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Victorian Melodrama

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Sophie Mannes

on 14 February 2016

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Transcript of Victorian Melodrama

MELODRAMA
Conventions of Melodrama
Stance
Movement and Blocking (Stage Directions)
Gesture
Facial Expressions
Scenario/Plot lines
Speech
Production Elements (Lights/Costume)
Stance
The Plot
The plot was very similar for all melodramas. It begins with introducing the hero. There is a heroine who is the lover of the hero. They heroine is with the old person(s), either her parent(s) or grandparent(s). With the help of his servant, the villain captures the heroine. The old person(s) goes to the hero for help. The hero then bravely rescues the heroine. He fights the villain and then defeats him. The hero and heroine are then reunited in the final scene, the tableau vivant which illustrates the ending of the play.
What is Melodrama?
The word "melodrama" originates from the French word "mélodrame", from Greek "melos" (music) and French "drame" (drama).
It emerged from France during the revolutionary period and consisted of short scenes with musical accompaniment (Nineteenth Century Melodrama).
It became popular in Britain during the 19th century. During this time, theatre was more popular than it's ever been in history (Melodrama).
Melodrama was the primary form of theatre during the 19th century and is still with us today. Some examples of modern day melodrama includes soap operas and "reality" TV.
It is a style of theatre that exaggerates plot, characters, and movements to appeal to different emotions
Victorian Melodrama
By: Sophie Mannes

{melos-drame}
NOUN
1) a play accompanied with songs and orchestral music
2) a dramatic piece with exaggerated movements and an exciting plot
Each stock character has their own stance which defines their character. As soon as the character enters, the audience should know exactly who they are.
Stock Characters
Music/Sound effects
Stock characters
How to die
The Stage (Exit and Entrances)
The Gag
Tableu Vivant
Song
Dance
Stage Combat
How did Melodrama reflect Victorian society?
How to perform emotions
How to Die
Melodramas were tales that showed the battle of good versus evil, where good would win and bring justice to society. Instead of realistic characters, melodramas had stock characters, or characters with a certain stereotype. Some examples include:
The Hero
The Heroine
A Villain
A Clown/Servant
An Old Person
The Hero
The hero was manly, confident, brave and handsome. He was usually from the working or middle class. This character was madly in love with the heroine. In many of the plots, he was separated from her due to the villain, but he always manages to save her and then married her.
The Teapot Stance:
Character Traits:
With influences from fencing and the army, the teapot stance showed off the hero's brave and courageous attributes. He stood with his feet slightly apart (Ballet fourth position) and with one hand on his hip and the other in the air. His chest was out to show his confidence and to allow the audience to easily identify him.
The hero spoke with many large gestures to accompany his speech. He would walk in grand, gliding steps in the shape of a semi-circle that showed his heroic character.
The Heroine
From a middle class or higher, the heroine was a beautiful and innocent woman who usually needed saving. The heroine is in love with the hero but is captured by the villain. She has many emotional changes and is often viewed as the "damsel in distress".
The "S" Pose:
Character Traits:
The heroine stands with one foot pointed to the side of her and her hands out to the side. She was either pointing to something or had a hand by her face. Her head was turned slightly to the side, with her check out towards the light. The way her body curves creates an "S" shape. The grace and femininity is influenced by ballet.
She takes small, glides in an arc- shape to show off her feminine and dainty qualities. She is often breathless and high pitched, wearing a long, flowy gown.
The Villain
The villain, who is evil and corrupt, is the enemy of the hero. He is often a rich character, who is always threatening and tricking the weaker characters. The villain is almost always defeated by the hero at the end of the performance.
The Villain's Stance:
Character Traits:
Unlike the hero, the villain stands with his shoulders hunched as if trying to hide something. He usually wears a cape, and uses it to hide most of his face, with only his eyes showing. He walks in a slow, and steady way on his tiptoes to represent being sneaky.
The villain has a strong and comedic accent, and has many dramatic gestures. He wears mainly black with a cape or mask and can easily be identified as the villain.
The Clown/Servant
This character is very funny and serves to shift from the serious tone of the play and to appeal to the audience. The clown can either be the sidekick for the villain or the hero, but he still caries the same traits. He often gets hurt or hurts himself, which he displays in a very exaggerated manner.
The Clown's Posture:
Character Traits:
This character is influenced by the harlequin from Commedia dell'arte who was comedic and stupid. He usually has his feet pointing out to the side (Ballet first position) with his back arched in a way to show that he has a big belly. He walks in a silly, and fast way usually interacting with himself and acting "stupidly".
As he is a very dramatic and over the top character, he has very exaggerated facial expressions. He has a funny sounding accent and silly gestures. He will often have large ears or nose to show the representation of a clown.
The Old Person
The old person could either be a parent/grandparent of the heroine or someone who is being taken care of by the heroine. The purpose of the old person is to emphasize the moral of the story or to set up the conflict between the hero and the heroine. They are often the reason that the heroine is kidnapped by the villain.
The Old Person Posture:
Character Traits:
They are usually hunched over with shaky legs and arms with bent knees to represent age.
This character carries a cane to support their aching body and usually squints their eyes.
"The Commedia Dell'arte." The Commedia Dell'arte. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2015. <http://www.theatrehistory.com/italian/commedia_dell_arte_001.html>.
Commedia Dell'arte Dance. Digital image. Stedwards.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2015. <http://myweb.stedwards.edu/abello/commdance.jpg>.
Greek Chorus. Digital image. WOU.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2015. <http://www.wou.edu/~aarndt08/myweb/Images/GreekChorus.jpg>.
Greek Theatre Ampitheatre. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Aug. 2015. <http://www.daviddarling.info/images/Greek_theatre.jpg>.
The Hero. Digital image. Victorian Melodrama. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2015. <http://blogs.swa-jkt.com/swa/10782/files/2012/12/67154-large_0.jpeg>.
"Introduction to Theatre -- 19th-Century Melodrama." Introduction to Theatre -- 19th-Century Melodrama. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2015. <http://novaonline.nvcc.edu/eli/spd130et/melodrama.htm#char>.
"Nineteenth Century Melodrama." A Theatre Guide to 19th Century Melodrama. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2015. <http://crossref-it.info/articles/517/nineteenth-century-melodrama>.
"Study.com -." Study.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2015. <http://study.com/academy/lesson/elements-of-melodrama-from-early-theater-to-the-modern-soap-opera.html>.
Sturm Und Drang. Digital image. Rossipotti. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2015. <http://www.rossipotti.de/inhalt/dateien/bilder/sturm_drang2.jpg>.
"Sturm Und Drang." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2015. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sturm%20und%20drang>.
"What Is Melodrama?" WiseGEEK. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Aug. 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisegeek.com%2Fwhat-is-melodrama.htm%23didyouknowout>.
Istianjine Learning. N.p., n.d. 20 Aug. 2015. <http://www.istianjinelearning.org/christineakov/files/2012/04/An-Overview-of-Melodrama-Centrestage-1hq2v4v.pdf>
Warren, and Weeks. "Melodrama." Aug. 2015. Lecture.
"Incidental Music." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2015. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incidental_music>.
"Elements of Melodrama." Study.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2015. <http://study.com/academy/lesson/elements-of-melodrama-from-early-theater-to-the-modern-soap-opera.html>.







Historical Context
Melodrama developed into a theatrical form in the 1800's thanks to the French playwright René de Pixérécourt (
istianjinelearning
). It was a popular form of theatre during the Victorian era. It's origins came from Greek theatre, Commedia dell'arte, and the German Sturm und Drang. The term "mélodrame" was first used to describe Pygmalion, a play by Jean-Jacque Rousseau that was first performed in 1770 (
Wise Geek
).
The stock characters in melodrama depict the different social classes. For example, the hero being the poorest and the villain being the richest.
The Gag
Love (Male)
Sadness/grief
Evil Planning/Sneaking
Horror
Large Gestures
Silent Sorrow
Love (Female)
The death sequence is very dramatic and ends with the actor/actress stiffening their body and then falling. The audience always judges the actors to make sure they are following the set "rules" of melodrama. If they didn't perform the death sequence properly, they would be booed.
Citations
Influence of Greek Theatre
Greek Theatre greatly influenced melodrama. It was performed in an amphitheater where some of the audience was not be able to see and/or hear the performers. Therefore, they had to use big gestures and speak very loudly.
Commedia dell'arte
The performers made large, exaggerated gestures to express their emotions.
Hatred
Neutrality
Sulkiness
Hearing unpleasant sounds
Mental Pain
Disconsolation
Hopelessness
Like melodrama, the Italian Commedia dell'arte used stock characters which reflected different Italian social stereotypes of the time. Another influence is the "comic relief' which is similar to the gag in melodrama. This was called
lazzi
, which often had nothing to do with the play itself (THE COMMEDIA DELL'ARTE).
Sturm und Drung
Literally meaning "Storm and Stress", this German drama used lots of action and emotion to show how one character rebels against society. The high levels of emotion can also be seen in melodrama.
Tableau Vivant
At the end of each melodrama performance, there is a tableau vivant. A tableau vivant is a silent and motionless scene which is presented by the actors. It shows how the characters feel at the end of the scene.
The gag, which usually revolved around the clown was a short comedic piece that was meant to keep the audience engaged. This was influenced by the
lazzi
in Commedia dell'arte.
*The Information in this presentation is from what I have learned in Drama class unless otherwise noted.
(Photograph(s) by Sophie Mannes on August 26, 2015)
(Photograph(s) by Sophie Mannes on August 26, 2015)
(Photograph(s) by Sophie Mannes on August 26, 2015)
(Photograph(s) by Sophie Mannes on August 26, 2015)
(Photograph(s) by Sophie Mannes on August 26, 2015)
(Photographs and videos taken by Sophie Mannes on August 26, 2015)
(Video by Sophie Mannes on August 26, 2015)
(Video by Sophie Mannes on August 26, 2015)
Semi-circle walks
(Video by Sophie Mannes on August 26, 2015)
Incidental Music
Music plays a key role in melodrama as it literally means "drama with music". Incidental music is essentially "background" music, and is used to add tone and depth to a scene. It could be a low and sinister tone suggesting an event to occur or just to enhance the story. Another example of incidental music is overtures, or music played during scene changes or at the end of an act. The use of incidental music dates back all the way to Greek drama (
Wikipedia
).
Production Elements
Thanks to France for creating the melodrama as part of the Romantic literary period in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. According to Study.com, "The romantics wanted to express their emotions through art and embraced imagination, individuality, nature as a source of spirituality and intuition." This new form of drama provoked emotions through the use of spoken lines with some musical accompaniment to show the ongoing battle of good vs evil.
Romanticism
Stage:

The characters could only enter from stage left and right.

Costumes:

For the males, they would typically have costumes which showed off their calves. During that time, the size of your calves determined your social status. The bigger your calves were, the more riches and power you had.
For the heroine, she would wear a long and flowy gown.

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