And yet, even a cursory web search yields repetitive results. Even critically acclaimed monologue collections are made up of material that someone who isn't particularly well-read - like me - recognizes instantly.
The main problem with Shakespeare and his contemporaries is that they're dead. As such, they can't write any more plays. And after 400 years, even the best material can get stale.
So the actor is left with two options: take a monologue that's already been done to death by other actors and perform it so exceptionally well that auditioners can listen to it without getting bored, or find a lesser-known one for yourself.
Now, me? I've long been a proponent of advancing new work by young playwrights and discarding the dead sentiments of old theatre. But I really like performing Shakespeare's writing. Once you get past the initial difficulties in comprehension, the depth and weight of his poetry makes it a joy to perform.
The thing is, because all of his writing is so dazzling to me, there are times when I'm not sure I can really judge what makes one monologue better than another.
Take this one below from As You Like It. Now, Melancholy Jacques is the character responsible for delivering the infamous "All the world's a stage" monologue. It's a brilliant monologue, but as audition material? There is absolutely nothing new I could bring to it, and I'm not confident/stupid enough to try.
Still, as a fellow crazed artist, I identified with Jacques, so I decided to look for more of his material. In this passage - which is much shorter than I realized, now that I've written out - he tries to convince Duke Senior to make him a fool so that he might use his wit to expose the follies of those around him.
It's not about murder or cross-dressing or anything that an audition monologue is SUPPOSED to have, but I think it's pretty funny.
I am ambitious for a motley coat.
[...] It is my only suit;
Provided that you weed your better judgments
Of all opinion that grows rank in them
That I am wise. I must have liberty
Withal, as large a charter as the wind,
To blow on whom I please; for so fools have;
And they that are most galled with my folly,
They most must laugh. And why, sir, must they so?
The 'why' is plain as way to parish church:
He that a fool doth very wisely hit
Doth very foolishly, although he smart,
Not to seem senseless of the bob: if not,
The wise man's folly is anatomized
Even by the squandering glances of the fool.
Invest me in my motley; give me leave
To speak my mind, and I will through and through
Cleanse the foul body of the infected world,
If they will patiently receive my medicine.