10 of the best: Shakespeare monologues for auditions

We round up 10 of our favourite Shakespeare speeches (5 male characters, 5 female), including a few hidden gems.

There are numerous options when it comes to selecting a Shakespeare monologue for an audition. So we’ve rounded up 10 of our favourites (5 male characters, 5 female), including a few hidden gems… 

1. Henry V, Henry V Act 1 Scene II 

First line: “We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us”

Good for: Strength

There are many good audition speeches in Henry V, and his firey riposte to the Dauphin’s gift of tennis balls is one of the best. “And tell the pleasant prince this mock of his / Hath turn’d his balls to gun-stones…” – it’s lightning stuff.

2. Rosalind, As You Like It, Act III Scene V

First line: “And why, I pray you?”

Good for: Humour

This is a delightful speech, as Rosalind castigates Phoebe for her lack of gratitude for Silvius’ affections. “Get over yourself,” is the central theme of the speech, which is crammed with trash talk. And it’s made more fun by the fact Rosalind is disguised as a man (Ganymede) whilst delivering it. 

3. The Porter, Macbeth Act II Scene III

First line: “Here’s a knocking indeed!”

Good for: Wit

This is an oft-used audition monologue, for good reason. One of Shakespeare’s funniest speeches arrives in the middle of one of his bloodiest tragedies, and there are numerous ways to play it. Our tip is to dial down on the ‘drunk’ acting.

4. Imogen, Cymbeline Act III Scene IV

First line: “Why, I must die”

Good for: Drama

In this dramatic speech Imogen implores Pisanio to kill her with his sword; she has just discovered Posthumus’s letter ordering her death for assumed adultery. It contains the masterful taunt: “The lamb entreats the butcher: where’s thy knife? / Thou art too slow to do thy master’s bidding.”

5. Laertes, Hamlet Act I Scene III 

First line: “Think it no more”

Good for: Passion

This is a moving speech that Laertes makes to Ophelia before he departs, cautioning her to be wary of Hamlet. It’s a good choice because it has a clear purpose behind it, as well as ending with a poetic sign off: “Be wary then; best safety lies in fear / Youth to itself rebels, though none else near.”

6. Emilia, Othello Act IV Scene III

First line: “But I do think it is their husbands’ faults / If wives do fall”

Good for: Wisdom

Emilia’s prophetic speech to Desdemona about the right of women to expect decency from their husbands is laden with dramatic irony. “Then let them use us well: else let them know / The ills we do, their ills instruct us so.” 

7. Trinculo, The Tempest Act II Scene II 

First line: “Here’s neither bush nor shrub”

Good for: Physical comedy

As with the Porter speech, ‘drunk’ acting should be handled with care here, but this is a lovely short character piece that sees Trinculo compare Caliban to a fish before crawling under his cloak. It contains lots of opportunities for physicalisation.

8. Juliet, Romeo and Juliet Act II Scene II

First line: “Thou know’st the mask of night is on my face”

Good for: Poetry

Although Juliet’s speeches to Romeo are all-too often heard in auditions, this passage is one of the better choices as it avoids the most famous lines (NEVER choose “Oh Romeo, Romeo…” from earlier in the scene!). It’s a tender and mature-beyond-her-years declaration of honest love for the son of her enemy.

9. Antipholous, The Comedy of Errors Act III Scene II 

First line: “Sweet mistress, what your name is else, I know not”

Good for: Romance

Antipholous’s wooing of Luciana contains some of Shakespeare’s most romantic poetry (he describes her as a  “sweet mermaid” and a “siren”). And seeing as it’s partly comic – she has mistaken him for his twin brother – it also allows licence to somewhat overboard.

10. Princess of France, Love’s Labour’s Lost Act V Scene II

First line: “A time, methinks, too short”

Good for: Gravitas

This speech towards the end of Love’s Labour’s Lost is a gem, in that it’s both sombre and wittily romantic. The Princess, who has just learnt of her father’s death, implores her would-be husband Ferdinand to prove his love by becoming a hermit for a year. “If this thou do deny, let our hands part / Neither entitled in the other’s heart.”

– by Theo Bosanquet

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