Historical ContextThe Industrial Revolution1800'sShift from
Rural to Urban living.Scientific discoveries led to machines.Some
people became extremely rich, but most ended up very poor.
Living Conditions and ConsequencesTerrible
overcrowdingDiseaseAlcoholismHelpless in the face of the rich
What does Melodrama mean?A drama characterized by exaggerated
emotions, stereotypical characters, and interpersonal
conflicts.Melo - MusicDrama - DramaOnly two Theatres in London
allowed to present dramas.Covent Garden, Drury LaneLicensed by the
king.Other Theatres were required to have musical intervals.Popular
romantic dramas known as Melo-dramas.Included songs during the
performances and between scenes and at interval.RomaticismEmotional
History of MelodramaBecame a Theatrical form in about 1800.Ren
Charles Guilbert de Pixercourt La Femme a deux marisFirst English
play to be called a Melodrama A Tale of Mystery (1802) by Thomas
HolcroftReaction to immorality of Restoration plays.
Features of Melodrama
Exaggerated and stylised movement and extended vocal technique
expressing extreme emotions and sentimentalityBased on the large
size of the theatres of the time and the exaggerated
characteristics/ behaviours of the charactersStereotyped
charactersUsually one dimensional, they do not change
psychologically or morallyGood vs Evil: moral struggleThe human
struggle between pure good (usually poor and downtrodden) vs pure
evil (usually the rich, greedy or powerful). There is strict
observance of poetic justice good always rewarded and evil always
punished.Audience interaction (breaking the 4th wall)Maximum sense
of empowerment. The people in the audience may be helpless at home
but they can beat the bad guys at the show.Spectacular eventse.g.
Chases, explosions, battles, fights, fierce arguments, sea voyages,
supernatural events. These helped people to forget their own
troubles for a while.
Fast paced dramatic plotsExciting story, suspense, plot twists
(discoveries, hairbreadth escapes, secret passages, hiding places,
disguises)Audience responseVery basic emotional appeals involve
arousal of pity and indignation at the wrongful oppression of good
people and intense dislike for wicked oppressorsExotic
locationsExotic/far away or ugly/desperate or lush/beautiful never
Melodrama's Stock Characters1. Hero: Handsome, strong, brave,
honest and reliable. Status: Middle Class or Higher2. Heroine:
Beautiful, courageous, innocent and vulnerable. Status: Middle
Class or Higher3. Villain: Cunning, without morals, dishonest,
cruel and evil. Status: Middle Class or Higher4. Villain's
Accomplice: Comic relief, bumbling sidekick.Status: Lower Class5.
Faithful servant: Also provides comic relief, does dirty work.
Usually discovers evidence against the villain. Status: Lower
Class6. Maid servant: Female character who is lively and flirts
with the faithful servant. Status: Lower Class
Staging, TechnologyProscenium ArchMachinery available for
complicated setsFly towers & CounterweightTreadmillsElectric
lightingSensation melodramasDisaster's happened on stageThe Poor of
New York Dion BoucicaultReal fire engines put out a real fire.