The Villains of Stage Melodrama: Romanticism and the Politics of Character

Juliet John

in Dickens's Villains

Published in print March 2001 | ISBN: 9780198184614
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191714214 | DOI:
The Villains of Stage Melodrama: Romanticism and the Politics of Character

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This chapter discusses the villains in stage melodrama, particularly in the context of romanticism and the politics of character. In the melodramatic scheme of things, it is the Henry Jameses of this world who are denigrated, demonised, and marginalized: the ‘civilised’, self-conscious, and thinking being is almost invariably a villain. Despite unanimous acknowledgment by critics of melodrama that the villain is melodrama's most interesting character, surprisingly little detailed research has been conducted into the villains of 19th-century melodrama. This has much to do with the realist, psychological tradition that persisted for so long in criticism of character, and the subsequent structuralist debunking of the entire notion of character. The villains of 19th-century melodrama are types struggling to become individuals. This impulse towards individuality constitutes the definition of melodramatic villainy. Melodrama is an anti-intellectual genre that eschews subject-centred, psychological models of identity.

Keywords: villains; 19th century; Henry James; individuality; melodrama; melodramatic villainy

Chapter.  11623 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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