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An Audition Monologue, part the Second

So. Your Humble Blogger is auditioning, and needs to prepare a brief, serious Shakespeare speech to demonstrate my comfort with Renaissance English. I have chose a speech from Coriolanus IV v, where our title general has been kicked out of Rome and is now offering his services to the enemy.

My name is Caius Marcius, who hath done to thee particularly and to all the Volsces great hurt and mischief; thereto witness may my surname, Coriolanus: the painful service, the extreme dangers and the drops of blood shed for my thankless country are requited but with that surname; a good memory, and witness of the malice and displeasure which thou shouldst bear me: only that name remains. The cruelty and envy of the people, permitted by our dastard nobles, who have all forsook me, hath devour’d the rest; and suffer’d me by the voice of slaves to be whoop’d out of Rome.

Now this extremity hath brought me to thy hearth; not out of hope—mistake me not—to save my life, for if I had feared death, of all the men i’ the world I would have ’voided thee, but in mere spite, to be full quit of those my banishers, stand I before thee here. Then if thou hast a heart of wreak in thee, that wilt revenge thine own particular wrongs and stop those maims of shame seen through thy country, speed thee straight, and make my misery serve thy turn: so use it that my revengeful services may prove as benefits to thee, for I will fight against my canker’d country with the spleen of all the under fiends.

But if so be thou darest not this and that to prove more fortunes, thou’rt tired, then, in a word, I also am longer to live most weary, and present my throat to thee and to thy ancient malice; which not to cut would show thee but a fool, since I have ever follow’d thee with hate, drawn tuns of blood out of thy country’s breast, and cannot live but to thy shame, unless it be to do thee service.

I have, of course, retyped this as if it were prose, because that’s the way I do Shakespeare. Not that I am unaware of the rhythm and meter, but to take that into account as only one factor in the reading. I find that taking the text out of pentameter line breaks helps me avoid being locked in to the rumty-tumty of it. The meter is strong enough in Shakespeare to come through without that—even working against the meter, as I like to do, brings out the meter, because he is just that good.

I have also divided the speech into three paragraphs, to denote (to myself) three different ideas, or tones, really, that I see in the speech. The divisions are simplistic; there are any number of places where I could have divided the speech, and any number of resonances across any divisions that I make. It’s a tool for an audition, though, and within my two minutes, I have to show that I am more than Johnny One-Note. So. The first paragraph is who I am, and the second is what I want. And the third is a taunt, a goad to add to the persuasion, and to bring both the tempo and the intensity up for the finish. Or, rather, to bring it up again: each paragraph has an upward momentum, starting lower and ending just on the verge of over-the-top, to be mastered and brought down again to start the new paragraph quieter and more reasoned and build again. Three beats.

It’s true that they show mostly one emotion: anger. A really good audition monologue will have a change of emotional state over the course of the two minutes, from anger to sadness, or from grief to hope, or from indecision to resolve. Or vice versa, of course. The point is to show the range; if I can play anger well in my two minutes, that’s fine, but over the course of the play I will need something else, and they can’t necessarily guess that I can do sadness and merriment and hope just because I can do anger. On the other hand, this piece does have a sort of variety, where the speaker tries different tactics of persuasion: he tries to frighten his listener, play for his sympathy, browbeat him, embarrass him.

And I like it for what it doesn’t have, as much as for what it does. It doesn’t have a lot of names that have to be explained or passed over. Or pronounced correctly, for that matter. It doesn’t have a lot of set-up; it doesn’t require them to be familiar with the play at all. It doesn’t require me to mime anything, to pretend to drink or jump over something or fall down.

It does, however, need to be memorized. So I should probably get to that.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


FWIW, I suspect there is an error of transcription and a typo in all this: that "witness may my" is probably an artifact of sloppy copying in the eighteenth century or something moronic, and that "same my life" is probably "save my life" again miscopied at some point in history.

I also notice weird resonance with current events in this monologue that might be useful to an actor. It certainly is quite angry. Bring a tea bag and a rifle.


Well, and same my life is my typo, which I should have caught here, and did catch in the printout I have been learning from. I have typed this thing out a few times, now, and clearly the one I pasted into the blog was from a flawed version. Thanks for that.

As for the other, I think it's right, although it's not Shakespeare's best line. Turning the thing around, you get my surname may witness to that; the may and the my perhaps ought not be together, but they both make sense in the grammar of it. It would be stronger to say that the name will witness to the hurt and mischief, rather than to say it may do so, and the little alliteration would hold to the word before rather than the one after (tho' without the consonance).


I get that now that you turn it around.

For what it's worth, I think the monologue has the change of emotional state that you need:
First paragraph - anger, bitterness, arrogance
Second paragraph - hope (for redemption through revenge)
Third paragraph - resignation, acceptance of whatever Fate brings

Good luck with it!

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