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What is a Dramatic Monologue?

A poem in which there is one imaginary speaker addressing an imaginary audience. In most dramatic monologues, some attempt is made to imitate natural speech. In a successful example of the genre, the persona will not be confused with the poet.
 
In its most fully developed form, the dramatic monologue is a Victorian genre, eeectively created by Tennyson and Browsing, yet the idea of a lyric in the voice of an imagined persona seems to be very ancient. Its origins are obscure. The idylls of Theocritus, written in the 3rd C. BC and acknowledged by Tennyson as a primary source, are dramatic in form and include long speeches; these tend to be self-revelatory and are conversational in idiom. Ovid’s Heroides (1st C. BC) is a collection of letters or speeches ascribed to various figures from myth and literature. Very often they are female characters, who look at the actions of their heroic men from an emotional or domestic viewpoint; they are theefore among the first works of literature to focus on interiority at the expense of action. The same talent for dramatizing emotion is apparent in Ovid’s love lyrics, as also in those of his contemporary Propertius.
 
Such poems, especially Ovid’s, were influential throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The influence is to be noted in the tradition of complaint , so prominent in those eras; and many complaints, though written by men, purport to be spoken by women. In English, the carliest example of this phenomenon is an OE poem, The Wife’s Lament, written down in the 10th c. Other important examples of the sub-genre were composed by Chaucer, Robert Henrysoun, the Earl of Surrey, George Gascoigne, Spenser and Sumual Daniel.

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