The nineteenth century can be described as the Melodramatic Era. In the Dutch theatres the public delighted in watching foreign melodramatic plays, usually in translation, like those by the German writers August von Kotzebue and August Wilhelm Iffland, and the French playwright Victor Ducange. This article focuses on the Leiden theatre during the years 1813–1860. What was the repertoire like? How did religious factions perceive theatre? During this time, Leiden was — partly due to the presence of the university — an important cultural centre in the Netherlands. Literary societies debated the necessity of creating a stronger national theatre tradition which was expected to fulfil a significant social function. I would like to reconstruct this debate and demonstrate that there remained a gap between institutional and public literary tastes.