Modern tragedy and death of a salesman
Tragedy has evolved greatly over the years. The first tragedies date
back from the 4th century b.c. The concept of tragedy was created
first by the Greeks. A famous Greek philosopher, Aristotle, first
analysed the principles of good tragedies.
There are specific elements present in a tragedy. Tragedy mainly deals
with the moral issues e.g., politics and ambition. All tragedies have
a protagonist (hero). This hero is made noble and has a high standing
in society. But in all tragedies the protagonist always has a fatal
flaw in his or her character. There is always a reverse of fortunes
involving the hero called peripetia.
The effect of tragedy is to stimulate feelings of pity and fear, which
leads to catharsis, which brings about purging. Tragedies put you the
audience in the position of the protagonist. So you feel what the
character in the play is feeling. The undermining of hubris is always
confirmed by re-establishing the order that was at the beginning. For
example in Romeo and Juliet, these two 'star crossed lovers' had to
die before their parents realised how much hate and controversy was
bought about by their feud.
Once their pride had fallen order and peace was once again restored in
Verona. Tragedies that are most effective have the whole of the action
set in one day. Classic Greek tragedies
were those in which was set in
one day, and there is only one plot, no sub plots. By focusing an
intensive concentration on one place, it has a more psychological
effect on the audience.
Miller believes few tragedies are written in this modern age because
society is more diverse. In the modern world there is a much wider
range of world views
on life that are contested extensively by people.
This makes it difficult for the writer to write a tragic play
We think of ourselves with an enhanced sense of realism. In the past
your importance consisted in the role you played within the order and
in the structure of your particular society. Today in the modern
period we, because of democracy and our enhanced sense of
individualism, consider ourselves to be the hero's of our lives.
It is this type of thinking and our way of life that prevent writers
from writing tragedies. But in previous times things were different.
The writers and philosophers of an earlier time used widely held ideas
to their advantage. Sometimes that would trigger emotions or feelings
to the people of that time, to see those higher up in the hierarchy,
who are superior to them, to fail, and fall (metaphorically).
By having this type of audience, the writers of that time were writing
great tragedies which had a huge emotional effect on the audience.
Those tragedies if played now in modern society would not have the
same effect as they did when they were written but nevertheless are
still considered to be great writings.
In my opinion it is not the tragedy which has evolved, rather than the
audience, and because of this tragedy has been forced to alter its
structure to fit in with modern society. I think if Shakespeare,
Aeschylus and all the other dead tragedy writers were to write a
tragedy today they would not make such an impact, as they would if
they wrote in the 4th century b.c. In the 4th century b.c there was
very little form of entertainment that was artificial. Now there are
other things to stimulate our emotions. Like the competitiveness of
sport, the soap operas which tackle real life issues.
Soaps are the closest thing to tragedy today. This is because tragedy
needs a protagonist. If we all are the hero's of our own lives there
is no-one who could take a dramatic fall in their life.
So if a hero's life in our society is thrown into oppression no-one
cares, because in this world and society it is dog eat dog, everyone
is in it for themselves. To conclude I think tragedy has not changed
much. It has only changed to suit the newer concepts of life, it is
forced into this because of the wider range of views, and because the
world is closer together. A tragedy could never stimulate high
emotions it so once could, so tragedy has been in decline due to the
change in opinions.
Dramaturgy is an effective tool used by writers of plays to make the
audience or reader think what the actor is feeling. This can be very
difficult when writing but the difficulty is eased when; lighting,
stage directions and multiple appearances of the same prop are used.
The first theme if Death of a Salesman is ''the American dream''.
Willy believes in this wholeheartedly, that a well-liked and
personally attractive man in business will deservedly acquire the
material comforts offered by modern American life. Willy's idea of the
American dream is not what it really seems. The American dream
identifies that hard work without complaint is the key to success.
Willy's interpretation of likeability is superficial; he childishly
hates Bernard and considers Bernard a nerd. Willy's blind faith and
his stunted vision of the American dream leads to his rapid
psychological decline when he is unable to accept the gap between
dream and his life as it is. Willy's life was marred with abandonment,
first he father left him and then his brother Ben left him leaving him
nothing. Ben leaves Willy to lose himself in a destroyed vision of the
American dream. Willy develops a fear of abandonment, which makes him
want his family to conform to the American dream. His efforts to raise
perfect sons failed appallingly.
The young Biff completely drops any respect he had for his father when
he found out about Willy's adultery. Biff's inability to succeed in
business furthers his estrangement from Willy. Right when Willy
believes Biff is closest to greatness, it is shattered when Biff and
Happy abandon Willy and leave him babbling to himself in the toilet.
Props used in this play, played a big role in representing abstract
ideas and concepts. Firstly I would begin with the seeds. The seeds
represent the worth of his labour, both as a salesman and a father.
His desperately hopeless attempt to grow vegetables signifies his
shame about barely having enough money to put food on the table, and
having nothing to leave his children after he passes on.
The seeds symbolise Willy's sense of failure with Biff, Willy's
efforts to cultivate Biff went awry and realising that his American
football-star of a son is just a lazy nobody who achieved nothing,
Willy takes Biff's failure and lack of ambition as a reflection of his
abilities as a father.
Secondly Linda's stockings. Willy's strange obsession with the
condition of Linda's stockings foreshadows his later flashback when
young Biff's discovery of him and the un-named woman in Willy's Boston
hotel room. To Biff giving away Linda's stocking were like committing
himself and his manhood to another woman, this one thing probably
finished off the relationship between Biff and Willy. One of the most
important props is the rubber hose. The rubber hose is a stage prop
that reminds the audience of Willy's desperate attempt at suicide. He
has apparently attempted to kill himself by inhaling gas. Literal
death by inhaling gas parallels the metaphorical death that Willy
feels in his struggle to afford such a basic necessity such as heating
for his home.
Willy Loman is a failure as a family man, is an anti-hero, and never
achieves the American dream. His life is an example of a true
downfall, which affects those close to him. As a result his death is
the final confirmation of his failed life, and reiterates everything
that is stressed in Miller's play. True success could never be
achieved in his life even if he had made multitudes of sales. By
giving up his dreams and desires Willy died, that led him to become
every bit of the failure that he will always be remembered as.