The World of the Play - The Importance of Being Earnest

Research Topics
You only research your topic but will need the info from all topics to be successful.

Lydia, Jonas and Charms: Here is the script. Please download it.

1. Stock Characters - Jonas, Taotao, Lydia, Charms

2. Victorian Social Structures - Jonas, Taotao, Lydia, Charms
3. Significant Events of the 1800's -Ethan, Taylor, Sarah, Grace, Giv
4. Styles of Victorian Theatre (including genre)and Acting - Ethan, Taylor, Sarah, Grace, Giv
5. Technology of Victorian Theatre - Jamie = Light, Leba=Set, Shayna = The buildings, Tenzin= costume and Courtney = music
6. Action, sensation, romance, sentiment and good triumphing over Evil - Chris, Rebecca, Brittany, Damon, Mirren, Anne
7. Plays and Playwrights - Chris, Rebecca, Brittany, Damon,

Remember theatre reflects society, politics, sociology, economics of the time its performed. It serves a need in the audience so its important to know who they were.

Please put research presentation up on the wiki. It may be a play, with a ppt to start or finish, a performance with visuals and sound to support it, you might time travel back to the 1800's, you might make a film etc. You work is limited by your imagination.

Note: the final grade is on your ability to identify and demonstrate your knowledge of the features of Melodrama. In your individual notes you will record the features you demonstrated and Justify why you used them. I suggest you use the grid/table format.


Upper and Upper-Middle Class

From the slightest burp (social ruin if it was heard) to how a gentleman spoke to a young lady, Victorian society was greatly concerned with every aspect of daily life. From the moment the upper class left their beds, their days were governed by do's and don'ts.
The horror of social ostracism was paramount. To be caught in the wrong fashion at the wrong time of day was as greatly to be feared as addressing a member of society by the wrong title.
It was important to know whom you could speak with - especially if you hadn't been properly introduced. For a woman, being asked to dance by a complete stranger could pose an etiquette problem which might have repercussions for days.
Young ladies were constantly chaperoned. To be found alone with a gentleman who was other than family was tantamount to social death. Her reputation would be ruined and her gentleman companion would find himself the object of gossip, and most usually derision.
The established career for society women was marriage - full stop. They were expected to represent their husbands with grace and provide absolutely no scandal. Charity work would be accepted, but only if it was very gentile... sewing for the poor, or putting together food baskets.
Gentlemen had to keep track of when it was proper to either smoke or have a glass of sherry in front of ladies. When to bow and to whom to tip your hat could cause gossip if the wrong decision was made.
Members of Victorian society kept busy with parties, dances, visits, dressmakers, and tailors. Keeping track of what other people in your social class were doing was also a full-time occupation.

Middle class

Being a servant in one of the grand Victorian houses was a position which would guarantee shelter and food. However, there was etiquette to be learned.
The upper class was never to be addressed unless it was absolutely necessary. If that was the case, as few words as possible were to be uttered.
Using the proper title was of the utmost importance. "Ma'am" or "Sir" was always appropriate. If "Ma'am" was seen, it was necessary that you 'disappear', turning to face the wall and avoiding eye contact.
Life was easier, though, amidst your fellow servants. Although private fraternization was frowned upon, it wasn't against the rules for those 'below stairs' to enjoy singing, dancing, and other social activities together.
Quite often the 'upper class' of the servant world, the butler and housekeeper, would put aside their lofty roles in the household and join their fellow servants in gaiety. But come the morning, they would reign supreme once again.
Having a profession was another way of being a member of the middle class of Victorian society. Shopkeepers, doctors, nurses, a schoolmaster, or parish priest were all notable professions.
Often times, the only difference between being a member of the upper-middle and the middle class was the amount of wealth you had gathered, and how it was flaunted.
Another indicator was the number of servants you employed. Having more than one servant was a sure sign that you had money.
Sometimes, the 'uppers' and the 'middlers' would mingle. If the proper introductions could be managed, it was possible for a tradesman to receive backing from a prominent 'upper' member. With a successful business deal, both parties could increase their wealth and for the 'middler', their station in life.

Working or Lower class

Victorian society did not recognize that there was a lower class.
'The Poor' were invisible. Those members of England who worked as chimney sweeps, ratcatchers, or spent their days in factories had no place in the echelon of the upper class, although their services would be needed from time to time.
The prevailing attitude was that the poor deserved the way they lived. If good moral choices had been made, the poor wouldn't be living the way they did.
The best way for society to deal with the poor was to ignore them. They were 'burdens on the public'.
There were people who cared, however. Unfortunately, in trying to help the lower class, conditions usually did not improve. Workhouses were developed, but the living was horrendous and it was almost better to be back on the street.
Being just too busy trying to survive, etiquette played little part in the poor's daily existence. But that's not to say that pride wasn't available. There was a 'social stigma' to applying for aid, and some families preferred to keep to themselves and figure out their own methods of survival.
Although Poor Laws were put into place, it wasn't until after the Victorian age ended that 'the lower class' was able, through education, technology, and reform, to raise itself, in some cases literally, out of the gutter.


Music in the nineteenth century were mostly pieces with a vocal and instrumental balace. During this era it was common to alternate between two or more different genres of music to avoid playing the same genre in a row and bore the audience. This came from the idea that the voice and instruments were "mutually independant" .
Also during this era, musicians would never only play music from one counrty; let alone that immediate region. During one performance, music from all around the world was played because the idea of cosmopolitanism (the idea that "all human beings, regardless of their political affiliation, do (or at least can) belong to a single community, and that this community should be cultivated") was very big during this period which begins to explain why melodrama was so popular during this period (because of the strong themes of good vs evil that melodram portrays).

Music was used in Victorian theatre to enhance the mood of the scene. As lines were generally said rhythmically rather than sung, so the music was played quietly as to undertone the acting. If the scene was sad then slow music would be played to convey the mood of the scene to the audience. But if the scene was perhaps a chase scene; then music would be fast-paced to match the scene's high-energy mood.
The musicians were situated right in front of the stage for best projection.


if anyone has any information on music in victorian theatre please help me as I had trouble finding information (as you can see).

Plays and Playwrights

The first English play to be called a melodrama or 'melodrame' was A Tale of Mystery (1802) by Thomas Holcroft.
Gothic melodramas include The Miller and his Men (1813) by Isaac Pocock , The Woodsman's Hut (1814) by Samuel Arnold and The Broken Sword (1816) by William Dimond.
Douglas Jerrold in his Black-Eyed Susan (1829)
Other nautical melodramas included Jerrold's The Mutiny at the Nore (1830) and The Red Rover (1829) by Edward Fitzball
Melodramas based on urban situations became popular in the mid-nineteenth century. These include The Streets of London (1864) by Dion Boucicault; and Lost in London (1867) by Watts Phillips.
The sensation novels of the 1860s and 1870s were fertile material for melodramatic adaptations. A notable example of this genre is Lady Audley's Secret by Elizabeth Braddon adapted, in two different versions, by George Roberts and C. H. Hazlewood.
The villain was always the central character in melodrama and crime was a favorite theme. This included dramatisations of the murderous careers of Burke and Hare, Sweeney Todd (first featured in The String of Pearls (1847) by George Dibdin Pitt), the murder of Maria Marten in the Red Barn and the bizarre exploits of Spring Heeled Jack. The misfortunes of a discharged prisoner is the theme of the sensational The Ticket-of-Leave Man (1863) by Tom Taylor.

Melodramatic writers who formalized melodrama--in France:
August Friederich von Kotzebue (1761-1819) – German – over 200 plays: domestic melodramas
René Charles Guilbert de Pixérécourt (1773-1844) – over 100 plays
In the U.S.:

Dion Boucicault (1822-1890) – the most successful English-language melodramas.

Corsican Brothers (1852), The Octoroon (1859).

Combined sentiment, wit, and local color with sensational and spectacular endings
The most successful and popular melodrama:

Uncle Tom’s Cabin – the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852) had several dramatizations:

George L. Aiken’s was the most popular

The leading authors of melodramas in the early 19th cent. were Guilbert de Pixérécourt of France and the German August von Kotzebue

Action & Sensation

Sensation Melodrama's became popular later in the 19th century. These Melodramas were catorgoised by haveing an moment/moments of intense action or chaos, commonly they were murders or explosions. A feature that the audiance loved was the fact that most of the action of these moment was actult realisticly done. For example i one play horses were actuly raced on stage, these moments of intense action were well recived by the audiance. The audiance would come to see melodramas for the action they contained. One stage favoroutie was gunpowder fo explosions. Gunpowder was used for any stage explosion and was colored for fire works wich were recived with open arms. These explosions encounterd problems for gupowders use was far from a exact art and many acidents occured with the explosions. They way they derailed trains, had on stage fire works. and had on stage navel battles ilistarted the technological advancements of the period. It was this action an sensationonal style of plot and theatre that atracted the numouros audiances tho the many theatres in all countrys that melodrama was preformed.


Melodrama themes

The Melodramatic acting style uses strong facials along with large movement and gestures, with a clear, articulated projection line. This ‘over the top acting’ was considered normal in the 19th century, although it seems unusual today this was the form of drama which was taken seriously then and highly dramatic and meaningful gestures were a part of great actors success. The use of loud, big and extravagant gestures used to rise above audience and reach the back of theatre, allowing the actors to focus more on showing the emotions rather than feeling them.
With the industrial growth the theatres benefitted, with the new machinery and equipment they now had the means to create the required elaborate settings and effects, this fed the growing popularity of large climaxes including floods, murders, hurricanes and fires!
Victorian Melodrama features themes based around love and murder this evolved from the themes of mystery and morality of the Middle Ages and is influenced by Italian commedia dell’arte, as well as German, Parisian, and French forms of Melodrama. A Tale of Mystery (1802) by Thomas Holcroft was the first English play to be a ‘Melodrama’ it was a gothic genre which remained popular through the early 1800’s. With the growth of the English navy the nautical genre became very popular with plays such as Black-Eyed Susan (1829) by Douglas Jerrold. By 1850 urban based melodramas such as Lost in London (1867) by Watts Phillips this lead onto adaptations of sensation novels and the use of live crime news as demonstrated with the murder of Maria Marten in the Red Barn. The use of live news was very popular because most of the audience was illiterate.
Giv, Sarah
Mrs Stone’s Library! ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Styles of Victorian Theatre (including genre) and Acting…

During the Victorian era, acting was extremely over-dramatic. All emotions were “magnified” or exaggerated and certain gestures or a sequence of them would be used to show a certain emotion or feeling often specific to a stock character, for example:

  • Grief was shown through the actor’s head bowed, slumped shoulders, the hands cupping/ covering the face, moving shoulders up/down and crying.
  • Fear was shown through the face bowed down to the right, right hand on mouth, fingers touching palm.
  • Horror was shown through the actor’s eyes widened, mouth open, hands on cheeks, fingers spread apart.
  • Fortitude was shown through a straightened body, hand on forehead, palm to audience
  • Love (Male) was shown through broadened chest, hands on heart, right extended to love.
  • Love (Female) was shown through broadened chest, head cocked to the side, opposite leg out, foot pointed, hands clasped under chin, smiling.
  • Evil Planning was shown through the actor raising their eyebrow with the other one down, grimacing, hands rubbing together, the twiddling of finger would indicate a good plan.
  • Evil Sneaking was shown through hunched shoulders, arms covering the nose, shifting gaze, bent knees during movement.
  • Pride was shown through a risen chest, hands on hips, feet apart.
  • Anger was shown through fists at shoulder height, eyebrows together, grimacing.
  • Overwhelmed was shown through chin up, looking up, one arm to audience, other arm on forehead.

Some types of melodrama or melodrama themes included military (reported current battles/ wars like the news e.g. The Crimean War), nautical (similar to military, reported sea battles), gothic (involved dungeons, castles, ghosts) and animal (hero was an animal e.g. Lassie).

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- Grace

Significant Events in 1800 (1850-1899)

The British Empire expanded to become the biggest in the world leading in many innovations and events. Some of these events in the last 50 years include having the world's first international expo or World's Fair in 1851 and in 1881 the first electrical power plant and grid is made in Godalming, Britain.

They also expanded their empire by invading other countries and using their resources in 1882 they invaded Egypt and ruled over New Zealand and Australia.

Other major events include things like Jack the Ripper killing seven prostitutes in London around 1888.

Inventions were a plenty with many inventions being made, things like the gas stove, steam locomotive, bicycle, electric motor, refrigerator, telephone, light bulb and the x-ray.


Stock Characters. BY TAOTAO!!! AND CHARMS!!!

Timeline of Events 1800-1850

1801- Ireland becomes part of the UK

1802- Napoleon becomes dictator of France, and Britaindeclares war on him in 1803

1811- The Industrial Revolution goes underway as men called Luddites destroyed the weaving machines that they think took their jobs.

1829- The first major steam locomotive, The Rocket, runs for the first time at 30mph.

1834- Slavery becomes banned in England. Many new theatres, like the Grecian and Britannia, are opened

1837- Queen Victoria becomes Queen of the British Empire. She is only 18 years old at the time

1839- Many theatres are burnt to the ground due to candle fires and their wooden structures

1840- Treaty of Waitangi is signed. Queen Victoria marries Prince Albert

1842- A law is passed to ban women and children from working in mines.

Mid 1840s – The backless chairs and benches in theatres are replaced with ones with backs to improve comfort

1843 – The Britannia Theatre is opened

1845- The Great Potato Famine strikes Ireland. It ends in 1849, with the half the population either dead or moved to America

1849- Cholera strikes London, and an estimated two thousand people die a week


leba Bilitaki

Set in the nineteenth century consisted of its set as illusional. Film directors back in the nineteenth century goal was to make the audience beleive the world that they have created. the world could be like our own world or imaginative fantasy , from all the materials on the set to the actual set it needs all work together. after all the basic building of the set the set needs to then be fully equipped (dressed) to make it seem beleivable for the audience . set was used to enhance the audiences undertsanding of the film aswell. Set was created to become beleiveable to the audience for example Marie attionettes set consisted of big curtains,royalchairs, gold and silver materials ,old fashioned looks that was dated back to that cenutry. Set in the nineteenth cenutry had limited resources but made the most of it all

The Buildings

In the 19th century the Old Vic was a very famous building for Victorian theatre. This building is located southeast of waterloo station in London. This building was established in 1818 but was called the royal colburg theatre.
The theatre was a "minor" theatre, and technically forbidden to show serious drama. The Victorian time of buildings was very famous because of the outstanding architecture that had been presented once the building was complete. By the middle of the 19th century, as a result of new
technology, construction was able to develop adding steel to make the building more stable. Other famous Victorian style buildings built in the 19th century include the Fonthill Abbey, The crystal palace, Adalphi (strand), Albert Saloon, the Britannia, Alhambra and City Pantheon. These buildings were frequently used to perform melodrama acts because they were very easy to get to.
SHAYNA rebecca: good triumphing over evil Melodramas are typically fast moving and emphasise the agony that the hero or heroine goes through before good can triumph over evil. Generally the sub-themes are: justice overcoming revenge, honesty overcoming dishonesty and innocence overcoming corruption. A basic melodrama play goes something like this: The evil landowner wants to marry the innocent daughter, otherwise he will evict her poor family. The distressed daughter reluctantly marries the landowner to save her family. The hero arrives to save the day and reveals that the evil landowner had originally taken ownership of the land by deceiving the daughter's drunken father. The daughter and the hero fall in love and live happily forever after. Good triumphing over evil was what made these plays and the theme is still used in modern films, plays and novels.