A friend of mine, with whom I’d worked on a show last year, messaged me on Friday, asking for some Shakespearean advice. It wasn’t exactly secret or confidential, so let me share.
She wanted to know if there were any audition monologues that I could recommend. There’s a musical version of Love’s Labor’s Lost coming up, and the director wants auditioners to prepare a short (around a minute) Shakespeare monologue.
So here’s what I suggested…
Twelfth Night: [Olivia; 1.5, toward the end, after Viola leaves]
Get you to your lord.
I cannot love him. Let him send no more—
Unless perchance you come to me again
To tell me how he takes it. Fare you well.
I thank you for your pains. Spend this for me.
She offers money.
I am no fee’d post, lady. Keep your purse.
My master, not myself, lacks recompense.
Love make his heart of flint that you shall love,
And let your fervor, like my master’s, be
Placed in contempt. Farewell, fair cruelty. She exits.
“What is your parentage?”
“Above my fortunes, yet my state is well.
I am a gentleman.” I’ll be sworn thou art.
Thy tongue, thy face, thy limbs, actions, and spirit
Do give thee fivefold blazon. Not too fast! Soft, soft!
Unless the master were the man. How now?
Even so quickly may one catch the plague?
Methinks I feel this youth’s perfections
With an invisible and subtle stealth
To creep in at mine eyes. Well, let it be.—
[or Viola; 2.2, after Malvolio leaves]
I left no ring with her. What means this lady?
She picks up the ring.
Fortune forbid my outside have not charmed her!
She made good view of me, indeed so much
That methought her eyes had lost her tongue,
For she did speak in starts distractedly.
She loves me, sure! The cunning of her passion
Invites me in this churlish messenger.
None of my lord’s ring? Why, he sent her none!
I am the man. If it be so, as ’tis,
Poor lady, she were better love a dream.
Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness
Wherein the pregnant enemy does much.
How easy is it for the proper false
In women’s waxen hearts to set their forms!
Alas, our frailty is the cause, not we,
For such as we are made of, such we be.
How will this fadge? My master loves her dearly,
And I, poor monster, fond as much on him,
And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me.
What will become of this? As I am man,
My state is desperate for my master’s love.
As I am woman (now, alas the day!),
What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe!
O Time, thou must untangle this, not I.
It is too hard a knot for me t’ untie.
Romeo and Juliet: [Nurse; 1.3, her blathering about Juliet being a toddler]
I’ll lay fourteen of my teeth (and yet, to my teen be it spoken, I have but four) she’s not fourteen. How long is it now to Lammastide?
LADY CAPULET A fortnight and odd days.
Even or odd, of all days in the year,
Come Lammas Eve at night shall she be fourteen.
Susan and she (God rest all Christian souls!)
Were of an age. Well, Susan is with God;
She was too good for me. But, as I said,
On Lammas Eve at night shall she be fourteen.
That shall she. Marry, I remember it well.
’Tis since the earthquake now eleven years,
And she was weaned (I never shall forget it)
Of all the days of the year, upon that day.
For I had then laid wormwood to my dug,
Sitting in the sun under the dovehouse wall.
My lord and you were then at Mantua.
Nay, I do bear a brain. But, as I said,
When it did taste the wormwood on the nipple
Of my dug and felt it bitter, pretty fool,
To see it tetchy and fall out with the dug.
“Shake,” quoth the dovehouse. ’Twas no need, I trow,
To bid me trudge.
And since that time it is eleven years.
For then she could stand high-lone. Nay, by th’ rood,
She could have run and waddled all about,
For even the day before, she broke her brow,
And then my husband (God be with his soul,
He was a merry man) took up the child.
“Yea,” quoth he, “Dost thou fall upon thy face?
Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit,
Wilt thou not, Jule?” And, by my holidam,
The pretty wretch left crying and said “Ay.”
To see now how a jest shall come about!
I warrant, an I should live a thousand years,
I never should forget it. “Wilt thou not, Jule?” quoth he.
And, pretty fool, it stinted and said “Ay.”
Two Gentlemen of Verona: [Julia; 1.2, after she tears up the note]
This babble shall not henceforth trouble me.
Here is a coil with protestation.
She rips up the paper.
Lucetta begins to pick up the pieces.
Go, get you gone, and let the papers lie.
You would be fing’ring them to anger me.
She makes it strange, but she would be best pleased
To be so angered with another letter. She exits.
Nay, would I were so angered with the same!
O hateful hands, to tear such loving words!
Injurious wasps, to feed on such sweet honey
And kill the bees that yield it with your stings!
I’ll kiss each several paper for amends.
She picks up some pieces.
Look, here is writ “kind Julia.” Unkind Julia,
As in revenge of thy ingratitude,
I throw thy name against the bruising stones,
Trampling contemptuously on thy disdain.
And here is writ “love-wounded Proteus.”
Poor wounded name, my bosom as a bed
Shall lodge thee till thy wound be throughly healed,
And thus I search it with a sovereign kiss.
But twice or thrice was “Proteus” written down.
Be calm, good wind. Blow not a word away
Till I have found each letter in the letter
Except mine own name. That some whirlwind bear
Unto a ragged, fearful, hanging rock
And throw it thence into the raging sea.
Lo, here in one line is his name twice writ:
“Poor forlorn Proteus, passionate Proteus,
To the sweet Julia.” That I’ll tear away—
And yet I will not, sith so prettily
He couples it to his complaining names.
Thus will I fold them one upon another.
Now kiss, embrace, contend, do what you will.
As You Like It: [Phoebe; 3.5, after Rosalind leaves and Phoebe thinks she’s a guy]
Know’st thou the youth that spoke to me erewhile?
Not very well, but I have met him oft,
And he hath bought the cottage and the bounds
That the old carlot once was master of.
Think not I love him, though I ask for him.
’Tis but a peevish boy—yet he talks well—
But what care I for words? Yet words do well
When he that speaks them pleases those that hear.
It is a pretty youth—not very pretty—
But sure he’s proud—and yet his pride becomes him.
He’ll make a proper man. The best thing in him
Is his complexion; and faster than his tongue
Did make offense, his eye did heal it up.
He is not very tall—yet for his years he’s tall.
His leg is but so-so—and yet ’tis well.
There was a pretty redness in his lip,
A little riper and more lusty red
Than that mixed in his cheek: ’twas just the difference
Betwixt the constant red and mingled damask.
There be some women, Silvius, had they marked him
In parcels as I did, would have gone near
To fall in love with him; but for my part
I love him not nor hate him not; and yet
I have more cause to hate him than to love him.
For what had he to do to chide at me?
He said mine eyes were black and my hair black,
And now I am remembered, scorned at me.
I marvel why I answered not again.
But that’s all one: omittance is no quittance.
The Merry Wives of Windsor: [Mistress Page; 2.1, marveling over Falstaff’s love letter]
MISTRESS PAGE What, have I ’scaped love letters in the holiday time of my beauty, and am I now a subject for them? Let me see.
Ask me no reason why I love you, for though Love use Reason for his precisian, he admits him not for his counselor. You are not young; no more am I. Go to, then, there’s sympathy. You are merry; so am I. Ha, ha, then, there’s more sympathy. You love sack, and so do I. Would you desire better sympathy? Let it suffice thee, Mistress Page—at the least, if the love of soldier can suffice—that I love thee. I will not say pity me—’tis not a soldier-like phrase—but I say love me. By me,
Thine own true knight,
By day or night,
Or any kind of light,
With all his might
For thee to fight,
What a Herod of Jewry is this! O wicked, wicked world! One that is well-nigh worn to pieces with age, to show himself a young gallant! What an unweighed behavior hath this Flemish drunkard picked—with the devil’s name!—out of my conversation, that he dares in this manner assay me? Why, he hath not been thrice in my company! What should I say to him? I was then frugal of my mirth. Heaven forgive me! Why, I’ll exhibit a bill in the Parliament for the putting down of men. How shall I be revenged on him? For revenged I will be, as sure as his guts are made of puddings.
In some cases, there is some interaction with other characters in the scene, but easily cut for audition purposes. And, of course, some will need to be cut further, but at least there’s something to work with…
Just thought I’d share…
NOTE: I made specific efforts to avoid speeches by “the biggies”: Lady M, Juliet, Rosalind, Portia (both of ’em), and Cleopatra… I’m sure the director is going to hear enough unsex-ing and actresses going on about the quality of mercy to drive them up a wall …