Willy Loman, the title character of the play, Death of Salesman, exhibits all the characteristics of a modern tragic hero. This essay will support this thesis by drawing on examples from Medea by Euripedes, Poetics by Aristotle, Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, and Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, while comments by Moss, Gordon, and Nourse reinforce the thesis.
Death of Salesman, by Arthur Miller, fits the characteristics of classic tragedy. ?.... this is, first of all, a play about a man's death. And tragedy has from the beginning dealt with this awesome experience, regarding it as significant and moving.? (Nourse). The first defining point of a tragedy is the hero. The traits for a tragic hero, as defined by Aristotle in Poetics, are social rank, hamartia, ability to arouse pity, peripeteia, hubris, and anagnorisis. Will Loman's classification as a tragic hero has been debated because he lacks the high social rank and nobility to be considered so. Arthur Miller chose to argue this, however, by stating that Willy Loman was ?a very brave spirit who cannot settle for but must pursue his dream of himself to the end,? (Moss, 27) reasserting the character of a modern hero as noble, not in position ...
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... Twayne Publishers, 1967.
Nourse, Joan T. Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman' and 'All My Sons.' New York, 1965.
Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Elements of Literature. Ed. Edwina McMahon et al. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1997.
Sophocles. "Oedipus Rex." Elements of Literature. Ed. Robert Scholes, Nancy Comley, Carl H. Klaus, and David Staines. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1990. 714-757.
Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1991.
Clinton W. Trowbridge, "Arthur Miller: Between Pathos and Tragedy," Arthur Miller, ed. Harold Bloom (New York: Chelsea House, 1987)
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