The UVic Writer's Guide


The term melodrama (from the Greek melos, or song) originally referred to musical plays such as opera and some nineteenth-century drama in which music heightened the emotional effects of the story. Just as farce is a "low" form of comedy that appeals to the audience on a purely emotional level through absurdly exaggerated character types and spectacle (boisterous physical play), melodrama is a tragedy in which characters are extremes of good and evil, and emotional effects are achieved through violence and intrigue at the expense of realism.

Charles Dickens described good melodrama as like good streaky bacon: the red red and the white white.

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated May 13, 1995