Though a more modern version of tragedy in its’ classical sense, Death of a Salesman in many ways is very much like an ancient Greek play. In his ‘Poetics’ Aristotle tries to set out the common ideas throughout tragedy, attempting to demystify the necessary elements for such plays. One of his main ideas was that of the ‘Three Unities’ - that of Space, that of Time and that of Action. He stated that all the action of a tragedy must occur in the place, which was often the front of a palace, which allowed the poet to have many characters coming and going, and allowed random meetings to occur easily, rather than having to ‘explain’ the reason why any meeting should occur. It was, however, possible for the poet to bring in events occurring in other places through the use of messengers, who could talk about the events without the audience seeing them.
All the action would have to unfold in one day, and must be played out in ‘real time’ - the time would pass as fast for the characters in the play as for the actors and the audience watching. This prevented the use of act and scene breaks, as time could not jump forward, it had to pass normally. Again references to the past often came in the form of speech from characters whom often had not been seen for a very long time, such as the shepherd in Oedipus Rex who explains how he had come by Oedipus as a baby whilst attending his flock.
The entire play had to revolve around a single plot, and subplots, such as you see in many of Shakespeare’s comedies, were not allowed. Aristotle reasoned that if there were other plots interfering with and infringing upon the main plot we could not concentrate entirely on Antigony’s plight, ...
... middle of paper ...
...ccept his refusal to act rationally. An audience can accept that ‘true’ tragic heroes are often irrational, and driven by very different feelings from those of normal human beings, but in the end, Willy Loman does not evoke tragic emotion because he is, simply, a dime a dozen.
Works Cited and Consulted
Aristotle. Poetics. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1997.
Baym, Franklin, Gottesman, Holland, et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 4th ed. New York: Norton, 1994.
Costello, Donald P. “Arthur Miller’s Circles of Responsibility: A View From a Bridge and Beyond.” Modern Drama. 36 (1993): 443-453
Florio, Thomas A., ed. “Miller’s Tales.” The New Yorker. 70 (1994): 35-36.
Martin, Robert A., ed. Arthur Miller. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Viking, 1965.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- In a classic moment of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, we find Willy Loman and his two sons wondering about the fate of the people of New York, and themselves. In this moment, one of the most heart-rending and emotional lines of the play is generated, by Biff, the son of Willy, about a third, unimportant character. Biff says: “He’s liked, but he’s not well liked.”1 This is used throughout the rest of the play to demonstrate importance or a sense of worth, but it is never more intense and touching as when Biff says it here.... [tags: Death of a Salesman, Tragedy, Life, Tragic hero]
1554 words (4.4 pages)
- ... Biff tells Happy that his father has got “to understand that I’m not the man somebody lends that kind of money to. He thinks I’ve been spiting him all these years and it’s eating him up” (Miller, 2375). As Biff experiences his epiphany to forge ahead and announce the truth, he is liberated from the chains of unsettling lies he has lived with. Willy, however, avoids his defeat in reality and does not wish to leave behind the fantasy of his American Dream. The tragedy in Willy Loman’s character is seen as he fails to accept the truth, but despite his weakness, Willy asks Ben to reconstruct the altered concept of his life: The life full of lights and great times with some kind of good news... [tags: Tragedy, Tragic hero, Poetics, Drama]
829 words (2.4 pages)
- Death of a Salesman - A Modern Day Tragedy 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.... [tags: Death of a Salesman]
1182 words (3.4 pages)
- Modern domestic tragedies began between the late 19th century and feature ordinary people to be the heroes/anti-heroes unlike Greek tragedies in which the protagonist was of high status or noble birth. “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller is a classic example of this and features the anti-hero Willy showing the audience how his perfect family lifestyle has falling apart contributing to the disorder of his world which increases as his mind slowly deteriorates. Through the play Willy is striving to live the American Dream; to have a better, richer and happier life.... [tags: Death of a Salesman, Aurthur Miller, tragedy, ]
916 words (2.6 pages)
- Northrop Frye states in his book Anatomy of Criticism that the tragic hero is “on top of the wheel of fortune, halfway between human society on the ground and the something greater in the sky”. The book also declares that tragic heroes are “inevitable conductors of the power around them”, and conductors may be victims as well as instruments of destruction (website). Willy Loman, the epitome of a tragic hero, brings suffering upon not only himself, but others, including his wife and sons. Willy establishes Northrop Frye's definition of a tragic hero through the suffering of both himself and his friends and family, and this suffering contributes to the great tragic vision of the play as a whol... [tags: Arthur Miller, Tragedy, Literary Analysis]
518 words (1.5 pages)
- Death of a Salesman is a Tragedy as Defined in Miller's Tragedy and the Common Man In Tragedy and the Common Man, Arthur Miller discusses his definition and criteria for tragedy as they apply to the common man. The criteria and standards proposed by Miller may be used to evaluate his timeless work, Death of A Salesman. The first major standard of tragedy set forth is: “...if the exaltation of tragic action were truly a property of the high-bred character alone, it is inconceivable that the mass of mankind should cherish tragedy above all other forms.” All persons regardless of background, nobility stature, rank, or pretended or actual social division can innately empathize with the tragic... [tags: Death of a Salesman]
1049 words (3 pages)
- Common Man as Tragic Hero in Death of a Salesman What is tragedy. While the literal definition may have changed over the centuries, one man believed he knew the true meaning of a tragic performance. Aristotle belonged to the culture that first invented tragic drama – the ancient Greeks. Through this, he gave himself credibility enough to illustrate the universally necessary elements of tragic drama. In The Poetics, Aristotle gives a clear definition of a tragedy, writing that it is “an imitation, through action rather than narration, of a serious, complete, and ample action, by means of language rendered pleasant at different places in the constituent parts by each of the aids [used to... [tags: Death Salesman Miller essays]
1533 words (4.4 pages)
- It is known that in literature, a tragedy is one of the most popular genres. It always combines some story which discusses human sufferings with a certain sense of audience fulfillment. The roots of the tragedy are related to ancient Greece. A Greek tragedy is a sad story, which represents a character with a tragic flaw leading to his downfall. In addition, in traditional tragedy, the main character falls from high authority and often it is predetermined by fate, while the audience experiences catharsis (Bloom 2).... [tags: Death of a Salesman]
1644 words (4.7 pages)
- In the writing world today, there are many definitions for technical terms that are used to describe certain genres of theatre, music and literature. There are romantic novels, musical dramas, and tragic plays. Tragedy is a difficult genre to pinpoint and label. The title ‘tragedy’ can be placed on virtually any piece of writing that involves a death. But it also is up to the individual as to what they believe a tragedy is defined as. The play, Death of a Salesman is not tragedy in the traditional sense of the word.... [tags: Literary Analysis]
922 words (2.6 pages)
- Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is A Modern Tragedy In the fourth century B.C., Aristotle set forth his description of dramatic tragedy, and for centuries after, tragedy continued to be defined by his basic observations. It was not until the modern age that playwrights began to deviate somewhat from the basic tenets of Aristotelian tragedy and, in doing so, began to create plays more recognizable to the common people and, thereby, less traditional. Even so, upon examination, the basic plot structure of some modern tragedies actually differs very little from that of the ancient classics.... [tags: Death Salesman essays]
1053 words (3 pages)