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  Melodrama (Greek, ‘action with music’) originally meant a single scene or monologue played to music. (In this sense it was revived in the 19th century—Tennyson\'s Enoch Arden is typical—but with small success.) From the mid-19th century onwards, its secondary meaning became far more important. In this sense, melodrama is a play or theatre style relying heavily on sensational action, spectacular disasters, and strong emotions. Although scorned by highbrow critics, it was a vigorous theatrical form of wide mass appeal, and melodramatic elements are still to be found in many forms of dramatic activity. Nowadays, melodrama is rarer onstage than in the cinema and television, where its techniques for manipulating and guiding audience response (‘tear-jerking’, as it was once called) range from the use of music to underline emotional climaxes to the cliff-hanging endings of episodes of television soap operas. TRG SS

See also drama; theatre; tragedy.Further reading Peter Brooks, The Melodramatic Imagination; , R.B. Heilman, Tragedy and Melodrama.



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