Many actors, and especially audiences, have trouble with the conventional Shakespearean soliloquy. Although an extraordinary segment of society appears to be quite comfortable suspending their belief enough to accept long-limbed human beings dressed up as cats as possessing the capability of transmitting some profound message, many of those same audience members immediately discard their capacity to suspend disbelief when a character breaks through that fourth wall and addresses them directly. Despite the fact that most people in the audience have almost certainly at some point in their lives vocalized their thoughts inside an empty room (I’m doing it right now), it would seem that for many the prospect of a character on stage doing the same crosses the finely crafted boundary between what is and what is not acceptable.
Getting past the discomfort of a soliloquy means arriving at an understanding that the message the writer needs to deliver simply cannot be done so suitably within the confines of a scene involving discourse between two or more characters. Sometimes a playwright cannot include important information about character or plot in the dialogue, so a monologue, no matter how artificial, may become necessary. To get around this dilemma, Shakespeare had his characters engage in the art of the soliloquy, or the act of having one character speak aloud in an interior monologue. Another convention that upsets some people is the aside, in which a character engaged in a conversation will also speak out loud with the assurance that only the audience hears what he has said and not any of the other characters. (I also do this a lot, but only because I’ve recently learned that when I say something out loud most people around me have conditioned themselves to ignore it.) These two stage devices are a convenient means of conveyance; the characters use them to convey precious information to the audience without having to let anyone else around them know their thoughts or feelings.
The Shakespearean soliloquy of yore has unfortunately been replaced, at least in film, by the obligatory pop music montage. In romantic comedies of contemporary cinema, and at heart a Shakespearean play such as Much Ado About Nothing is an ancestor of that genre, the deeper and more profound elements of what brings characters together and pulls them apart and brings them together again is studiously avoided, usually because today’s screenwriters don’t have a clue about what makes relationships work. The primary ingredient missing from modern day updating of stories told in such older texts as Shakespeare’s comedies is the consideration of the utter foolishness and ridiculous of the lengths to which humans are willing to go in pursuit of romance. Instead, filmmakers are quite content to toss in a popular song onto the soundtrack and fill the time with silly images of their heroes and heroines rather than engage in intellectual discourse of not just the type Shakespeare provides, but even the type common to the great screwball comedies of the 1940s. Compared to today’s lackluster romantic comedies in which musical montage makes up 30% of the running time (50% if written and directed by Nora Ephron) those screwball comedies written by the likes of Ben Hecht, Billy Wilder, and Preston Sturges are comparable to the very best that Shakespeare ever wrote. And it is worth noting that many classic screwball comedies regularly contain asides, if not soliloquies.