- Slides: 27
Arthur Miller: Biography and Expressionism
Mr. Miller Himself • Mr. Miller recently passed away at the age of 89 on February 11, 2005. He died of heart failure at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut. • According to CNN. com, “[his plays] made him one of the leading lights of 20 th century theatre…”
The Travels of Death • • • 1950 - first sound recording of Death 1951 - 1 st film version 1951 - 1952 - US Tour 1954 - 1 st radio production 1983 - Miller directs Death in China 1985 - film version with Dustin Hoffman on CBS; 25 million see it!
Ta-Dah! 1999 revival of Death on Broadway on the plays’ 50 th anniversary
Miller’s Legal Troubles • Suspected of being a Communist sympathizer • Death seen as un-American • Miller has troubles with the HUAC/Mc. Carthy • 1953 - Miller denied a passport • 1955 - HUAC pressures NYC not to allow Miller to make a film for them on juvenile delinquency
The Saga Continues. . . • 1957 - Miller convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to names And then. . . • 1958 - US Court of Appeals overturns his contempt conviction
Miller’s Assertions • Death is not a “document of pessimism. ” • Death is not un-American; it celebrates the life of Willy Loman. • Miller believes that tragedy is “inherently optimistic. ”
The Play’s Original Title? The Inside of His Head
Biff’s comment • “He’s [Willy] got no character—Charley wouldn’t do this. Not in his own house— spewing out that vomit from his mind”(1346)
Let’s think about Expressionism Note Miller’s use of music and sound… “A melody is heard, played upon a flute. It is small and fine, telling of grass and tress and the horizon” (1321).
More Music… “From the right, Willy Loman, the Salesman, enters, carrying two large sample cases. The flute plays on. He hears but is not aware of it” (1321).
What’s the Connection? Willy: No, Ben! Please tell about Dad. I want my boys to hear. I want them to know the kind of stock they spring from. All I remember is a man with a big beard, and I was in Mamma’s lap. Sitting around a fire, and some kind of high music. Ben: His flute. He played the flute. Willy: Sure, the flute, that’s right! (New music is heard, a high, rollicking tune. )(1342).
What about the characters? “the gay music of the boys is heard” (1362).
“A single trumpet note jars the ear. The light of green leaves stain the house, which holds the air of night and a dream”(1374).
Transition Music • As Willy moves from Charley’s office to the restaurant, “All light blacks out. Suddenly raucous music is heard, and a red glow rises behind the screen at right”(1368).
Ben: “And it does take a great kind of man to crack the jungle. (In accents of dread, Ben’s idyllic music starts up. )(1388)
Late in Act 2 “Willy (uttering a gasp of fear, whirling about as if to quiet her. ) Sh! (He turns as if to find his way; sounds, faces, voices, seem to be swarming in upon him and he flicks at them crying) Sh! (Suddenly music, faint and high, stops him. It rises in intensity, almost to an unbearable scream”(1389).
“As the car speeds off, the music crashes down in a frenzy of sound, which becomes the soft pulsation of a single cello string…Linda slowly walks out of her room. The music has developed into a dead march” (1389).
What about the setting? “The entire setting is wholly or, in some places, partially transparent…Whenever the action is in the present the actors observe the imaginary wall lines, entering the house only through its door at the left.
“But in the scenes of the past these boundaries are broken, and characters enter or leave a room by stepping ‘through’ a wall onto the forestage”(1321).
More on setting Biff: “(goes through wall-line of kitchen to doorway at back and calls down). Fellas! Everybody sweep out the furnace room! I’ll be right down!”(1334)
What about time? • “Time, William, time! (1389)
What about time in the play? • There’s a mixture of past and present. • Willy’s “imaginings” are called “psychic projections of hallucinations. ” • When the play opens, it’s evening. Linda wants him to get ready for bed. He comments, “I’ll start out in the morning. Maybe I’ll feel better in the morning”(1322).
And then? As Act 2 opens, “Music is heard, gay and bright. The curtain rises as the music fades away. Willy, in shirt sleeves, is sitting at the kitchen table, sipping coffee, his hat in his lap. Willy: Wonderful coffee. Meal in itself. Linda: Can I make you some eggs? (1353)
Then it’s Evening… That evening at Frank’s Chop House, Willy meets the boys for dinner: Biff: Sit down, Pop. You want a drink? Willy: Sure, I don’t mind. Biff: Let’s get a load on. Willy: You look worried. Biff: N-no. Scotch all around. Make it doubles”(1372).
And Finally, late in Act 2 Linda: Be good. You’re both good boys, just act that way, that’s all. Happy: ‘Night, Pop. Linda: Come. Dear…. Willy: “I just want to get settled down, Linda. Let me sit alone for a little”(1388).
High Praise “Death of a Salesman stunned audiences with its brilliance and was quickly earmarked as a classic of the modern theatre. ”