What's in a Name?

A lonely reflection

This is an entry from our Saturday “Off the Clock” edition — a little something that lands somewhere between Timeless & Timely.


“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” — William Shakespeare, 1597


A curious question arose this week — one that I had never given much thought to previously.

But as I was thinking about the subject of this week’s newsletters, it brought to mind one of the most famous speeches on the topic of suicide: Hamlet’s immortal soliloquy that begins “To be, or not to be, that is the question.”

My question was simple: what’s the difference between a soliloquy and a monologue?

I’ve heard them used interchangeably, but as each word has different origins, I wondered about the subtle difference between the two.

Soliloquy is from the Latin solus, meaning ‘alone’ and loqui, meaning ‘speak’.

Monologue is from the Greek monologos, meaning ‘speaking alone’.

Each involves one person giving a speech. The difference is in the audience: to whom the speech is being delivered.

The difference is this: a monologue is a speech given by one person to an audience. A soliloquy is a speech one gives to oneself.

Marc Antony delivered a monologue in his “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” speech in Julius Caesar.

Hamlet delivered the best-known soliloquy in the English language.

And if you still struggle with Shakespeare’s verbiage, here’s Hamlet’s soliloquy in modern English.