Sole- talk and soul- talk

Donne’s so(u)liloquies in the Holy Sonnets

in William Shakespeare and John Donne
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This chapter first presents instances of a speaker addressing his soul in the Holy Sonnets to then move on to the history and tradition of the soliloquy as so(u)le-talk. The soliloquy – or soliloquium – was defined by Augustine and can be regarded as a ‘dialogue of one’, a notion taken up by Donne in ‘The Extasie’ and in his religious poems. This concept can also be found in the translation by Thomas Rogers of Thomas à Kempis’ De imitatione Christi which he titled Soliloquium Animae: The sole-talk of the Soule. The chapter goes on to link the devotional practice of the soliloquy with the theatre by looking into early modern meanings and usage of the word ‘soliloquy’ (and soliloquium). It then presents examples in poetry and on the stage by considering the practice of meditation as well as the final soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Richard III and his Sonnet 146. Concerns about the soul are expressed dramatically in poetry by taking recourse to the form of the soliloquy.

William Shakespeare and John Donne

Stages of the soul in early modern English poetry



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