"'Melodrama [Gr.,=song-drama], originally a spoken text with musical background, as in Greek drama. The form was popular in the 18th cent., when its composers included Georg Benda, J. J. Rousseau, and W. A. Mozart, among others. Modern examples of the true music melodrama are found in Richard Strauss's setting of Tennyson's Enoch Arden, and in Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire. J. J. Rousseau's melodrama Pygmalion (1762; first performed 1770) helped create a vogue for stage plays in which the action was generally romantic, full of violent action, and often characterized by the final triumph of virtue. The common use of the term melodrama refers to sentimental stage plays of this sort. The leading authors of melodramas in the early 19th century were Guilbert de Pixérécourt of France and the German August von Kotzebue. The term was used extensively in England in the 19th century as a device to circumvent the law that limited legitimate plays to certain theaters. Melodrama was one of the most-popular of theatrical genres of the 19th century in England and America, its "tear-jerking" style easily made the transition to film, radio and television, where they are represented by the maudlin excesses and unbelievable coincidences of contemporary soap operas. The term is now applied to all scripts with overdrawn characterizations, smashing climaxes, and appeal to sentiment. Famous examples of stage melodramas include East Lynne by Mrs. Henry Wood and Ten Nights in a Barroom by W. W. Pratt. (Columbia)."
A reoccurring theme of melodramas are heroes, villains, and extenuating circumstances.
"mel•o•dra•ma / ˈmeləˌdrämə/
• n. 1. a sensational dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events intended to appeal to the emotions.
∎ the genre of drama of this type.
∎ language, behavior, or events that resemble drama of this kind: what little is known of his early life is cloaked in melodrama.
2. hist. a play interspersed with songs and orchestral music accompanying the action.
DERIVATIVES: mel•o•dram•a•tist / ˌmeləˈdrämətist/ n. mel•o•dram•a•tize / ˌmeləˈdräməˌtīz/ v. (Oxford)."
"Uncle Tom’s Cabin" – the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)
NBC's Soap Opera Passions- Great example of stereotypical characters, and exaggerated emotions. 
“Manhattan Melodrama" -Melodramatic Film 1934. 
"The Golden Girls"- Sitcom melodrama (1985-1992)
"melodrama." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. 6 Nov. 2013 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.
"melodrama." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2013. Encyclopedia.com. 8 Nov. 2013 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.