The melodrama generally has been presented in three acts, although there can be as few as two and as many as five. In the first act, a happy domestic situation is introduced. The virtue of the heroine or hero is quickly established, principal characters are introduced, and exposition is provided. There is frequently a love interest between hero and heroine. The villain arrives on the scene proposing that he marry the heroine, but the playwright finds a way to assure the audience that his love will be rejected. In spite of the villain’s confidence, his plans are thwarted and he leaves vowing revenge.
In the second act, the villain’s plans are laid and begin to carry out the plot. The heroine, hero, or both are brought near destruction. In the third act the situation is resolved in favor of the heroine or hero. Fortunes lost to the villain’s manipulations are restored and the villain is no longer a threat, having been unmasked and turned over to the authorities or killed by a trap he had intended for someone else.