Melodrama: Definition, Examples & Meaning

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      The term ‘Melodrama’ is originated from the early 19th century French word melodrama, which in turn is derived from Greek melos meaning ‘music’, and French drame meaning ‘drama’. Melos and drame were put together to make melodrama. A melodrama is a dramatic or literary work in which the plot, which is typically sensational and designed to appeal strongly to the emotions, takes precedence over detailed characterization. Characters are often simply drawn, and may appear stereotyped. Melodrama is a subgenre of drama, which is an exaggerated form of this genre.

      Originally, Melodrama makes use of melody and music, while modern melodramas may not contain any music. Typically, it uses stock characters including a heroes, heroines and villains. In scholarly and historical musical contexts, melodramas are dramas of the 18th and 19th centuries in which orchestral music or song was used to accompany the action. The term is now also applied to stage performances without incidental music, novels, movies, and television and radio broadcasts. In modern contexts, the term melodrama is generally pejorative, as it suggests that the work in question lacks subtlety, character development, or both.

      A film director, William Wyler has adapted Emily Bronte’s classic and popular novel, Wuthering Heights, into a film. The novel is a sweeping romantic melodrama in which love and class division are destined to become a tragedy. The film stars Heathcliff as an orphan, is taken into a wealthy family where he falls in love with Cathy, his foster sister. Though Cathy also feels the same for him, nevertheless, she marries a wealthy neighbor, leaving Heathcliff with no choice. Returning as a wealthy man after some years, the sparks begin to fly again for Cathy and vengeful Heathcliff marries Isabella Linton, sister of Cathy’s husband in order to arouse her jealousy. By the end, Catherine dies and Heathcliff follows her as he could not brook this loss any more.

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