Within every society there is some form of public entertainment. From the medieval days of public beheadings, to the contemporary enjoyment of watching someone get their heart broken on television, public entertainment has played a key role in all eras. Victorian England is no exception to the rule. Within the realm of public entertainment theatre played a key role. Upon deeper investigation one will see that melodrama was a central concentration in Victorian theatre. Melodrama has evolved throughout the ages and has come full circle today. Without the evolutionary process that took place during the Victorian age this would not have been possible.
Before beginning the detailed account of the evolution of the melodrama, one should have a brief knowledge of the history of theatre in Victorian England. Some of the greatest evolutionary developments happened during the Victorian age. Over the years the urban growth brought many changes to England, especially London and its surrounding areas. One of the most crucial changes was a direct effect of this population increase.
The obvious social consequence of the population increase in London and other cities was an increase in the potential audience for theatre, an increase especially in the new industrial and working class (Booth 3).
The urbanization of England meant that more theatres needed to be built. It also meant that due to more labor opportunities and segregated arenas the divide between classes would continue to grow
“Between the years 1828 and 1843 eight theatres were constructed and opened for business” (Booth 4). All eight theatres were located on the East End of London. With the evolution of the docks and the jobs that they provided on the East End the majority of the population was made up of the working class. Although East Enders still traveled west to sit in the galleries of middle-class theatres there was a definite gap between the working and middle classes. The ...