Melodrama, derived from the Greek word “melos” (music) and the French word “drame” (drama), was a form of theatrical entertainment popular in Europe and America from the late 1700s to the early 1900s. While melodramatic plots were often romantic depictions of everyday life showcasing heightened emotions (stemming from earlier sentimental dramas), the staging of these was nothing short of spectacular. Recent advances in theatre technologies allowed for elaborate stage machinery including trapdoors, pyrotechnics and flying scenery. Added to this was the use of horses and other animals on stage. Characters were usually archetypal figures such as villains, victims and heroes. On this page, you will find melodrama resources for students and teachers. – Justin Cash
Article outlining various aspects of this 19th-century genre including plot elements, acting style, devices/conventions, characters and staging.
A comprehensive summary of this 19th-century form includes acting, plot formula, theatres, staging and adapted works.
Useful article discussing the various definitions, meanings, interpretations and uses of the term over the years.
Excellent resources including a teaching unit suitable for upper primary or lower secondary school.
A brief overview of the form with useful information about the form’s key features and its link to some of the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan.
An interesting article detailing the history of the genre in the theatre and its inclusion in mainstream opera.
An accessible overview of the history of this genre for students.
Excellent historical account as a theatre form both in England and America. A comprehensive and detailed analysis that includes theatrical posters, notable plays and playwrights, conventions, key elements etc.
Entry outlining its characteristics, origins and links to operetta and opera.
Series of teaching units and resources for Years 7/8 and 9/10 including background and structure, stock characters, and voice and asides. Also includes an overview of student resources and cards for key terms.
List of notable 19th-century plays including Uncle Tom’s Cabin and others.
Useful notes on the numerous characteristics including different types, writers, staging and trends in the 19th-century theatre.
Summary extract identifying exactly how melodramas were performed, particularly the combination of music and the spoken text.
A useful twelve-lesson teaching unit for junior secondary school students.