions. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could no longer bear those hypocritical smiles! I felt that I must scream or die!” And now – again! Hark! Louder, louder, louder, louder! “Villains!” I shrieked. “Dissemble no more! I admit the deed! Tear up the planks here, here!” It is the beating of his hideous heart (Poe 29).

In Berenice, another work that evidences Poe’s subconscious strain, the narrator and protagonist, Egaeus, is a tormented recluse who suffers from acute monomania. This condition sends him into periods of deep focus and obsession. Unlike the narrator in The Tell-Tale Heart, Egaeus recognizes that he is mentally ill. As a child, he was buried in gloom” and “addicted body and soul to the most intense and painful meditation.” As his illness progresses, it grows into “the most incomprehensible ascendancy” over him. It fixes his mind for hours on a single thought or insignificant objects around him such as a shadow, flame, smell of a flower or print in a book. His most incapacitating obsession is Berenice’s physical appearance after her health declines (Cummings).

In particular, Egaeus becomes fixated on the beauty of Berenice’s teeth, and their image occupies his thoughts constantly. The narrator says, They were here, there, and everywhere… I had no thoughts but for the teeth… All other matters and interests became absorbed in their single contemplation. They – they alone were present to the mental eye, and they, in their sole individuality became the essence of my mental life” (Poe). It appears that Egaeus suffers from what modern psychology calls obsessive-compulsive disorder; a chief symptom of which is the inability to banish a thought that repeatedly invades the mind. Some victims develop obsessions only while others develop both obsessions and compulsions (Cummings). Typically, a compulsion rids the mind of an obsession temporarily or until another one takes its place.

For example, a sufferer who is obsessed with contamination from germs may repeatedly wash his hands in order to gain some relief (Cummings). In Egaeus’ case, he removes Berenice’s teeth while she is in a catatonic state and appears dead to expel his thoughts of her teeth. However, after Egaeus regains his senses, a servant informs him that Berenice is actually alive and her teeth were not extracted. Until this point, Egaeus’ obsessions had not led to an extreme compulsion (Cummings).

There was a light tap at the library door and then a menial entered upon tiptoe looking pale as the tenant of a tomb. His looks were wild with terror and he spoke to me in a voice that was tremulous, husky and very low.

What did he say?” I asked. “I heard some broken sentences,” was the reply. He went on to describe a disturbance in the silence of the night, a gathering of household members, and a search in the direction of the sound. Then his voice grew more distinct as he whispered to me about a violated grave and a disfigured body that was still alive, despite being enshrouded and palpitating (Poe).

Both stories have similarities and differences. The most notable comparison is the mental health issues experienced by their main characters. Poe portrays both protagonists in “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “Bernice” as suffering from monomania, a psychological disorder.

As evidenced in the text, this disorder is the driving force behind the heinous actions of the protagonists. The protagonists share similar final delusions, yet the victims do not share the same fate. Both the narrator and Egaeus are haunted by particular physical features of their victims which provoke an obsession that leads to a grotesque compulsion over time. Additionally, verbal confession proves unnecessary as the narrator has no reprieve from his delusions and Egaeus is left with bloodied clothes and a box of teeth to prove his guilt.

Although author Edgar Allan Poe never sought treatment and therefore was not diagnosed with a specific mental disorder, evidence of disorders is apparent. It is only upon examining Poe’s works that one can conclude his tales are the spawn of traumatic events that prove deleterious to his psychological health. The themes of death and insanity in his works are an indication of the personal aspect of his life. One must conclude that for Edgar Allan Poe to piece together tales containing such meticulous insight into the mind of a madman, he must, in some way and to some degree, be mad himself.

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