Interpretive Reading: Project 3: The monodrama


To understand the concept and nature of the monodrama.

To assume the identity of a character and to portray the physical and emotional aspects of this character to an audience.

Speech timings: 5:00, 6:00, 7:00


I’ve taken the monodrama from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”. It is set in the 1860 in St Petersburg the resplendent capital city of Russia.  Fyodor takes us on a journey to the raw underbelly of the city. Twenty three million agricultural serfs have been recently emancipated and given freedom. However, agriculture is now benefiting from the impact of steam mechanization.  The former serfs no longer have the certainties of food and housing without work. They head for the cities placing a strain on society especially the lower middle classes who find themselves living lives very different to the expectations and morals they were born to. In this monodrama Marmeladov is drunk and off loading to a stranger in a pub.

Well, so be it, I am a pig, but she is a lady! I have the semblance of a beast, but Katerina Ivanovna, my spouse is a person of education and an officer’s daughter. Granted, granted, I am a scoundrel, but she is a woman of a noble heart, full of sentiments, refined by education. And yet … oh, if only she felt for me! Honoured sir, honoured sir, you know every man ought to have at least one place where people feel for him!! But Katerina Ivanovna, though she is magnanimous, she is unjust.… And yet, although I realise that when she pulls my hair she only does it out of pity—for I repeat without being ashamed, she pulls my hair, young man, but, my God, if she would but once.… But no, no! It’s all in vain and it’s no use talking! No use talking! For more than once, my wish did come true and more than once she has felt for me but … such is my fate and I am a beast by nature!

Do you know, sir, do you know, I have sold her very stockings for drink? Not her shoes—that would be more or less in the order of things, but her stockings, her stockings I have sold for drink! Her mohair shawl I sold for drink, a present to her long ago, her own property, not mine; and we live in a cold room and she caught cold this winter and has begun coughing and spitting blood too. We have three little children and Katerina Ivanovna is at work from morning till night; she is scrubbing and cleaning and washing the children, for she’s been used to cleanliness from a child. But her chest is weak and she has a tendency to consumption and I feel it! Do you suppose I don’t feel it? And the more I drink the more I feel it. That’s why I drink too. I try to find sympathy and feeling in drink.… I drink so that I may suffer twice as much!
Sonia, my daughter by my first wife has grown up; and what my daughter has had to put up with from her step-mother whilst she was growing up, I won’t speak of. Sonia, as you may well fancy, has had no education. And do you suppose that a respectable poor girl can earn much by honest work? Not fifteen farthings a day can she earn, if she is respectable and has no special talent; and that without putting her work down for an instant! And there are the little ones hungry.… And Katerina Ivanovna walking up and down and wringing her hands, her cheeks flushed red, as they always are in that disease: “Here you live with us,” says she, “you eat and drink and are kept warm and you do nothing to help.” And much she gets to eat and drink when there is not a crust for the little ones for three days! I was lying at the time … well, what of it! I was lying drunk and I heard my Sonia speaking (she is a gentle creature with a soft little voice … fair hair and such a pale, thin little face). She said: “Katerina Ivanovna, am I really to do a thing like that?” Darya Frantsovna, you see, a woman of evil character and very well known to the police, had two or three times tried to get at her through the landlady. “And why not?” said Katerina Ivanovna with a jeer, “You are something mighty precious to be so careful of!” But don’t blame her, don’t blame her, honoured sir, don’t blame her! She was not herself when she spoke, but driven to distraction by her illness and the crying of the hungry children.

At six o’clock I saw Sonia get up, put on her kerchief and her cape, and go out of the room and about nine o’clock she came back. She walked straight up to Katerina Ivanovna and she laid thirty roubles on the table before her in silence. She did not utter a word, she did not even look at her, she simply picked up our big green shawl, put it over her head and lay down on the bed with her face to the wall; only her little shoulders and her body kept shuddering.… And I went on lying there, just as before.… And then I saw, young man, I saw Katerina Ivanovna, in the same silence go up to Sonia’s little bed; she was on her knees all the evening kissing Sonia’s feet, and would not get up, and then they both fell asleep in each other’s arms … together, together … yes … and I … lay drunk.



This posed an interesting set of challenges not least identifying what possible mono-dramas and then finding one that could be edited to fit the time available. I had to add paragraph breaks to help me break up what otherwise is a single piece of text exceeding 1000 words. This piece is complex and it made it very hard to commit to memory and or find the time and the will to rehearse to the point that no notes were needed.  Not presenting to the audience was weird for all concerned.

Overall despite feeling like I wanted to wimp out due to a thick cold and the feeling that I was not rehearsing well enough I am glad I went for it! I am enjoying the challenges of the “Interpretive Reading” manual and its contrast to my other manual on “Technical Presentations”.


  • Many people picked up on the difficulty of the piece and making a good go of delivering it.
  • Very strong introduction to set the scene and understand the work
  • Really interesting piece
  • Acting skills coming to the fore
  • Good staging with the props adding to the mood (tankards and a bottle of absinthe)
  • The piece came to life like living there
  • Manged to avoid eye contact with the audience and create a world of your own apart from a bit of excessive audience eye contact at first.

Areas for more work and thought

  • Sharper enunciation needed
  • Greater vocal variety -expressiveness needed
  • Better pacing and pauses to allow the audience to digest and to show the impact of emotion
  • Some sentences tailed off
  • Need to get more into character with the physical aspects
  • Having to read from notes was a distraction


Fyodor Dostoyevsky crime and punishment Possible the part of  –where he is wrestling with guilt post crime

Print Friendly, PDF & Email