Article

Melodrama

Juliet John

in Victorian Literature

ISBN: 9780199799558
Published online March 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0042
Melodrama

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Melodrama is a genre that emerged in France during the revolutionary period. The word itself, literally meaning “music drama” or “song drama,” derives from Greek but reached the Victorian theatre by way of French. In Britain, melodrama became the most popular kind of theatrical entertainment for most of the 19th century, a period when more people went to the theatre than at any time in history. Its unprecedented popularity during the Victorian period owes much to its appeal to working-class or artisan audiences and to a ready-made nexus of so-called illegitimate theatres (theatres forbidden by law to perform drama involving the spoken word unaccompanied by music). Despite the decline in the popularity of melodrama on stage by the end of the 19th century, its influence both during and after its heyday has been immense. Melodrama’s influence went beyond the stage, affecting novelists throughout the period—to mention just a few examples, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, sensation novelists, and even Henry James. It was a direct influence on the silent screen, and its techniques persist today in film, television, fiction, and theatre.

Article.  8332 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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