Literature

The Origin of Melodrama and its Evolution

Melodrama, a term that literally means music drama is a form of drama. The word derived from the Greek ‘Melos’ which means song or music and play. It is basically a branch of plays, films or any other creation which encompasses a plot and action and this is the main distinction between melodrama and drama. Also, melodrama accommodates music to create an emotional response from its audience. Tragedies are also more serious and consist of a conflict with power like God or the law etc. 1 Tragedies are inspired by and generally trace their origin back to the Greeks. The main difference between melodrama and tragedy is usually the ending. Tragedies have a set pattern in their endings, while melodramas end on a happy note, with mostly the set pattern of a villain, posing a threat to the lead character (hero) with the inevitable involvement of a heroine- the damsel in distress, who is ultimately saved by the hero. This is a usual melodrama that uses exaggerated emotions to accomplish the task of correcting the wrongs and evils of societies, thus giving importance to the moral aspect. Whilst in tragedy after the rejection of Aristotle’s proposal that true tragedy can only depict those with power and higher status no set definition exists in the literature. Arthur Miller’s plays and the popularity of it proves that the tragedy of the ordinary people exists and can be depicted and even appreciated. Howard Barker argued for the rebirth, redefining of tragedy in modern theatre in his ‘Arguments for a theatre’. An example of a modern, contemporary tragedy would be Henrik Ibsen’s ‘A doll’s house’ (1879). This is the story of the break up of a middle-class couple’s marriage and hence is more relevant to recent times. Modern tragedy is wider in its range of topics/issues the protagonist or central characters face.

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