Victorian Melodrama

Victorian Melodrama
The Poor of New York takes place during the 1860s,
which was the time of the Civil War.
People feared Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860 because he was struggling to
not only sell his policies but money itself.
People in the North really wanted harder currency then just the greenback bills.
They started to collect all the gold and silver coins that they could.
By 1963, money of any kind was hard –coins or bills- were very hard to come by.
Merchants would accept postage stamps as money and the Union itself became
broke after two years of war.
Congress passed a legislative that let the Treasury print legal money notes that
paid 6% interest that was to be compounded semiannually.
These notes were strictly used as investments and could not be returned to the
Treasury until 3 years have passed.
People started to take advantage of this idea which led to financial schemes.
On an unhistorical note, the main issue at hand in our play is essentially like the
Ponzi Scheme. The Ponzi Scheme is a highly fraudulent investment operation
where people returns pay to investors using their own money or money paid by
earlier investors. This ties into our play because one of our characters schemes
another of $100,000 based on previous investments.
Diseases in the Victorian Era usually came from people dumping their sewage on
the street, rats and soldiers bringing back diseases from overseas.
The most common diseases were Chicken Pox, Cholera, Diptheria, Poliomyelitis,
Consumption –which we know as Tuberculosis- and Small Pox.
Disease outbreaks were deadly and spread very quickly.
Doctors used Opium to kill the pain but most people who took the drug became
Amputation was also a common practicing treatment for some diseases too.
Theatre in the Victorian Era was a period that brought success to the middle
class of England, which started to challenge the natural order of the country.
Before now, it was seen as unacceptable for the middle class to be seen at the
theatre because the upper class had a higher status and were more well liked.
The theatrical atmosphere was now, not restricted to certain classes of the
society anymore.
Plays could now run longer which led to greater profits and an increase in the
number of theatres.
Another reason that the theatre became popular was because of Queen
Victoria. She enjoyed the theatre and with her encouragement, more attention
was drawn to the theatre.
The most popular genres of the Victorian Era were comedy and melodrama
Comedies were divided into two categories: High Comedies and Low
High Comedies
- full of coincidences
- mistaken identities
- characters were unable to wed
- people were too rich
- people were too poor
- An example of a famous High Comedy of this era is The Importance of Being
Earnest by Oscar Wilde.
Low Comedies
loss of identity
characters separated at birth
dirty jokes
dirty gestures
An example of a famous Low Comedy of this era is The Authors Farce by Henry
Melodramas always consisted of 6 characters: the hero, the villain, the heroine, an
aged parent, a sidekick and a servant to the aged parent.
The first considered Melodrama was A Tale of Mystery by Thomas Holcroft.
English Melodramas didn’t really start to evolve until the middle ages.
Famous Melodramas
The Ticket-of-Leave Man by Tom Taylor
The Poor of New York by Dion Boucicault
Costumes and Clothes
Cut, color, material and sometimes stitching of the clothing revealed the class of a
Women’s dresses were different shades, materials, and trimmings intended to be
worn as under and over dresses.
Hoop skirts and bustles were added underneath and sometimes layered to add
fullness to the skirts.
Corsets quickly grew popular
Men dressed differently for every formal occasion: during the day they would
wear a morning coat and light trousers, and at night they wore a dark tail coat, and
dark trousers,
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