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In what was the largest city in the world people went to the theatre every day to enjoy a wonderfully varied choice of shows.
If you were a member of the lower class, you had probably completely forgotten the life of your parents and grandparents in the countryside. You no longer sang folk ballads and songs that had been sung by your ancestors for centuries. Now your life was reflected in the songs of the music halls. These were places where you could eat and see a show.
Perhaps you would go and see a melodrama, a play with musical background reflecting the emotional state of the characters (just like a modern-day film) and exaggerated acting.
Around 1850's melodramas began to represent real-life horror stories such as murders.
Melodramas were also based on popular novels of the day and did not stop with violent crimes and popular fiction. They also became showcases for spectacular special effects. These new melodramas were called 'sensation dramas', and their special effects were the main reason people want to see them.

Melodramas, however, did not have a monopoly on spectacular shows. Pantomimes were perhaps even more spectacular. They had originally developed from the Italian 'commedia dell'arte', which first came in England in the 17th century and the center of these shows was a comic piece with the servant Harlequin and his love Columbine.
If you were member of the upper-middle class, and wanted something more culturally refined, you could go to the Princess's Theatre in Oxford Street which offered his audiences historically accurate and magnificent versions of works by great playwrights, especially Shakespeare, called Pictorical Dramas.
Alternatively you could go to Henry Ivring's Lyceum theatre for horror plays.
But if you were in the mood for something a bit lighter, you could go to the Savoy Theatre and see a comic operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan. Together they created comic musical plays that made fun of Victorian society by creating a silly world.
Finally, if you were not in the mood to see fabulous historic worlds you could go and see yourself. In other worlds, you could see plays in which actors did not speak in an exaggerated fashion or wear spectacular costumes, but ones in which actors dressed and talked just like members of the aristocracy and upper-middle class. These plays were called 'problem plays' or 'society plays' and were introduced by the actor-manager Squire Bancroft and his wife Marie Wilton. The plays often dealt with real social problems of the upper class like marriage between people of different classes and fallen women (women expelled from upper-class society because they had divorced or committed adultery).
The first three popular works by Oscar Wilde were typical 'society' or 'problem' plays. Wilde's last play, The importance of being Earnest, which was performed for the first time on a snowy Saint Valentine's Day evening in 1895, can be considered a society play turned upside down.

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