Definition of melodrama in English:



  • 1A sensational dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events intended to appeal to the emotions:

    ‘he gloated like a villain in a Victorian melodrama’
    • ‘Adding drama to the downtown scene are the melodramas and vaudeville revues presented at the Gaslighter Theater.’
    • ‘This cast and this production prove their superiority again here and serve the script well, neither overplaying the melodrama or underemphasizing the pain.’
    • ‘Camille is grand melodrama that rivals the theatrics of the most tawdry soap opera.’
    • ‘This melodrama, and I love melodramas, is really beautifully performed, it's heartfelt and tense and romantic.’
    • ‘Hepworth produced on average three films a week, ranging from melodramas and slapstick comedies to scenics and travel films.’
    • ‘The Gaiety stuck to its well-tried popular repertory of melodramas, comedies, and musicals, though both theatres scheduled touring opera companies throughout the year.’
    • ‘Yet the strongest melodramas are those without apparent villains, where characters end up hurting each other unwittingly, just by pursing their desires.’
    • ‘The feel of a sensational melodrama is part of its success: this is rich, indulgent, luxurious story-telling, the kind of book that you can really get your teeth into - and want to read it in one sitting.’
    • ‘Like soap operas and melodramas, Magnolia is characterized by excess.’
    • ‘For this is what Bad Blood is - an unashamed melodrama, complete with villains, misunderstood heroes and convoluted, nonsensical plots.’
    • ‘Instead of a crime-does-not-pay melodrama, the play became an acute study of marital and psychological disintegration’
    • ‘Love Story is also historically interesting for the way it combines the heightened emotions of the Gainsborough costume melodramas with the ingredients of the more realistic wartime dramas that the studio produced at the same time.’
    • ‘With epic melodramas such as this one, the main character always makes one fatal mistake.’
    • ‘Films are a popular form of entertainment, and several Greek filmmakers and production companies have produced a body of melodramas, comedies, musicals, and art films.’
    • ‘They believe that they can recreate the depth of emotion found in some 1940s melodramas by reproducing or reinventing a certain set of narrative devices and by clever casting and design work.’
    • ‘By evoking scenes from old Hollywood melodramas and thrillers, the images conveyed vague feelings of tension and threat.’
    • ‘The story of a young architect's vision foiled by wrangling politicians is now the stuff of folklore, making it the perfect subject for an excellent musical melodrama.’
    • ‘Tragedies, dramas and melodramas tend to engage the audience on a more emotional level.’
    • ‘Greta Garbo played tragic lovers, exotic temptresses and steely heroines, anchoring many mediocre melodramas and haughty period pieces like a pro.’
    • ‘By contrast, the latter was a first attempt at classical tragedy, though fused with elements from current revenge-driven melodramas such as Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy, the most popular stage hit of the era.’
    1. 1.1[mass noun] The genre of melodrama:
      ‘he abandoned melodrama for realism’
      • ‘You might not have heard of Bollywood, but the popular blend of Hindi music and melodrama has been around since 1931.’
      • ‘Enduring female friendships, in various forms, have been explored in both mainstream and independent cinema over the last decade or so, predominantly through the genres of melodrama and comedy.’
      • ‘The movie is quintessentially French, focusing on drama instead of melodrama and character instead of plot.’
      • ‘Drama slides irretrievably into melodrama and leaves this novel, with all its adult pretensions, firmly in the playground.’
      • ‘So everything it does gets infused with the theatrical techniques of melodrama.’
      • ‘Rather, the reality of the characters certifies the melodrama and makes it all the more thrilling.’
      • ‘Boyle's approach to the material is equally dynamic, but the screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce veers uncomfortably between maudlin fantasy, comic whimsy and outright melodrama.’
      • ‘The challenges stimulated more work on genres, like melodrama, that addressed women.’
      • ‘As has been extensively detailed elsewhere, the melodrama, along with music and comedy, became synonymous with the cinema in Latin America after the introduction of sound.’
      • ‘When it debuted in 1949, ‘Death of a Salesman’ was ridiculed as being sentimental melodrama and even a work of Marxist propaganda.’
      • ‘Whether melodrama, farce, or even tragedy, it holds the attention.’
      • ‘By giving her a love interest, the movie fits into more traditional representations of women in the filmic genre of the woman's melodrama.’
      • ‘I've always had a problem with the musical genre of melodrama - the use of a speaker with music.’
      • ‘They imitated the Hollywood genres of comedy, melodrama, musicals and Westerns.’
      • ‘I see no reason why a comic book genre film cannot be taken seriously, building genuine drama, rather than melodrama.’
      • ‘I think in general it's a great study of how to push right to the line that separates high drama, melodrama even, from parody.’
      • ‘Swimming Upstream is an interesting genre hybrid, part family melodrama, part sporting saga, part coming-of-age story.’
      • ‘The script veers away from realism to serve melodrama through a selection of overly drawn speeches.’
      • ‘It's not drama, it's melodrama, it's not theatre, it's opera.’
      • ‘If, in its original form, melodrama had a relatively short shelf-life, the sudden intrusion of the spoken voice into opera has been used by most composers ever since.’
    2. 1.2[mass noun] Behaviour or events that resemble melodrama:
      ‘what little is known of his early life is cloaked in melodrama’
      • ‘‘It's meant to be’ jibes Danilo as he storms off the Westmorland Hall stage with such splendid melodrama he almost pushes conductor Wyn Davies into his illustrious players.’
      • ‘It is an old-fashioned, admirably reticent film that succeeds not through daring but by avoiding the seductions of sentimentality and melodrama.’
      • ‘Their hostility finds the right balance of melodrama and reality, making you feel for them while wishing you could shake them into understanding one another.’
      • ‘It's a magnificent, ridiculous song, equal parts grotesquery, sentiment and melodrama.’
      • ‘Amid the laughter, the melodrama and hysteria, this is a play with a terrible, almost frightening undertow of sadness and helplessness.’
      • ‘One of the film's many strengths is that it never descends into melodrama or sentimentality.’
      • ‘In fact, these kinds of films need melodrama; they need action or events that externalise the emotions driving the story.’
      • ‘Through Mrs Swille, the novel hints at the weaknesses of a culture that has long been, and remains, rooted in sentimentalism and melodrama.’
      • ‘Wonderful music, emotional plots, trend-setting song sequences and much melodrama have been the hallmarks of his films.’
      • ‘It was a fabulous piece of work, a perfect mix of melodrama and dark comedy in right taste incorporated in a strong script.’
      • ‘Nonetheless they showed Andersen a way to write stories with unhappy endings while avoiding the sentimentality and melodrama that plague his novels.’
      • ‘Though there's an inescapable current of sentiment and even melodrama here, The Sea Inside smartly explores the same terror of empty life that has lurked in the director's other films.’
      • ‘I knew even then, I think, that my histrionics teetered on hysteria, but my self-conscious melodrama only angered me more.’
      • ‘Mitchell, who has perhaps the greatest challenge, is perfect as the tragic-comic heroine, just neurotic enough without indulging in melodrama.’
      • ‘Dropping any melodrama, she deals with the hard currency of possible events.’
      • ‘There seems to be no way out and rack my brains as I did, I could not see an answer to the question, other than the improbable melodrama of her embracing a closed religious order.’
      • ‘The Chief Inspector was furious at the melodrama created and the exaggerated, sinister choice of tone.’
      • ‘Jules Furthman's script (based on a John Monk Saunders story) is devoid of melodrama or sentimentality.’
      • ‘The fanciful camera work, the huge scope, the saturated Warner colors, and the relentless melodrama lifts the piece into mythic levels.’
      • ‘The Station Agent was a quiet character piece with unnecessary melodrama in its third act, overall pleasant and endearing.’
  • 2historical A play interspersed with songs and orchestral music accompanying the action.

    • ‘It was Jean-Jacques Rousseau who invented the melodrama in his dramatic monologue Pygmalion, first performed in Paris in the early 1760s.’
    • ‘East Lynne is a melodrama with music telling how a woman is tricked into believing her husband is having an affair.’
    • ‘The other three works are melodramas - that is, music written to accompany a speaker.’
    • ‘The very first melodramas were characterised by incessant music - ‘melos’ in Greek - that accompanied the action, and so it is here.’
    • ‘He wrote songs, operas, and operettas, pantomimes, melodramas, and in 1823, a History of Music.’
    • ‘I went reluctantly to Bingley Little Theatre's production of the Victorian melodrama with music East Lynne.’


Early 19th century: from French mélodrame, from Greek melos music + French drame drama.