Updated: May 21, 2019
While scansion flow and rhythm are all very important, They mean absolutely NOTHING without a thorough understanding of the arc of the monologue.
When considering the arc of a monologue, we begin by asking a few very important questions.
The 1st two major questions I ask myself are: Where am I going? and how am I getting there? What is the journey of the monologue?
We can also speak of this in terms of OBJECTIVE. What is my super objective? Super objective being the overlying goal of the entire monologue.
What do I want to achieve with these words? Who/what am I trying to change and why? How do I bring that change about using these words gifted me by the playwright?
Keep in mind, any questions we have do not have to be answered immediately. In fact, most times its best to allow a question to remain a question until the answers reveal themselves through thorough investigation of the text.
Now, In terms of who I am trying to affect or change, there are only a few answers to that question.
I am either trying to change another character or characters in a scene, trying to change myself or I am trying to change or affect the audience.
For the most part, across the board, whether classical or contemporary text, we are trying to change another character in a scene.
When working Shakespeare however, you are as likely to be trying to change yourself or even trying to change the audience.
Case in point: The prologue of Romeo and Juliet; spoken by The Chorus.
Whenever we see a Chorus, whether the chorus is being embodied by one person or by 10 people, we know that the chorus is representing either the writer, with a message for the audience, usually providing context for what’s to come; or the chorus can represent the collective conscience of the world of the play.
That is to say that; as opposed to a singular perspective expressed through an individual character, the chorus can represent an all seeing eye of sorts, speaking from a shared perspective representing the group of characters of whom the story is centered around.
The prologue, in most cases, establishes setting and provides background information to the audience.
Sometimes as is true in the prologue of Romeo and Juliet, the prologue tells us exactly what will happen at the end of a play.
The purpose of spoiling the ending for an audience is the diversion of focus from WHAT happens to HOW and WHY it happens. The destination is important but the journey is the point.
As actors, it is our job to take the audience on said journey. We do this by piecing together a map of the emotional journey of the characters in the play.
We construct this map by scouring through the text for information and then making informed choices based on the information we’ve gathered.
We complete this task for the entire play; for each individual act of the play; for each scene that makes up the act; and for every monologue and line that make up the scenes.