Aristotle's Poetics defines the making of a dramatic or epic tragedy and presents the general principles of the construction of this genre. Surprisingly, over the centuries authors have remained remarkably close to Aristotle's guidelines. Arthur Miller's twentieth century tragedy Death of a Salesman is an example of this adherence to Aristotle's prescription for tragedy. It is significant to test Aristotle's definition and requirements of tragedy by comparison and contrast, against a contemporary tragedy and to make observations with regard to what influence society and culture may have on the genre. This discussion however, will be confined to the realm of plot and the more notable aspects of the construction of the incidents in tragedy because of the complexity of this element.
Aristotle's attention throughout much of Poetics is directed towards the requirements and expectations of plot. Plot, 'the soul of tragedy', Aristotle says, must be an imitation of a noble and complete action. In Death of a Salesman, Miller does provide a complete action, that is it has what Aristotle identifies as a beginning, a middle, and an end. These divisible sections must, and do in the case of Death of a Salesman, meet the criterion of their respective placement. Whether Miller provides a nobel action, however, is an issue of culture. Willy Loman ultimately takes his own life so that his son Biff may benefit from the insurance money that he will receive. The question then, is according to our culture is his suicide noble? Since Willy's suicide is perpetrated for Biff's benefit, one could view this act as sacrifice. Sacrifice is in our culture, a pious and admirable quality, one of...
... middle of paper ...
...ath of a Salesman' Twentieth Century Literature. January, 1972. 19-24. Rpt. in World Literary Criticism. Ed. Frank Magill. 'Arthur Miller' Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. 2366-2368.
Hayman, Ronald. Arthur Miller. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1972.
Hoeveler, D. J. 'Ben's Influence.' Arthur Miller?s Death of a Salesman: Modern Critical Interpretations. Ed. Harold Blum. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1988. 72-81.
Magill, Frank. 'Death of a Salesman.' Master Plots. Englewood Cliffs: Salem, 1976. 1365-1368.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin, 1949.
---. Conversations With Arthur Miller. Jackson: Mississippi UP, 1987.
Parker, Brian. 'Point of View in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.' Arthur Miller: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Robert Corrigan. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1969. 98-107.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- 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)
- What is man’s focus in life. What is man’s purpose in life. Is it materialism and/or the prospect of how others may view him. Should man put their trust in God’s Word the Bible or leave it up to himself. In “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, but is it correct to define this theatric drama as a tragedy. According to Klaas Tindemans, “Aristotle’s concept of tragedy has been perceived as both a descriptive and a normative concept: a description of a practice as it should be continued” therefore, Aristotle’s definition of tragedy could be considered complex.... [tags: Literary Review]
1418 words (4.1 pages)
- The Influences of Tragedy in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman “A salesman has got to dream” (Miller ). That sums up Willy Loman’s life in just one sentence. Willy is a sixty-three year old salesman with two son, Biff and Happy, and loving, supportive wife, Linda. In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Willy tries to provide for his family while struggling with financial, emotional, psychological, and suicidal issues. Willy commits suicide at the end of the play, with the help of his dead brother Ben, in believing that the action is the only way he could provide for his family one last time.... [tags: identity, suicide, dream, Willy Loman, success]
1047 words (3 pages)
- Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman as Classic Greek Tragedy Miller’s Death of a Salesman is an interesting and complex play set at a time of great change in America. Some people believe that it is one of a few classic tragedies written in modern time. While on the surface this play and characters don't appear to hold the definition of tragedy that Aristotle described. In a modern context I believe it may be very close to fitting that mold. Willy is a person that has always been a dreamer. Willy is very proud and self reliant in his approach to life.... [tags: Death Salesman essays]
1170 words (3.3 pages)
- The idea of dramatic tragedy is a classical one, discussed in Aristotle's Poetics. Before it can be established as to whether Miller really has written a tragedy or not, the very concept of tragedy must be investigated. Aristotle asserted, 'Tragedy is a representation, an imitation, of an action.1. He went on to outline the common features tragic drama must have. Tragedy has six elements, which, in order of importance, are: plot, character, thought, music, language, and spectacle. The plot requires peripeteia, anagnorisis, and cathartic effect.... [tags: Death of a Salesman Essays]
1794 words (5.1 pages)
- A tragic hero brings his own demise upon himself due to a crippling character flaw. Willy Loman from “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller satisfies the criteria for a tragic hero because his pride leads to his downfall. Despite not being a man of high estate, Willy’s readiness to “lay down his life” (miller criticism) makes him a prime example of a modern tragic hero. Willy’s pride inhibits the success of his family by feeding his egotistical nature, idealism, and false value system. Willy eventually addresses these negative traits he possesses and sacrifices himself for his family, thus satisfying Death of a Salesman as a tragic play.... [tags: pride, downfall, family, idealism, false]
802 words (2.3 pages)
- The play Death of a Salesman, written by Arthur Miller, is about an average salesman living in Brooklyn, New York in the 1940’s named Willy Loman. Willy firmly believes in the American dream and is living his life aspiring to gain the wealth and materials associated with those of higher status in society. This American dream tears apart his family and the end result is his own demise. Glengarry Glen Ross, by David Mamet, has a plot similar to Death of a Salesman in that it is about salesmen and it shows the effects of capitalism on people and society.... [tags: modern tragedy, american dream]
1067 words (3 pages)
- Tragedy is interpreted in various ways. For example the wise Greek philosopher Aristotle defines “tragedy” as a story that contains a character that commits a terrible mistake in his life that leads to his pitiful death. On the other hand, Arthur Miller defines “tragedy” as a characteristic common to all human beings who are willing to give up their lives for the necessary and righteous causes, and for their dignities. A composite definition of a tragedy is a character in a story that recognizes his awful error committed, and is willing to give his life for the necessary cause that would leads to his inevitable death.... [tags: greek philosopher, death]
869 words (2.5 pages)
- Death of a Salesman: Tragic but Not a Tragedy 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 reaso... [tags: Death Salesman Arthur Miller essays]
1374 words (3.9 pages)
- When the realities of life become too harsh, humankind has a natural tendency to choose the most convenient solution to his problem: illusion. They build dreams and fantasies to conceal the more difficult truths of their lives. In his play Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller portrays the hold of such illusions on individuals and its horrible consequences. Through the overly average, overly typical Loman family, Miller shows how dreams of a better life become, as Choudhuri put it, “fantasies to the point that the difference between illusion and reality, the Loman’s dreams and the forces of society, becomes blurred” (Choudhuri 70).... [tags: Arthur Miller]
1724 words (4.9 pages)