Fact #1. A Tale of Mystery
The first melodrama was a play called A Tale of Mystery by English writer called Thomas Holcroft. His play was a mixture of fact paced action, sentimentality and a happy ending.
Fact #2. Industrial Revolution
Melodrama grew in the backdrop of the industrial revolution. During this time 77% of the British population moved to live in cities where they worked in factories. The living and working conditions were appalling and going to see a melodrama in the theatre was a welcome relief and escape from the harsh realities of life.
Fact #3. It’s all about being sentimental!
A good melodrama is always sentimental. Despite what happens in the plot and the dangerous things that happen to the characters, the hero always marries the heroine and the bad guy always gets caught.
Fact #4. Music enhances the Melodrama
Melodrama involved with music drama. The music was very significant because it enhanced the emotion, mood, and feeling of the characters.
Fact #5: Good Versus Evil
The main theme of Melodrama was good versus evil. There would be good characters and evil characters. A basic story line would be established, the evil characters would begin to look like they were going to win and everything would go to a climax until the good characters finally win over and defeat the evil characters once and for all.
Fact #6: Audience involvement
Quite often the audience were quite literally on the edge of their seats and would suspend their disbelief (get totally involved) and they would shout out, boo and hiss as the action carried on.
Fact #7: Fast Pace
The plot of the play would move very quickly, a scene would be only a few minutes long. This was to keep the audience engaged and cover more plot.
Fact #8: Exotic locations
The settings of the play were often in exotic locations a long way away from the realities of the hard work and dreadful living conditions of the cities that the audiences lived in. Part of the attraction to Melodrama was that it was an escape to far more exotic and exciting locations that the audience had never been to but longed to see.
Fact #9: Stock Characters
There were 6 stock characters in almost every Melodrama:
- The Hero
- The Heroine
- The Villain
- The Villains Accomplice
- Faithful Servant to the Hero
- Maid Servant to the Heroine
Fact #10: Special Effects
As Melodrama grew, it also become famous for it’s special effects. Theatre goers grew increasing hungry for disasters to be played out in front of them such as train crashes, horse races or sea battles.