Although soliloquies detract from the realism of a play, they do wonders to enrich the plot and develop characters that the author finds important to the story. The soliloquies of Macbeth are no exception. Each soliloquy allows the reader into the head of the character–his or her emotions, motivations, insecurities, and anything else that might be going on. Therefore, the function of the soliloquies in Macbeth is to heighten the reader?s perception of what is happening to the highest possible degree, letting him or her experience the internal as well as the external of main characters.
The most obvious by-product of Shakespeare?s soliloquies is the development of the character delivering the soliloquy. As any thinking human being knows, what we say is often a small portion of what?s really going on. Within the privacy of our minds, people are free to divulge whichever fears, vexes, discriminations, or feelings we like, without worry of anyone else knowing. When the characters of Macbeth make their soliloquies, Shakespeare lets their masks slip for just a minute, at which point the apt reader is free to climb inside their heads and poke around a bit, gleaning what he or she can from the old English, rhythmic thoughts, and flirtatious brevity. Without the use of his first soliloquy, for example, the reader could easily mistake Macbeth for a pitiless killer without much of a conscience. Macbeth?s soliloquy brings to light the intense dilemma he?s having, however, and, as the reader sees Macbeth sorting out his pro?s and con?s, he or she realizes that Macbeth?s almost not himself, and is in large part a slave to his ambition. After Macbeth has been devirginized in murder, he goes on to do it more and more, and his conscience seems to diminish, but the reader now knows that Macbeth once tasted innocence, but has fallen, and therein lies the tragedy of Macbeth.
More so than any other kind of art, the progressions of plays are dependent upon their characters. Where a book can be filled with anonymous descriptions, a song can abound with music and non-related lyrics, and a piece of visual art is conveyed through the picture it portrays, a play has only its characters to rely on. Therefore, when soliloquies enhance the depth of characters, they also affect the plot. As mentioned in the above paragraph, it is Macbeth?s first soliloquy that transforms the play from a medieval hack-and-slash to a tragedy of great depth. When the characters are fully exposed, one can see that he or she has been missing an entire other plotline, burrowing under the surfaces of the characters, and popping up briefly like a mushroom in the soliloquies before disappearing again beneath the soil.
It has been mentioned in this essay ad nauseam how and what the soliloquies reveal of their speakers, but let us not forget that they also speak of their creator, Shakespeare?s, style. Shakespeare was a great poet and a great intellectual, and these sides of his personality converge in his soliloquies. Inner monologues are rarely fraught with flowing speech or good vocabulary words (not to mention iambic pentameter!), and yet, the soliloquies that Shakespeare has written for his characters are the picture of poetic genius and literary tact. Also, Shakespeare doesn?t like to give all the secrets away, but likes to tempt his readers with just enough information to whet their appetite, from which point they will hopefully draw their own conclusions. In his soliloquies, we see that Shakespeare?s skill was great, and style was poetic and such as to keep his readers on their toes.
The soliloquies of Shakespeare?s Macbeth serve as a portal, through which readers can see and perhaps catch hold of an alternate plotline, and also bring his characters from flatness to vitality. They give the reader the distinct advantage of being able to try on the main characters? skins for a while, and, overall, bring a whole new dimension to the play.