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[Gr.,=song-drama], originally a spoken text with musical background, as in Greek drama. The form was popular in the 18th cent., when its composers included Georg Benda, J. J. Rousseau, and W. A. Mozart, among others. Modern examples of the true music melodrama are found in Richard Strauss's setting of Tennyson's Enoch Arden, and in Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire. J. J. Rousseau's melodrama Pygmalion (1762; first performed 1770) helped create a vogue for stage plays in which the action was generally romantic, full of violent action, and often characterized by the final triumph of virtue. The common use of the term melodrama refers to sentimental stage plays of this sort. The leading authors of melodramas in the early 19th cent. were Guilbert de Pixérécourt of France and the German August von Kotzebue. The term was used extensively in England in the 19th cent. as a device to circumvent the law that limited legitimate plays to certain theaters. One of the most-popular of theatrical genres in 19th. cent England and America, its "tear-jerking" style easily made the transition to film, radio and television, where they are represented by the maudlin excesses and unbelievable coincidences of contemporary soap operas. The term is now applied to all scripts with overdrawn characterizations, smashing climaxes, and appeal to sentiment. Famous examples of stage melodramas include East Lynne by Mrs. Henry Wood and Ten Nights in a Barroom by W. W. Pratt.


See D. Gerould, ed., Melodrama (1980).



(1) A dramaturgical genre; a play characterized by a tense plot, exaggerated emotionalism, a sharp contrast between good and evil, and a moralizing, didactic tendency. Melodrama originated in the late 1790’s in France and reached its peak in the 1830’s and 1840’s. The best melodramas, including works by J.-M. Monvel, E. Souvestre, and F. Pyat, protested against social injustice and religious fanaticism and exposed the poverty and disenfranchisement of the people. Gradually, however, melodrama lost its democratic, humanistic orientation and became a form of superficial entertainment pervaded by cloying sentimentality.

In Russia melodramas were first written in the late 1820’s by N. V. Kukol’nik and N. A. Polevoi. V. G. Belinskii and N. V. Gogol sharply criticized the genre for being divorced from the vital interests of Russian society and for presenting unrealistic characters and situations.

In the Soviet theater and dramaturgy interest was first shown in melodramas in the years immediately after the Great October Socialist Revolution. Gorky and A. V. Lunacharskii defended the melodrama, equating it, essentially, with romantic social drama. Certain elements of melodrama are characteristic of the works of several Soviet playwrights, including A. N. Arbuzov and A. D. Salynskii.

(2) A musical dramatic work in which the monologues and dialogues of the dramatis personae are combined with music, either as an interlude or as accompaniment. One of the early examples of this form was J. J. Rousseau’s lyric, one-act play Pygmalion (1762). A number of melodramas were written by the 18th-century Czech composer J. Benda. The Russian composer E. I. Fomin created the melodrama Orpheus (1792). (See .)


Istoriia zapadnoevropeiskogo teatra, vol. 3. Moscow, 1963.
Glumov, A. N. “Neskol’ko znachenii termina ’melodrama.’“In his book Muzyka v russkom dramaticheskom teatre. Moscow, 1955.


1. a play, film, etc., characterized by extravagant action and emotion
2. (formerly) a romantic drama characterized by sensational incident, music, and song
3. a poem or part of a play or opera spoken to a musical accompaniment
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Los melodramas nacionales como Maria Candelaria (Mexico 1943), Flor Silvestre (Mexico 1943) o Salon Mexico (Mexico 1948) del director clasico Emilio Fernandez se destacan por su ejemplaridad de una nacionalidad ofrecida a todo el publico mexicano.
Eltis' initial focus on melodrama is threaded throughout the book as a whole, as she discusses the obsessive repetitions of tropes of seduced heroines, bigamous wives, and criminal mothers, in a powerful account of the troubled side of nineteenth-century ideologies of gender.
By detailing the overwhelming sensory effects induced by ghostly melodramas, Shelley emphasizes the disorientation produced by plays working to undermine viewers' hold over reality and thus question the possibility of human control over it.
En-)Gendering a Popular Theatrical Genre: The Role of Women in Nineteenth-Century British Melodrama
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Nevertheless, it is imperative to examine how the film departs from melodramas of the Hollywood and Japanese traditions and to analyze the strong aesthetic and emotional appeal that arises out of such departures.
Cabe ao critico pensador do cinema o papel de investigar a possibilidade de melodramas que nao se fundamentem em uma moral do ressentimento e que ultrapassem a bidimensionalidade tao enraizada na cultura judaico-crista.
This is unsurprising, considering both social melodramas and sentimental novels "make continual and obvious appeals to the [audience's] emotions" (Tompkins 125).
Carlos Monsivais, en su ensayo "Se sufre pero se aprende," es aun mas tajante que Tunon al sostener que los melodramas mexicanos producidos entre 1940 y 1960 tenian fines educativos y de adoctrinamiento politico: "the regular outgoing to the cinema had quasi didactic connotations, initiating the illiterate masses into the ritual of modern life" (Monsivais 149).
In this study, Meyer rescues melodrama from blithe associations with hysteria and the feminine-trivial, and locates it instead within the posturing of Schnitzler's male narrators.
De ninguna manera es un fruto del amor, como afirman las religiones y los melodramas, sino una consecuencia de la acumulacion rapaz.
This was the third day of rehearsal at Cottage Theatre's annual summer melodrama camp, an intensive workshop that takes 25 children from zero to three full-scale public performances of an original musical comedy in the space of just two weeks.