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Dramatic monologue, also known as a persona poem, is a type of poetry written in the form of a speech of an individual character. M.H. Abrams notes the following three features of the dramatic monologue as it applies to poetry:
- The single person, who is patently not the poet, utters the speech that makes up the whole of the poem, in a specific situation at a critical moment [...].
- This person addresses and interacts with one or more other people; but we know of the auditors' presence, and what they say and do, only from clues in the discourse of the single speaker.
- The main principle controlling the poet's choice and formulation of what the lyric speaker says is to reveal to the reader, in a way that enhances its interest, the speaker's temperament and character.
One of the most important influences on the development of the dramatic monologue is romantic poetry. However, the long, personal lyrics typical of the Romantic period are not dramatic monologues, in the sense that they do not, for the most part, imply a concentrated narrative. Poems such as William Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey and Percy Bysshe Shelley's Mont Blanc, to name two famous examples, offered a model of close psychological observation and philosophical or pseudo-philosophical inquiry described in a specific setting. The conversation poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge are perhaps a better precedent. The genre was also developed by Felicia Hemans and Letitia Elizabeth Landon, beginning in the latter's case with her long poem The Improvisatrice.
The novel and plays have also been important influences on the dramatic monologue, particularly as a means of characterization. Dramatic monologues are a way of expressing the views of a character and offering the audience greater insight into that character's feelings. Dramatic monologues can also be used in novels to tell stories, as in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and to implicate the audience in moral judgements, as in Albert Camus The Fall and Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
The Victorian period represented the high point of the dramatic monologue in English poetry.
Other Victorian poets also used the form. Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote several, including Jenny and The Blessed Damozel; Christina Rossetti wrote a number, including The Convent Threshold. Augusta Webster's A Castaway, Circe, and The Happiest Girl In The World, Amy Levy's Xantippe and A Minor Poet, and Felicia Hemans's Arabella Stuart and Properzia Rossi are all exemplars of this technique. Algernon Charles Swinburne's Hymn to Proserpine has been called a dramatic monologue vaguely reminiscent of Browning's work. Some American poets have also written poems in the genre- famous examples include Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven and Sylvia Plath's Daddy.