Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: No by Palesa Molefe

Hello and welcome back to Monologue Monday. This week’s monologue is perhaps the most unique monologue featured on the site so far.

It is simply, yet strongly, the word “no” repeated. This is an incredibly powerful monologue that forces the actor to, well, act. It isn’t merely saying “no” with different tones. The writer/performer Palesa Molefe runs the gamut of human emotions as she expresses various iterations of the word “no.”

As a produced monologist myself, Molefe has achieved with one word anything greater than I have (I know it’s not a competition). Let’s take a look:


Many people in life find it hard to say no. Palesa Molefe isn’t one of those people.

Specifically, women have been conditioned to not say “no.” This monologue attempts to shatter that mold.

On the flip side of things, there are people who say “no” to everything, but they tend to exist in Jim Carrey movies.

As for the performance aspect, I asked actor, dancer, director and intimacy choreographer Nicole Perry for her take on this monologue:

This monologue is great for actors working on developing emotional nuance or range. Similar to the Meisner game that requires partners to repeat, the monologue is simply the word “no”. Memorization made easy! 

This monologue is a great showcase of “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”! Each repetition is different. She covers great emotional range throughout the performance, and a variety of commitment levels and/or intentions. From adamant denial to a meek admittance, from scoffing to delight.  

Because the words are easy to remember, this could also be a great monologue to work on movement. As a movement analyst, I’m interested in when our movement supports what we are saying, and when our movement belies our true intentions. This would be a great piece to play with not just saying “no” with a variety of emotions and intentions, but also adding a layer of movement that either supports or denies what you are saying! What characters/situations come up for you as you experience this? 

I love that this monologue allows us to say “no”. Frankly, in 2019, it’s a skill we need to practice. As actors, we are conditioned to say “yes”. But, as the Broadway Intimacy Director Claire Warden likes to say “No is a full sentence”. If, as a performer or an acting student, you are put in a position that is unsafe, triggering, or questionable, you have the right to ask questions, or to just say “no”. The difficulty in this is that the power dynamic of actor/director, particularly if it’s student actor/adult director, makes us very fearful of the consequences of saying “no”. So, practice saying “no”. I hope you always get to train and work in situations that honor your agency and personhood, and allow you have and hold your boundaries. But, in case you don’t, know how to say “no”. 

Ms Molefe was kind enough to give us her introduction:

My name is Palesa Molefe a 20-year-old self-taught actor and scriptwriter from Botswana. I have always had a love for the arts, specifically film and stage performance, however my acting career truly began after the short film ‘Lacunawhich I wrote, produced and featured was amongst the official selection in the Botswana National Film Festival 2018. I’ve gained recognition for my creative and unorthodox style of storytelling. Currently I am working under my mentor Mr. Tefo Paya – an internationally recognized performer and director from Botswana, to help develop and sculpt my career. 

Palesa Molefe, monologist extraordinaire.

Beyond introductions, Ms Molefe went out of her way to answer some questions for us.

Where did the idea come from to write/perform this monologue?

  I wanted to give light to the abuse women in Botswana go through. For reasons only known to us, most of us stay silent after having gone through such a traumatic experience. This piece to validate every woman’s ‘NO’, whether she’s saying it drunk or nervously laughing because she might be afraid. Her no is valid and she’s worth being listened to and taken seriously.

How did your prepare/rehearse this monologue?
  I did not rehearse this monologue because I know that women who have gone through this weren’t given the luxury. The day I decided to shoot the monologue, I grabbed my camera, set it up in my room, gave myself time to find my center and remembered all the stories I had heard prior to that moment. I then allowed myself to feel every emotion that needed to be felt in each moment as I started to record. 

What has the response been?
  I come from a very conservative country, so it was a bit of a culture shock. The delivery of the message was different from what a lot of people had seen but overall viewers were warm and appreciative of the message. 

Have you done much other writing, dramatic or otherwise?
  I continue to write to this day. I have plans for these scripts, whether it’s to share them on stage, film or just to keep them to myself. I recently returned from a tour around Botswana called ‘Madi Majwana’, it focused on using theatre as a tool to educate people from all walks of life on financial literacy. Right now I am focused on being a good student and learning from the ones who came before me in the creative industry.

What was the hardest thing about this monologue?
  Being honest. Being honest about how I truly felt in telling the story of many women.

What are your influences?
  What I feel, hear, think and see every day plays a big part in what influences me. If I was to move to a different country, my story and my truth would be different from the one I have now. I would experience life differently, I would hear different stories, I’d think differently because new environment adjustments and I’d see different scenery, different people, different ways of life.

What advice do you have for other performers/writers who want to use their voice for activism?
  Only you can tell your story best. When you’re convicted to write a script or perform a piece, do it in a way you know only you can. That means trusting in your capabilities, trusting in your own voice, in your own truth and owning it. You have to admit that it’s kind of hard to write a story about the life of a 50-year old man in Africa whilst you’re a 25-year old young man from America because well that’s not your story, it’s not your truth.

What do you have coming up next? How can we find out more about you?
  Currently I am working on a script for another short Film. It’s still in its early stages but it will be out and up on my YouTube channel before this year comes to an end.
 Email –
YouTube channel – Palesa Molefe 
(is where my content can viewed, including Lacuna the short film.)
Facebook Page – Palesa Molefe

Botswana should be more famous just for having a neat flag. 

Ms Molefe is truly one of the most impressive theatre people I’ve interacted with. Please subscribe, follow or contact her. Folks like Ms Molefe are the future of theatre.

Feel free to check out all our monologues, unknown playwrights or theatre horror stories.

Thanks for reading!



Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Hate Male by Daniel Guyton

Fair warning, this monologue is not for the faint of heart. Nor should it be for high schoolers. 

This is a very, very angry monologue by Daniel Guyton.

Mr. Guyton’s work encompasses everything from children’s plays about fairies to something called Grimbaldt, the Christmas Pimp.

This monologue has the following setup:

Situation: Gretchen has been convicted of the pre-planned murder of her uncle, who raped her repeatedly when she was a child. Now that she’s in prison, she wants revenge on all men for the terror that she went through. The security guard is her most immediate target.

Here is a sample from the monologue:


Yeah I shot him. What’cha gonna do about it, huh? Fucking pig. Fucking woman-hating, vaginaphobic son of a bitch! That shithead had it coming. Don’t look at me with those sad eyes! Those puppy dogs! Those droopy goopy cellophanes! What’cha gonna do about it huh? Feel sorry for me punk? Fuck you! You goddamn pansy! Momma’s boy! Sad sack loony tunes, probably can’t even please a woman, can ya?!? (She leans in seductively) Probably don’t even know what a pussy looks like. Do you?  If I showed you my mine, would you even know what to do with it? (She chuckles) Yeah, I didn’t think so. These bars can’t hold me in. These walls can’t shackle me. I am transcendental. I am existential! I am anti-matter, ectoplasm, plant destroying phytoplasm. I will melt into the floorboards, delve into the ether, I will eat the ground beneath my feet, and swallow up asbestos. I will rise up on the other side, a thousand times larger than I am right now, and I will cut you while you’re sleeping. I will fuck your family, and I will eat your goddamn dog for dinner! That is – assuming that you have one. Do you have a dog there, Mr. Guard? Mr. Doggy Guard? Or are you just a pussy man like I think you are? (Small pause) Don’t even look at me. Don’t even breathe near me. Every particle of air you spew is like a toxin. Every sound you make is … (She spits at him) Just get away from me. (She turns away) Why don’t you leave me alone? (Small pause) I did what I had to do. What someone had to do. What my father should have done a million years ago – I put that fucker down. Like the rabid bitch he was. (She sits) Why are you still looking at me? Shit. (She wipes a tear from her eye) Do you want a blow job? Is that…? (She shrugs) Fine. Whatever. Bring it in here, buddy, I’ll suck you off. Just like every other guy in the universe. ‘Just blow me and I’ll let you live.’ (Pause) Well, what the fuck are you waiting for? I gave you an invitation, didn’t I?

For the rest of the monologue, feel free to contact the playwright for performance rights. He’s a pretty good guy and will probably say “yes.”

Always available on Amazon.

Here is a video the monologue’s rehearsal:








Don’t forget we have happier monologues for both females and males. Also, feel free to check out out Unknown Playwrights and Theatre Horror Stories.

Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Asian Goggles by Jenny Yang

Howdy and welcome back to Monologue Mondays!

As this blog has pointed out (again and again [and again]) Roles writing gigs directing gigs monologues opportunities are hard to come by in American theatre if you’re not super mega white and male.

Fortunately, there are strong, funny monologues written by funny folks like Jenny Yang.

The monologue is about how she was offered “Asian goggles” at a ski resort by someone named Skyler.

Judging from the racism, ski resortiness and name, my money’s on Park City, Utah as the location of said monologue. Park City is as racist a town as any I’ve seen.


Wobbly graffiti from 1916 survives in the old Park City jail. Pretty much the coolest thing that town has to offer.

Speaking of Wobblies, Jenny Yang’s career has gone from badass labor organizer to badass comedian. Highlights include: making videos for Cracked and performing at Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. Her commentary has been covered by the BBC, New York Times and a bunch of other places. She also wrote for Last Man Standing, but since that was a vehicle for human turd-goblin Tim Allen, I wouldn’t call it a highlight.

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8/03: Literally the question nobody asked nor cared about.
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9/13: And there’s the answer!!! I’m sure Tim Allen painted lots of IWW graffiti whilst in the hoosegow.

Too bad Ms. Yang can’t get her own sitcom. If you want to know more about her and her accomplishments, please check her site out. The monologue can be found in this wonderful collection.


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Asian goggles are more than a monologue – they exist!!!

Now, let’s check out some videos of this monologue, including by the writer herself!






Thank you so much for reading this blog and thanks to Ms. Yang for writing such amazing material.

For another Asian-centric monologue, please check here .

Can you stomach Theatre Horror Stories?

Until next time…

Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Catherine from Nice People Dancing To Good Country Music by Lee Blessing

Howdy folks. We’re back with another exciting edition of Monologue Monday.

Today’s monologue comes to us from a play with a great title: Nice People Dancing To Good Country Music. This play dates from 1982. The following synopsis comes from a 2016 production:

Eve Wilfong, who lives over the “Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music Bar,” is paid a visit by her niece Catherine Empanger, a novice nun who’s been asked to leave her convent. It seems Catherine suffers from a curious compulsion to yell obscenities at the wrong moment, and even, on occasion, bark like a dog. Roy, an honest if simple fellow from the bar downstairs, wants to court Catherine whether she’s a nun or not. Eve feels she should give her niece the benefit of her experiences with men before allowing her to venture back into the mad modern country world. What follows is not simply comic and well-observed, but romantic and affecting as well.

From a university production.

Given Catherine’s predisposition to bark like a dog – and the fact Roy wants to romance her…comedic conflict arises by the manure truckload.


Every production has a beat-up truck. Oh, and love the tire iron.

Lee Blessing has gone on to have a great playwriting career, including winning many awards.

Here’s a 2009 production talking about the play:


Here is a trailer from 2009 college production:


This is Catherine’s monologue, taken from this miraculous site.

 I noticed it one day a few months ago. I was going to breakfast one morning — a morning like any other morning—and I passed one of the sisters in the hallway. She∗s a woman I saw every day, someone I’d never harbored an evil thought about. She smiled as she went by, looking serene, and I smiled back at her and said, “Isn’t this a lovely morning, Sister Shit?”. I don’t know where it came from. It’s one of my clearest memories, though: the look on her face, the way she recovered almost at once, and asked me to excuse her, but she hadn’t quite heard . . . And even I wasn’t sure at that moment, just what I’d said. I couldn’t have said what I thought I’d . . . So anyway, I smiled pleasantly and apologetically, and took a deep breath, and said, “You heard me, Fart-face,” and walked on. I did. I swear I didn’t mean to. Sister Beatrice never hurt me in her life. She was one of the ones I liked best. And it‘s not even a matter of that. We’re in the same holy order, we’re children of God. It just came out of me. Like speaking in tongues or something. The words just leaped out of me. They had to be spoken. That’s what my psychologist said. Wouldn’t you see a psychologist? I saw everybody. I saw lots of people in the Church: priests, nuns, bishops — everyone. I cussed them out. All of them. Except God and my psychologist. Eve, I never meant to say any of those things. But I couldn’t help it. I started swearing like a linebacker every time I saw the convent. And I’d say other things, too. Irrational things. I’d recite the backs of Wheaties boxes. Not at breakfast — other times: during devotions, working in the garden. I didn∗t even know I read the backs of Wheaties boxes. It was just there, suddenly, word for word. I don’t know why Wheaties, it’s what we ate. But other things, too. Things I∗d heard on the radio, rules from games I played as a kid, bird calls, sounds from comic books: Bam! Rat-a-tat-tat! Ka-boom! Usually during meditation. The psychologist said that I wasn∗t cut out to be a nun. He said I was unconsciously trying to break out of the constraints of convent life. It’s not the obscenity. I got no bigger thrill saying fart-face than yelling “red light green light” or barking like a dog. It was the impropriety of it. That’s all I wanted. To shock people. To shock myself. I’ve been numb for months. I mean, there I was — I had everything planned out. I was committed to a life of service in the Church, and suddenly it was . . . Sister Shit. My parents didn’t say anything. Nothing helpful. I went home to explain — you know, maybe stay a week? I was there three days. They couldn’t believe I’d failed at ‘my life’s mission.’ They spent the whole time whimpering like a pair of lost puppies. (Sighs.) Finally, Mom accused me of wanting to have children, and I left. So, I came down here. I didn’t know where to go. Nobody up there would talk to me. And I didn’t want to go see Aunt Margaret. I don’t know what I’ll do now. Live a normal life, I guess. I always thought I’d be special, a little more . . . something than the usual person. But I’m just the usual person.





Thanks so much for reading. Be sure to check out other monologues as well as our theatre horror stories.

And as an unusual treat – did you know an Indonesian country singer teamed up with a Dutch country singer on a song about Mississippi?

Well, now you know. And you can try to dance to it.


Oh and here’s Johnny Cash singing in German.

Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: No Release by Tara Meddaugh

Hello, hello one and all!!! Welcome back my beautiful monologuistas!!!

Today we bring you yet another Tara Meddaugh classic. She’s becoming a favorite of the blog. You can find other Meddaugh monologues here:

March in Line

Ferret Envy

Single Crutch

The Beanstalk

No Release is different than all those monologues in that it is dead serious.

This is how the audience will feel. The monologue is that powerful.

Melinda has moved back home to help her infirm mother. She knows her mother is dying and it brings no release. She feels like a marionette.

Screen Shot 2019-08-31 at 11.56.27 AM
Hopefully not THIS marionette. Damn thing costs 319 dollars.

As always, Ms. Meddaugh is kind enough to allow you to see/download the monologue free from her site, so instead of me copying it here, you can just run over there.

Now let’s see what the old YouTube pulled up:








Hopefully more people will do this emotional monologue.

For more monologues, check here. And for our new theatre horror stories, please check here.

Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Segismundo in Life is a Dream/La vida es sueño (Calderón de la Barca) – in 4 languages!!!

Howdy! This week’s monologue takes us to the Golden Age of Spanish Drama. We’ve covered this era before in Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna. Now, time for Calderón de la Barca‘s seminal allegory Life Is a Dream. The following plot description is taken from a drama book from the 1930s.

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The 1640 edition.

THE horoscope of the infant Prince, Segismund, convinces the Polish King, Basilio, that Segismund is destined to bring dishonor on Poland and downfall to his father, Basilio. He therefore announces that Segismund has died with his mother in birth. Confined in a tower, deep in the rocky fastnesses of the frontier, Segismund grows to manhood chained like an animal to a ring in the floor, guarded under direction of Basilio’s confidential general, Clotaldo.

[I’m not really liking the king and I’m pretty sure Clotaldo didn’t plan on guarding one dude for decades when he made general]

As the play opens two strangers whose storm-frighted horses have bolted, stumble on Segismund’s prison. One of them confesses in a voice all too gentle for her masculine attire that she has come from Muscovy on a matter of vengeance and Segismund, for the moment unguarded, confesses that he too, thinks often on revenge. Clotaldo’s appearance is about to result in death for the newcomers when the general recognizes the stranger’s sword as one he had left years before in Muscovy as pledge for favor owed. The stranger identifies herself as Rosaura, daughter of Clotaldo’s quondam benefactor, and is proffered safe conduct to Warsaw.

[That’s convenient]

Meanwhile the King has Segismund brought to court while in a drugged sleep, to wake to all the appearances of royal splendor. His tragic story is related to him, he meets his cousins, Astolfo and Estrella, and falls promptly in love with the latter. When, however, his father, the King, appears, his desire for revenge on an unnatural father is too strong and he would have attacked the King had not the guards prevented. For this action he is returned in a drugged sleep to his prison and the King prepares to carry out his plans to marry his nephew, Duke Astolfo of Muscovy, to his niece, Estrella, and turn over his kingdom to them.

[Nobody: How much incest do you want? This play: YASSS]

Meanwhile, back in the prison, Segismund is convinced by Clotaldo that the entire day’s happenings are but a dream. Clotaldo nevertheless chides him for his unprincelike lack of self-control so effectively that when later in the day he is rescued by revolting Polish troops directed to his prison by Rosaura, he treats the vanquished King with great nobility and returns to him his forfeit crown. When he discovers that Astolfo has broken his engagement to Rosaura in hopes of gaining the Polish crown through marriage to Estrella, he dissolves the new bond, returning Astolfo to Rosaura and claims Estrella for himself.

[Unprincelike lack of self-control? You try being brought up chained to a castle with some creepy old general watching you your entire life and see how much self-control you have. And of course what happy ending doesn’t include cousin marriage?]

If you want the plot explained by Lego characters in German, look no further than here.

All joking aside, Life is a Dream is often considered the greatest Golden Age play. The themes of fate and free will are relevant today and so are the related themes of uncertainty vs. certainty.

I couldn’t find an English video of what is generally called “Segismundo’s first monologue.” So, let’s focus on Segismundo’s 2nd monologue.

Segismundo: I must control this savagery.

The English version of the monologue is indeed savage.

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Translation by Gwynne Edwards.

Now in the original Spanish:

Es verdad. Pues reprimamos
esta fiera condicion,
esta furia, esta ambicion,
por si alguna ve soñamos:
Y sí haremos, pues estamos
en mundo tan singular,
que el vivir sólo es soñar;
y la experiencia me enseña
que el hombre que vive, sueña
lo que es, hasta dispertar.
Sueña el Rey que es rey

Sueña el rey que es rey, y vive
con este engaño mandando,
disponiendo y gobernando;
y este aplauso, que recibe
prestado, en el viento escribe,
y en cenizas le convierte
la muerte, ¡desdicha fuerte!
¿Que hay quien intente reinar,
viendo que ha de despertar
en el sueño de la muerte?

Sueña el rico en su riqueza,
que más cuidados le ofrece;
sueña el pobre que padece
su miseria y su pobreza;
sueña el que á medrar empieza,
sueña el que afana y pretende,
sueña el que agravia y ofende,
y en el mundo, en conclusión,
todos sueñan lo que son,
aunque ninguno lo entiende.

Yo sueño que estoy aquí
destas prisiones cargado,
y soñé que en otro estado
más lisonjero me ví.
¿Qué es la vida? Un frenesí.
¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión,
una sombra, una ficción,
y el mayor bien es pequeño:
que toda la vida es sueño,
y los sueños, sueños son.

Dream vs. reality. Lovely. Let’s see what these monologues look like. We were lucky enough to find them in several languages. The first one is in English.

Even though the monologue is listed as a “male” monologue, please note several women performing it.



Spanish A


Spanish B


Spanish C


Spanish D


Spanish E


Spanish F


German (!)


Here it is in Portuguese:

É certo; então reprimamos
esta fera condição,
esta fúria, esta ambição,
pois pode ser que sonhemos;
e o faremos, pois estamos
em mundo tão singular
que o viver é só sonhar
e a vida ao fim nos imponha
que o homem que vive, sonha
o que é, até despertar.
Sonha o rei que é rei, e segue
com esse engano mandando,
resolvendo e governando.
E os aplausos que recebe,
Vazios, no vento escreve;
e em cinzas a sua sorte
a morte talha de um corte.
E há quem queira reinar
vendo que há de despertar
no negro sonho da morte?
Sonha o rico sua riqueza
que trabalhos lhe oferece;
sonha o pobre que padece
sua miséria e pobreza;
sonha o que o triunfo preza,
sonha o que luta e pretende,
sonha o que agrava e ofende
e no mundo, em conclusão,
todos sonham o que são,
no entanto ninguém entende.
Eu sonho que estou aqui
de correntes carregado
e sonhei que em outro estado
mais lisonjeiro me vi.
Que é a vida? Um frenesi.
Que é a vida? Uma ilusão,
uma sombra, uma ficção;
o maior bem é tristonho,
porque toda a vida é sonho
e os sonhos, sonhos são.

Portuguese A


Portuguese B


This play may be worth mining for other monologues in the future.

Don’t forget to check out more monologues and our new theatre horror stories.

Have a good one!


Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Dido, Queen of Carthage by Marlowe

Howdy everyone. This week we bring you Christopher Marlowe’s play Dido, Queen of Carthage, though Thomas Nashe may have written some of it.

You may remember Marlowe as basically humorless Shakespeare. And he liked to run his mouth and got stabbed in the forehead for his trouble. He is still considered one of the “greats” of English theatre.

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This plot summary comes straight from The Royal Shakespeare Company.

The goddess Venus complains that Jupiter has been neglecting her son Aeneas, who has been lost in a storm on his way to found a new Troy in Italy. Jupiter calms the storm, allowing Aeneas to land safely on the North African coast.

Aeneas meets with other surviving Trojans who have been receiving hospitality from Dido, Queen of Carthage. When Aeneas meets Dido, she agrees to supply his ships and he tells her about the fall of Troy.


Dido is attached to Iarbas but Venus sends Cupid to make her fall in love with Aeneas instead, believing this will help keep him safe. Dido rejects Iarbas, which pleases her sister Anna who is in love with him.

Venus and Juno come together to create a storm, forcing Dido and Aeneas into a cave together. There, they declare their feelings for each other and consummate their love.

Meanwhile, preparations are made for the Trojans to depart for Italy. Dido removes the sails from the ships so that they cannot go, although Aeneas denies intending to leave. Dido announces that he will be king of Carthage and they decide to found the new Troy there instead.

Translation: Super-duper lonely Dido meets Mr. Johnny McBadass Hero Stud Aeneas and is totally into him.


Hermes informs Aeneas that he has no choice but to leave as his destiny is in Italy. Aeneas reluctantly agrees and goes to tell Dido. She is horrified and burns everything that reminds her of him. Heartbroken, Dido takes fate into her own hands and, with a single act of protestation, changes the lives of everyone around her.

Translation: Aeneas is a dirty dog and Dido loses it.

Yeah, the play doesn’t end well for Dido. The entire story of course is taken from Virgil’s Aeneid , which took about 10 years to write because apparently publishers lacked deadlines in ancient Rome. Snark.

Dido really, really feels her emotions.

The monologue is below:

DIDO: Speaks not Æneas like a conqueror?
O blessed tempests that did drive him in!
O happy sand that made him run aground!
Henceforth you shall be our Carthage gods.
Ay, but it may be, he will leave my love,
And seek a foreign land call’d Italy:
O that I had a charm to keep the winds
Within the closure of a golden ball;
Or that the Tyrrhene sea were in mine arms,
That he might suffer shipwreck on my breast,
As oft as he attempts to hoist up sail!
I must prevent him; wishing will not serve.–
Go bid my nurse take young Ascanius,
And bear him in the country to her house;
Æneas will not go without his son;
Yet, lest he should, for I am full of fear,
Bring me his oars, his tackling, and his sails.
What if I sink his ships? O, he will frown!
Better he frown than I should die of grief.
I cannot see him frown; it may not be:
Armies of foes resolv’d to win this town,
Or impious traitors vow’d to have my life,
Affright me not; only Æneas frown
Is that which terrifies poor Dido’s heart:
Not bloody spears, appearing in the air,
Presage the downfall of my empery,
Nor blazing comets threaten Dido’s death;
It is Æneas’ frown that ends my days.
If he forsake me not, I never die;
For in his looks I see eternity,
And he’ll make me immortal with a kiss.

You can also find the monologue here.

Before we bring you the two videos of this monologue, I reached out to Devon Ellington, who is much more familiar with the play and brings a unique perspective as someone with a lengthy theatre background as well as an author. Here’s what she said:

On the face of it, this monologue is a woman terrified that the man she loves will leave her and do everything in her power to keep him “shipwrecked at her breast.” She is willing to steal his son and sabotage his ships, perhaps even sink them, because she would rather face his “frown” than his departure.

The first response is “here we go again.” Because, after all, it’s an overused trope that a woman is willing to die for love (which Dido does when Aeneas leaves; she kills herself). It’s difficult, from our modern viewpoint, not to get impatient with her. It’s sometimes hard to remember that is was first published in 1594. Boys would have played the women’s roles then, and that can add more layers, depending on the production’s interpretation.

[Editor’s note: even beyond this custom, according to the title page of the first publication, it was first performed by the Children of the Chapel, which means ALL the roles were performed by boys in the initial production]

Theatre: Do you want little boys playing the men of this Roman tragedy or the women?               Elizabethan England: YASSSS.


But look at the monologue in the context of the play, and, if you choose to work on it, you can find more. Venus has her son Cupid shoot one of his arrows into Dido to force her fall in love with Aeneas, because Venus wanted Aeneas to stay on Carthage, post-Trojan war, so he would be safe. She hoped Dido’s love would keep him there.

In other words, when working on this monologue, one can think in terms of layers. How much of Dido’s overwrought feelings of love – willing to express it in toxic terms to try to make her lover stay instead of letting him stay – are actually hers? What kind of subtext can be played in this piece if a part of Dido realizes something’s not quite right? She might not know she’s under enchantment, via Cupid’s arrow, but what if she starts feeling that something within her is off? What if not only the text is played, but what’s below it?

The text is a ranting plan by a desperate woman to keep a lover who might or might not love her in return. But what if she has a moment of lucidity, where she doesn’t actually break free, but realizes that she is not completely in control? That she is behaving out of character, and not as a queen should, but can’t stop herself? It’s more than the emotion of love sweeping everything else away in her life, and creating this wild need. It doesn’t come from within her. It’s a poison that was put into her by Cupid. This monologue shows that love can be a poison that destroys. This is a queen, a leader of her people. In her legend, she proved her cleverness by outsmarting the people with whom she bartered land for a bull’s hide – which she then cut up and placed to encompass the kingdom. Yet she’s willing to throw it all away for a man, and haven’t we as women lived with THAT trope since it was created?

But what if, in this passage:

“Not bloody spears, appearing in the air,
Presage the downfall of my empery,
Nor blazing comets threaten Dido’s death;
It is Æneas’ frown that ends my days.”

What if here, there is a moment where she realizes that she’s not in control? That, no matter what she does, he will leave, and she will lose her kingdom? That she can’t break free of the enchantment and stop it? She can’t flush this poisonous love from her system. What if this is where she realizes she is doomed? What if needing him to stay is not just about her own personal need, created by Venus’s manipulation and Cupid’s enchantment, but the only way to hold Carthage? And that part of her knows it won’t happen, and death is inevitable?

In an overall production, how does Venus willingness to hurt another woman play out? Common, in legends of Venus. She caused a lot of pain. How much of it is a male interpretation of “women who can’t get along” that we’ve seen over the centuries, and how much of it is a mother willing to burn down the world to protect her child? Those choices would also affect how this monologue is interpreted.

For a modern performer, it certainly gives more to work with than just a terrified woman plotting to keep her lover. One of the reasons we keep exploring and performing plays by Marlowe, Shakespeare, and all the other classics, is the chance to layer on new interpretations as our frames of reference grows, and we understand the contexts of earlier productions.

Taking some of Ms. Ellington’s words to heart will definitely help an actor using this monologue.

Devon Ellington publishes under half a dozen names in fiction and non-fiction, and is an
internationally-produced playwright and radio writer. The bulk of her career was spent working in theatre, including years working backstage on Broadway.

Let’s take a look at two incarnations of Dido’s monologue:





Join us next week for more fun monologues!!!