Modern and Contemporary Theater
Art, including theater, of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries put an increasing emphasis on psychological explorations of individuals. It was, therefore, natural that monologue and soliloquy would be used in new ways to express psychological turmoil and growth in dramatic characters. In his early career especially, Henrik Ibsen rejected monologue as he sought a more naturalistic mode of discourse. On the other hand, August Strindberg and other playwrights who favored a more expressionistic mode were more likely to call upon the poetic power of monologue and soliloquy. For a number of American playwrights, including Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller, monologue acted to modulate the tension between naturalistic and nonnaturalistic performance strategies and provided a vehicle for characters to express their isolation and alienation from society and even those closest to them.
As the twentieth century progressed and more varieties of experimental theater emerged, playwrights found yet more ways to adapt the age-old techniques of monologue and soliloquy to their purposes. Bertolt Brecht, always seeking ways to disrupt the illusionary possibilities of theater, stressed the unreal nature of solo speech, directing his actors to step out of character and deliver critical lines directly to the audience, thus breaking the illusion and encouraging alienation. As antinaturalistic Brechtian techniques found their way into mainstream theater, similar...
(The entire section is 496 words.)