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Sentimental drama marked by extravagant theatricality, subordination of character development to plot, and focus on sensational incidents. It usually has an improbable plot that features such stock characters as the noble hero, the long-suffering heroine, and the hard-hearted villain, and it ends with virtue triumphing over vice. Written by such playwrights as Guilbert de Pixérécourt and Dion Boucicault, melodramas were popular in Europe and the U.S. during the 19th century. They often featured spectacular events such as shipwrecks, battles, fires, earthquakes, and horse races. Melodrama died out as a theatrical form in the early 20th century but remained popular in silent film. It can still be seen in contemporary film genres such as the action movie.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on melodrama, visit Britannica.com.