Death of a Salesman

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Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play written by American playwright Arthur Miller. It won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. The play premiered on Broadway in February 1949, running for 742 performances, and has been revived on Broadway four times, winning three Tony Awards for Best Revival.
Arthur Miller, in full Arthur Asher Miller, (born October 17, 1915, New York, New York, U.S.—died February 10, 2005, Roxbury, Connecticut), American playwright, who combined social awareness with a searching concern for his characters’ inner lives. He is best known for Death of a Salesman (1949).
Miller was shaped by the Great Depression, which brought financial ruin onto his father, a small manufacturer, and demonstrated to the young Miller the insecurity of modern existence. After graduation from high school he worked in a warehouse. With the money he earned he attended the University of Michigan (B.A., 1938), where he began to write plays. His first public success was with Focus (1945; filmed 1962 [made-for-television]), a novel about anti-Semitism. All My Sons (1947; filmed 1948), a drama about a manufacturer of faulty war materials that strongly reflects the influence of Henrik Ibsen, was his first important play. It won Miller a Tony Award, and it was his first major collaboration with the director Elia Kazan, who also won a Tony.
Miller’s next play, Death of a Salesman, became one of the most famous American plays of its period. It is the tragedy of Willy Loman, a man destroyed by false values that are in large part the values of his society. For Miller, it was important to place “the common man” at the centre of a tragedy. As he wrote in 1949 :
    The quality in such plays [i.e., tragedies] that does shake us…derives from the underlying fear of being displaced, the disaster inherent in being torn away from our chosen image of what and who we are in this world. Among us today this fear is as strong, and perhaps stronger, than it ever was. In fact, it is the common man who knows this fear best.
Miller had been exploring the ideas underlying Death of a Salesman since he was a teenager, when he wrote a story about a Jewish salesman; he also drew on memories of an uncle. He wrote the play in 1948, and it opened in New York City, directed by Kazan, in February 1949. The play won a Tony Award for best play and a Pulitzer Prize for drama, while Miller and Kazan again each won individual Tonys, as author and director respectively. The play was later adapted for the screen (1951 and several made-for-television versions) and was revived several times on Broadway.
Miller based The Crucible (1953) on the witchcraft trials in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692–93, a series of persecutions that he considered an echo of the McCarthyism of his day, when investigations of alleged subversive activities were widespread. Though not as popular as Death of a Salesman, it won a Tony for best play. It was also adapted numerous times for film and television. In 1956, when Miller was himself called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, he refused to name people he had seen 10 years earlier at an alleged communist writers’ meeting. He was convicted of contempt but appealed and won.
A Memory of Two Mondays and another short play, A View from the Bridge, about an Italian-American longshoreman whose passion for his niece destroys him, were staged on the same bill in 1955. (A year later A View from the Bridge was performed in a revised, longer form.) After the Fall is concerned with failure in human relationships and its consequences, large and small, by way of McCarthyism and the Holocaust; it opened in January 1964, and it was understood as largely autobiographical, despite Miller’s denials.
 

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