Melodrama

Melodrama

Overview
The term melodrama refers to a drama
Drama
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" , which is derived from "to do","to act" . The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a...

tic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions. It may also refer to the genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

 which includes such works, or to language, behavior, or events which resemble them. It is also used in scholarly and historical musical contexts to refer to dramas of the 18th and 19th centuries in which orchestral music or song was used to accompany the action.
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Encyclopedia
The term melodrama refers to a drama
Drama
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" , which is derived from "to do","to act" . The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a...

tic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions. It may also refer to the genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

 which includes such works, or to language, behavior, or events which resemble them. It is also used in scholarly and historical musical contexts to refer to dramas of the 18th and 19th centuries in which orchestral music or song was used to accompany the action. The term originated from the early 19th-century French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 word mélodrame, which is derived from Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 melos, music, and French drame, drama (from Late Latin
Late Latin
Late Latin is the scholarly name for the written Latin of Late Antiquity. The English dictionary definition of Late Latin dates this period from the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD extending in Spain to the 7th. This somewhat ambiguously defined period fits between Classical Latin and Medieval Latin...

 drāma, which in turn derives from Greek drān, to do, perform). An alternative English spelling, now obsolete, is "melodrame".

18th-century origins: monodrama, duodrama and opera


Beginning in the 18th century, melodrama was a technique of combining spoken recitation with short pieces of accompanying music. In such works, music and spoken dialog typically alternated, although the music was sometimes also used to accompany pantomime
Pantomime
Pantomime — not to be confused with a mime artist, a theatrical performer of mime—is a musical-comedy theatrical production traditionally found in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, South Africa, India, Ireland, Gibraltar and Malta, and is mostly performed during the...

. The earliest known examples are scenes in J. E. Eberlin's Latin school play Sigismundus (1753). The first full melodrama was Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

's Pygmalion, the text of which was written in 1762 but was first staged in Lyon
Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

 in 1770. The overture and an Andante were composed by Rousseau, but the bulk of the music was composed by Horace Coignet
Horace Coignet
Horace Coignet was a French composer. His most notable works include the music for Jean-Jacques Rousseau's 1762 short play Pygmalion, first performed in Lyon in 1770.-Sources:...

. A different musical setting of Rousseau's Pygmalion by Anton Schweitzer
Anton Schweitzer
Anton Schweitzer was a German composer of operas.He was a child prodigy who obtained the patronage of the duke of Hildburghausen, who sent him to study in Bayreuth in 1758, then Italy , and made him Kapellmeister enabling him to tour Europe...

 was performed in Weimar in 1772, and Goethe wrote of it approvingly in Dichtung und Wahrheit
Dichtung und Wahrheit
Aus meinem Leben: Dichtung und Wahrheit is an autobiography by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that comprises the time from the poet's childhood to the days in 1775, when he was about to leave for Weimar....

. Pygmalion is a monodrama
Monodrama
A monodrama is a theatrical or operatic piece played by a single actor or singer, usually portraying one character.- Monodrama in opera :...

, written for one actor. Some 30 other monodramas were produced in Germany in the fourth quarter of the 18th century. When two actors are involved the term duodrama
Duodrama
A duodrama is a theatrical melodrama for two actors or singers, in which the spoken voice is used with a musical accompaniment for heightened dramatic effect. It was popular at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century....

 may be used. Georg Benda
Georg Benda
Jiří Antonín Benda, also Georg Anton Benda or J.A. Benda was a Czech kapellmeister, violinist and composer of the classical period.-Biography:...

 was particularly successful with his duodramas Ariadne auf Naxos
Ariadne auf Naxos (Benda)
Ariadne auf Naxos is a duodrama in one act by composer Georg Benda with a German libretto by Johann Christian Brandes. The opera's first performance was at the Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha, on 27 January 1775....

(1775) and Medea
Medea (Benda)
Medea is a melodrama in one act with five scenes by composer Georg Benda with a German libretto by Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter. The work was first performed in Leipzig at the Theater am Rannstädtertor on 1 May 1775.-Historical impact and musical analysis:...

(1778). The sensational success of Benda's melodramas led Mozart to use two long melodramatic monologues in his opera Zaide
Zaide
Zaide is an unfinished opera, K. 344, written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1780. Emperor Joseph II, in 1778, was in the process of setting up an opera company for the purpose of performing German opera. One condition required of the composer to join this company was that he should write a...

(1780). Other later, and better-known examples of the melodramatic style in operas are the grave-digging scene in Beethoven's Fidelio
Fidelio
Fidelio is a German opera in two acts by Ludwig van Beethoven. It is Beethoven's only opera. The German libretto is by Joseph Sonnleithner from the French of Jean-Nicolas Bouilly which had been used for the 1798 opera Léonore, ou L’amour conjugal by Pierre Gaveaux, and for the 1804 opera Leonora...

(1805) and the incantation scene in Weber's Der Freischütz
Der Freischütz
Der Freischütz is an opera in three acts by Carl Maria von Weber with a libretto by Friedrich Kind. It premiered on 18 June 1821 at the Schauspielhaus Berlin...

(1821).

19th century: operetta, incidental music and salon entertainment


A few operetta
Operetta
Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.-Origins:...

s exhibit melodrama in the sense of music played under spoken dialogue, for instance, Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the librettist W. S. Gilbert and the composer Arthur Sullivan . The two men collaborated on fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which H.M.S...

's Ruddigore
Ruddigore
Ruddigore; or, The Witch's Curse, originally called Ruddygore, is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It is one of the Savoy Operas and the tenth of fourteen comic operas written together by Gilbert and Sullivan...

(itself a parody of melodramas in the modern sense) has a short "melodrame" (reduced to dialogue alone in many productions) in the second act; Jacques Offenbach
Jacques Offenbach
Jacques Offenbach was a Prussian-born French composer, cellist and impresario. He is remembered for his nearly 100 operettas of the 1850s–1870s and his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann. He was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss, Jr....

's Orpheus in the Underworld
Orpheus in the Underworld
Orphée aux enfers is an opéra bouffon , or opéra féerie in its revised version, by Jacques Offenbach. The French text was written by Ludovic Halévy and later revised by Hector-Jonathan Crémieux....

opens with a melodrama delivered by the chararacter of "Public Opinion"; and other pieces from operetta and musicals may be considered melodramas, such as the "Recit and Minuet" in Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the librettist W. S. Gilbert and the composer Arthur Sullivan . The two men collaborated on fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which H.M.S...

's The Sorcerer
The Sorcerer
The Sorcerer is a two-act comic opera, with a libretto by W. S. Gilbert and music by Arthur Sullivan. It was the British duo's third operatic collaboration. The plot of The Sorcerer is based on a Christmas story, An Elixir of Love, that Gilbert wrote for The Graphic magazine in 1876...

. As an example from the American musical, several long speeches in Lerner
Alan Jay Lerner
Alan Jay Lerner was an American lyricist and librettist. In collaboration with Frederick Loewe, he created some of the world's most popular and enduring works of musical theatre for both the stage and on film...

 and Loewe's Brigadoon are delivered over an accompaniment of evocative music. The technique is also frequently used in Spanish zarzuela
Zarzuela
Zarzuela is a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular song, as well as dance...

, both in the 19th and 20th centuries, and continued also to be used as a "special effect" in opera, for instance Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till...

's Die Frau ohne Schatten
Die Frau ohne Schatten
Die Frau ohne Schatten is an opera in three acts by Richard Strauss with a libretto by his long-time collaborator, the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It was written between 1911 and either 1915 or 1917...

.

In a similar manner, Victorians often added "incidental music
Incidental music
Incidental music is music in a play, television program, radio program, video game, film or some other form not primarily musical. The term is less frequently applied to film music, with such music being referred to instead as the "film score" or "soundtrack"....

" under the dialogue to a pre-existing play, although this style of composition was already practiced in the days of Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

 (Egmont
Egmont (Beethoven)
Egmont, Op. 84, by Ludwig van Beethoven, is a set of incidental music pieces for the 1787 play of the same name by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It consists of an overture followed by a sequence of nine additional pieces for soprano, male narrator and full symphony orchestra...

) and Franz Schubert
Franz Schubert
Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer.Although he died at an early age, Schubert was tremendously prolific. He wrote some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies , liturgical music, operas, some incidental music, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music...

 (Rosamunde
Rosamunde
Rosamunde can refer to:* The German name for the Beer Barrel Polka* Music by Franz Schubert:**Rosamunde incidental music**Rosamunde String Quartet **Impromptu in B flat major, Op. 142 No. 3...

). (This type of often-lavish production is now mostly limited to film (see film score
Film score
A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film, forming part of the film's soundtrack, which also usually includes dialogue and sound effects...

) due to the cost of hiring an orchestra. Modern recording technology is producing a certain revival of the practice in theatre, but not on the former scale.) A particularly complete version of this form, Sullivan's incidental music to Tennyson's The Foresters
The Foresters
The Foresters or, Robin Hood and Maid Marian is a play written by Alfred Tennyson and first produced in New York in 1892. A set of incidental music in nine movements was composed for the play by Arthur Sullivan....

is available online, complete with several melodramas, for instance, No. 12 found here.

In Paris, the 19th century saw a flourishing of melodrama in the many theatres that were located on the popular Boulevard du Crime
Boulevard du Crime
The Boulevard du Crime was the nickname given in the 19th century to the Boulevard du Temple in Paris because of the many crime melodramas that were shown every night in its many theaters. It is notorious in French history for having lost so many theatres during the rebuilding of Paris by Baron...

, especially in the Gaîté. All this was to come to an end, however, when most of these theatres were demolished during the rebuilding of Paris by Baron Haussmann
Haussmann's renovation of Paris
Haussmann's Renovation of Paris, or the Haussmann Plan, was a modernization program of Paris commissioned by Napoléon III and led by the Seine prefect, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, between 1853 and 1870...

 in 1862.

By the end of the 19th century, the term melodrama had nearly exclusively narrowed down to a specific genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

 of salon entertainment: more or less rhythmically spoken words (often poetry)—not sung, sometimes more or less enacted, at least with some dramatic structure or plot—synchronized to an accompaniment of music (usually piano). It was looked down on as a genre for authors and composers of lesser stature (probably also the reason why virtually no realisations of the genre are still remembered).


Victorian stage melodrama


The Victorian
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 stage melodrama featured, a limited number of stock character
Stock character
A Stock character is a fictional character based on a common literary or social stereotype. Stock characters rely heavily on cultural types or names for their personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. In their most general form, stock characters are related to literary archetypes,...

s: the hero, the villain, the heroine, an aged parent and a comic man engaged in a sensational plot featuring themes of love and murder. Often the good but not very clever hero is duped by a scheming villain, who has eyes on the damsel in distress
Damsel in distress
The subject of the damsel in distress, or persecuted maiden, is a classic theme in world literature, art, and film. She is usually a beautiful young woman placed in a dire predicament by a villain or monster and who requires a hero to achieve her rescue. She has become a stock character of fiction,...

 until fate intervenes at the end to ensure the triumph of good over evil.

English melodrama evolved from the tradition of populist drama established during the Middle Ages by mystery
Mystery play
Mystery plays and miracle plays are among the earliest formally developed plays in medieval Europe. Medieval mystery plays focused on the representation of Bible stories in churches as tableaux with accompanying antiphonal song...

 and morality play
Morality play
The morality play is a genre of Medieval and early Tudor theatrical entertainment. In their own time, these plays were known as "interludes", a broader term given to dramas with or without a moral theme. Morality plays are a type of allegory in which the protagonist is met by personifications of...

s, under influences from Italian commedia dell'arte
Commedia dell'arte
Commedia dell'arte is a form of theatre characterized by masked "types" which began in Italy in the 16th century, and was responsible for the advent of the actress and improvised performances based on sketches or scenarios. The closest translation of the name is "comedy of craft"; it is shortened...

 as well as German Sturm und Drang
Sturm und Drang
Sturm und Drang is a proto-Romantic movement in German literature and music taking place from the late 1760s through the early 1780s, in which individual subjectivity and, in particular, extremes of emotion were given free expression in reaction to the perceived constraints of rationalism...

drama and Parisian melodrama of the post-Revolutionary period. A notable French melodramatist was Pixérécourt
René Charles Guilbert de Pixérécourt
René Charles Guilbert de Pixerécourt was a French theatre director and playwright, active at the Théâtre de la Gaîté and best known for his modern melodramas such as The Dog of Montarges, the performance of which at Weimar roused the indignation of Goethe.-Life:He was born at Nancy into a Lorraine...

 whose La Femme a deux maris was wildly popular with the masses.

The first English play to be called a melodrama or 'melodrame' was A Tale of Mystery (1802) by Thomas Holcroft
Thomas Holcroft
Thomas Holcroft was an English dramatist and miscellaneous writer.-Early life:He was born in Orange Court, Leicester Fields, London. His father had a shoemaker's shop, and kept riding horses for hire; but having fallen into difficulties was reduced to the status of hawking peddler...

. This was an example of the Gothic genre, a previous theatrical example of which was The Castle Spectre (1797) by Matthew Gregory Lewis
Matthew Gregory Lewis
Matthew Gregory Lewis was an English novelist and dramatist, often referred to as "Monk" Lewis, because of the success of his classic Gothic novel, The Monk.-Family:...

. Other Gothic melodramas include The Miller and his Men (1813) by Isaac Pocock
Isaac Pocock
Isaac Pocock was an English dramatist and painter of portraits and historical subjects . He wrote melodramas, farces and light operatic comedies, many of his works being adapted for stage from existing novels...

, The Woodsman's Hut (1814) by Samuel Arnold
Samuel James Arnold
Samuel James Arnold , was an English dramatist.Arnold was the son of Samuel Arnold, Mus. Doc, and was educated for an artist. He produced, however, at the Haymarket Theatre, in 1794, 'Auld Robin Gray,' a musical play in two acts; and this was followed by other works of the same class: 'Who pays the...

 and The Broken Sword (1816) by William Dimond.

Supplanting the Gothic, the next popular sub-genre was the nautical melodrama, pioneered by Douglas Jerrold in his Black-Eyed Susan
Black-Eyed Susan
Black-Eyed Susan; or, All in the Downs is a comic play in three acts by Douglas Jerrold. The story concerns a sailor, William, who returns to England from the Napoleonic Wars and finds that his wife Susan is being harassed by her crooked landlord uncle and later by his drunken, dastardly captain,...

(1829). Other nautical melodramas included Jerrold's The Mutiny at the Nore (1830) and The Red Rover (1829) by Edward Fitzball
Edward Fitzball
Edward Fitzball was a popular English playwright, who specialised in melodrama. His real surname was Ball, and he was born at Burwell, Cambridgeshire.Fitzball was educated in Newmarket, was apprenticed to a Norwich printer in 1809...

 (Rowell 1953).

Melodramas based on urban situations became popular in the mid-nineteenth century. These include The Streets of London (1864) by Dion Boucicault
Dion Boucicault
Dionysius Lardner Boursiquot , commonly known as Dion Boucicault, was an Irish actor and playwright famed for his melodramas. By the later part of the 19th century, Boucicault had become known on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the most successful actor-playwright-managers then in the...

; and Lost in London (1867) by Watts Phillips.

The sensation novel
Sensation novel
The sensation novel was a literary genre of fiction popular in Great Britain in the 1860s and 1870s, following on from earlier melodramatic novels and the Newgate novels, which focused on tales woven around criminal biographies, also descend from the gothic and romantic genres of fiction...

s of the 1860s and 1870s were fertile material for melodramatic adaptations. A notable example of this genre is Lady Audley's Secret
Lady Audley's Secret
Lady Audley's Secret is a sensation novel by Mary Elizabeth Braddon published in 1862. It was Braddon's most successful and well known novel. Critic John Sutherland described the work as "the most sensationally successful of all the sensation novels." The plot centers on "accidental bigamy" which...

by Elizabeth Braddon adapted, in two different versions, by George Roberts
George Roberts
George Roberts may refer to:*George Roberts , American trombonist*George Brooke Roberts , civil engineer*George E. Roberts , Director of the U.S. Mint*George Henry Roberts , British Labour MP, Minister of Labour...

 and C.H. Hazlewood.

The villain was always the central character in melodrama and crime was a favorite theme. This included dramatisations of the murderous careers of Burke and Hare, Sweeney Todd
Sweeney Todd
Sweeney Todd is a fictional character who first appeared as then antagonist of the Victorian penny dreadful The String of Pearls and he was later introduced as an antihero in the broadway musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and its film adaptation...

 (first featured in The String of Pearls (1847) by George Dibdin Pitt), the murder of Maria Marten in the Red Barn and the bizarre exploits of Spring Heeled Jack
Spring Heeled Jack
Spring-heeled Jack is a character in English folklore of the Victorian era who was known for his startling jumps. The first claimed sighting of Spring-heeled Jack was in 1837. Later sightings were reported all over England and were especially prevalent in suburban London, the Midlands and...

. The misfortunes of a discharged prisoner is the theme of the sensational The Ticket-of-Leave Man (1863) by Tom Taylor
Tom Taylor
Tom Taylor was an English dramatist, critic, biographer, public servant, and editor of Punch magazine...

.

Early silent films, such as The Perils of Pauline
The Perils of Pauline (1914 serial)
The Perils of Pauline is a motion picture serial shown in weekly installments featuring Pearl White as the title character. Pauline has often been cited as a famous example of a damsel in distress, although some analyses hold that her character was more resourceful and less helpless than the...

had similar themes. Later, after silent films were superseded by the 'talkies', stage actor Tod Slaughter
Tod Slaughter
Tod Slaughter was an English actor, best known for playing over-the-top maniacs in macabre film adaptations of Victorian melodramas.-Ealy life:...

, at the age of 50, transferred to the screen the Victorian melodramas in which he had played villain in his earlier theatrical career. These films, which include Maria Marten or Murder in the Red Barn
Maria Marten or Murder in the Red Barn
Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn is a 1935 British film melodrama film starring Tod Slaughter and Eric Portman. It was directed by Milton Rosmer, whose most famous film was the English-language version of Emil and the Detectives that same year. It is based on the true story of the 1827...

(1935), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936) and Tom Taylor
Tom Taylor
Tom Taylor was an English dramatist, critic, biographer, public servant, and editor of Punch magazine...

's The Ticket-of-Leave Man are a unique record of a bygone art-form.

Film


Melodrama films are a subgenre of drama film
Drama film
A drama film is a film genre that depends mostly on in-depth development of realistic characters dealing with emotional themes. Dramatic themes such as alcoholism, drug addiction, infidelity, moral dilemmas, racial prejudice, religious intolerance, poverty, class divisions, violence against women...

s, characterised by a plot that appeals to the heightened emotions of the audience
Audience
An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art, literature , theatre, music or academics in any medium...

. They generally depend on stereotyped character
Stock character
A Stock character is a fictional character based on a common literary or social stereotype. Stock characters rely heavily on cultural types or names for their personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. In their most general form, stock characters are related to literary archetypes,...

 development, interaction
Interaction
Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea of a two-way effect is essential in the concept of interaction, as opposed to a one-way causal effect...

, and highly emotional themes. Melodramatic films tend to use plots that often deal with crises of human emotion, failed romance or friendship
Friendship
Friendship is a form of interpersonal relationship generally considered to be closer than association, although there is a range of degrees of intimacy in both friendships and associations. Friendship and association are often thought of as spanning across the same continuum...

, strained familial situations, tragedy
Tragedy
Tragedy is a form of art based on human suffering that offers its audience pleasure. While most cultures have developed forms that provoke this paradoxical response, tragedy refers to a specific tradition of drama that has played a unique and important role historically in the self-definition of...

, illness
Illness
Illness is a state of poor health. Illness is sometimes considered another word for disease. Others maintain that fine distinctions exist...

, neuroses, or emotional and physical hardship
Hardship
A hardship may mean:*hardship clause in contract law*undue hardship in employment law and other areas*extreme hardship in immigration law*hardship post in a foreign service*hardship in life...

.

Victims, couples
Couples
thumb|right|1st edition Couples is a 1968 novel by American author John Updike.-Summary:The novel focuses on a promiscuous circle of ten couples in the small Massachusetts town of Tarbox...

, virtuous and heroic characters or suffering protagonists (usually heroines
Héroïnes
-Credits:*Written and directed by Gérard Krawczyk*Based on the novel by Didier Daeninckx*French-Cast:*Virginie Ledoyen as Johanna*Maïdi Roth as Jeanne*Marc Duret as Luc*Saïd Taghmaoui as JP*Dominic Gould as Jasper*Marie Laforêt as Sylvie...

) in melodramas are presented with tremendous social pressures, threats, repression
Repression
Repression may refer to:* Memory inhibition, the ability to filter irrelevant memories from attempts to recall* Political repression, the oppression or persecution of an individual or group for political reasons* Social repression...

, fears, improbable events or difficulties with friends, community
Community
The term community has two distinct meanings:*a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household...

, work
Work
Work may refer to:Human labor:* Employment* House work* Labor , measure of the work done by human beings* Manual labor, physical work done by people* Wage labor, in which a worker sells their labor and an employer buys it...

, lovers, or family
Family
In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children...

. The melodramatic format allows the character to work through their difficulties or surmount the problems with resolute endurance
Endurance
Endurance is the ability for a human or animal to exert itself and remain active for a long period of time, as well as its ability to resist, withstand, recover from, and have immunity to trauma, wounds, or fatigue. In humans, it is usually used in aerobic or anaerobic exercise...

, sacrificial acts, and steadfast bravery.

Film critics sometimes use the term "pejoratively to connote an unrealistic, pathos-filled, campy tale of romance or domestic situations with stereotypical characters (often including a central female character) that would directly appeal to feminine audiences."

During the 1940s the British Gainsborough melodramas
Gainsborough melodramas
The Gainsborough melodramas were a sequence of films produced by the British film studio Gainsborough Pictures during the 1940s which conformed to a melodramatic style. The melodramas were not a film series but an unrelated sequence of films which had similar themes and frequently recurring actors...

 were very successful with audiences.

A director of 1950s melodrama films was Douglas Sirk
Douglas Sirk
Douglas Sirk was a Danish-German film director best known for his work in Hollywood melodramas in the 1950s.-Life and work:...

 who worked with Rock Hudson on Written on the Wind
Written on the Wind
Written on the Wind is a 1956 American drama film directed by Douglas Sirk. It stars Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone....

and All That Heaven Allows
All That Heaven Allows
All That Heaven Allows is a romance feature film starring Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson in a tale about a well-to-do widow and a younger landscape designer falling in love. The screenplay was written by Peg Fenwick based upon a story by Edna L. Lee and Harry Lee...

, both staples of the genre. Melodramas like the 1990s TV Moment of Truth movies targeted audiences of American women by portraying the effects of alcoholism
Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker's health, personal relationships, and social standing...

, domestic violence
Domestic violence
Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, and intimate partner violence , is broadly defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors by one or both partners in an intimate relationship such as marriage, dating, family, or cohabitation...

, rape
Rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

 and the like. Typical of the genre is Angelica Huston's 1999 film Agnes Browne
Agnes Browne
Agnes Browne is a 1999 American/Irish romantic comedy-drama film directed and produced by, and starring Anjelica Huston, based on the book The Mammy by Brendan O'Carroll.-Plot:...

.

Director Sidney Lumet
Sidney Lumet
Sidney Lumet was an American director, producer and screenwriter with over 50 films to his credit. He was nominated for the Academy Award as Best Director for 12 Angry Men , Dog Day Afternoon , Network and The Verdict...

 said in a discussion of his 2007 film Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a 2007 crime drama directed by Sidney Lumet and written by Kelly Masterson. It stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, and Albert Finney. The title comes from the Irish saying: "May you be in heaven a full half-hour before the devil knows...

, "In a well-written drama, the story comes out of the characters. The characters in a well-written melodrama come out of the story."

In The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers, author Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism....

 wrote "a drama involves primarily a conflict of values within a man (as expressed in action); a melodrama involves only a conflict of man with other men."

See also

  • Damsel in distress
    Damsel in distress
    The subject of the damsel in distress, or persecuted maiden, is a classic theme in world literature, art, and film. She is usually a beautiful young woman placed in a dire predicament by a villain or monster and who requires a hero to achieve her rescue. She has become a stock character of fiction,...

  • Soap opera
    Soap opera
    A soap opera, sometimes called "soap" for short, is an ongoing, episodic work of dramatic fiction presented in serial format on radio or as television programming. The name soap opera stems from the original dramatic serials broadcast on radio that had soap manufacturers, such as Procter & Gamble,...

  • Legal drama
    Legal drama
    A legal drama is a work of dramatic fiction about crime and civil litigation. Subtypes of legal dramas include courtroom dramas and legal thrillers, and come in all forms, including novels, television shows, and films. Legal drama sometimes overlap with crime drama, most notably in the case of Law...

  • Serial (radio and television)
    Serial (radio and television)
    Serials are series of television programs and radio programs that rely on a continuing plot that unfolds in a sequential episode by episode fashion. Serials typically follow main story arcs that span entire television seasons or even the full run of the series, which distinguishes them from...

  • Comedy-drama
    Comedy-drama
    Comedy-drama is a genre of theatre, film and television programs which combines humorous and serious content.-Theatre:Traditional western theatre, beginning with the ancient Greeks, was divided into comedy and tragedy...

  • Augustan literature
    Augustan literature
    Augustan literature is a style of English literature produced during the reigns of Queen Anne, King George I, and George II on the 1740s with the deaths of Pope and Swift...

  • Film Noir
    Film noir
    Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s...

  • Chick flick
    Chick flick
    Chick flick is a slang term for a film mainly dealing with love and romance designed to appeal to a female target audience. Although many types of films may be directed toward the female gender, "chick flick" is typically used only in reference to films that are heavy with emotion or contain themes...