Immortal Voices of the Speechless Deep: The Sea as “Gray,” “White,” and “Black” Villain in Nautical Melodrama

Sissi Liu


The most essential element of nautical melodrama—the sea—has been largely overlooked in the study of nautical melodrama. The sea has been naturally treated as the setting and spectacle, or “opsis”—the bottom tier of the six Aristotelian components of a serious theatrical presentation: mythos (or plot), ethos (character), dianoia (theme), lexis (diction), melos (melody), and opsis (spectacle). In the scholarly study of nautical melodrama, most attention has been paid to the glorification of heroic sailors manifesting in an upsurge of patriotism. The sea is often ignored as merely the venue where melodramatic actions take place. In this article, Liu proposes that the sea plays a more important role than simply the “opsis”: that of an “ethos,” which is analogously a living character.

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