The question which arises within Death of a Salesman is, 'Is this a
modern Tragedy?' A tragic play can be commonly observed when a
protagonist falls from a great height. His decline is not about
immediate death, although in most cases death becomes apparent at the
end of the play, e.g. Macbeth. A tragedy shows the suffering of a
character and utter compulsion of him if he does not succeed to reach
his dream. These plays show the blissful release from intolerable
suffering this character feels. In most tragedies the immediate
audience is unable to relate directly to this torture the character is
going through. They will still have emotions towards the play but
usually, e.g. Shakespeare's plays the main tragic protagonist is that
of status, a king.
Aristotelian defined tragedy as "the imitation of an action that is
serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself." It
incorporates "incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to
accomplish the catharsis of such emotions."
The tragic hero will most effectively evoke both our pity and terror
if he is neither thoroughly good nor thoroughly evil but a combination
of both. The tragic effect will be stronger if the hero is "better
than we are," in that he is of higher than ordinary moral worth. But
this is not always the case in today's modern plays such as 'Death of
In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman is seen falling from a great
height. Although, he is not born into nobility like most tragic heroes
are generally portrayed. Willy Loamn was responsible for is own fate.
At the beginning of the play within the initial flashbacks we judge
that Willy's life used to be fairly successful. Willy br...
... middle of paper ...
...lso as he too excluded his dream of
getting out of the city into open spaces and own a large ranch. Willy
thought this was a boy's dreams not a man's. Eventually he met a
tragic death. When this play was initially staged the audience
remained silent for a number of minutes after it had concluded. The
director thought that they did not enjoy it, after which he found out
that the silence was emotion as the play was so touching that the
audience could immediately reach out and relate to the Loman's life.
They did not clap immediately as they had become so engrossed with it
that their natural instincts reminded them that it was rude to clap at
a funeral. This accompanied the idea that the audience was deeply
affected by pity and fear, like all tragic plays. This clarifies to me
that this is a modern day tragedy. Approached with an air of realism,
not a faade.
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