Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Arthur Miller

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
English Literature

Arthur Miller (1915-2005) was an American playwright, screenwriter, and essayist. He has won several Tony Awards. One of his most well-known works is the tragedy Death of a Salesman (1949).

Arthur Miller: Biography

On 17 October 1915, Arthur Miller was born in Harlem, New York City. He was of Jewish and Polish descent. His father, Isidore Miller, owned a clothing manufacturing business which he lost because of the Wall Street stock-market crash of 1929. Subsequently, the family moved to Brooklyn. Miller delivered bread to make ends meet and worked other odd jobs to save up money for his college tuition fees. Miller described growing up during the Great Depression in a memoir piece called A Boy Grew in Brooklyn (1955).

Miller started writing when he began his studies at the University of Michigan. In 1936, Miller wrote his first play, No Villain, which went on to receive the Avery Hopwood Award. This recognition gave young Miller the idea that he could have a career as a playwright. In 1938, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in English. Because of an injury, he didn't have to serve in the army during World War II. In 1940, Miller married Mary Slattery, and they had two children.

He started writing All My Sons in 1941. His first Broadway production, The Man Who Had All the Luck, premiered in 1944. However, the play wasn't received well, and it closed after only four performances. In 1947, Miller produced All My Sons as a second attempt to succeed on Broadway. If the play failed, this might have been his last attempt. Luckily, All My Sons turned out to be a huge success, and Miller won the Tony Award. From that point onwards, success followed. Death of a Salesman premiered in 1949, winning several awards. It was directed by Elia Kazan, who became a good friend and creative partner to Miller. In 1951, Miller met Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe, and they had an affair.

In 1952, Elia Kazan and Arthur Miller had a falling out. In American history, the period from the late 1940s to the 1950s is known for 'McCarthyism', referring to the policies introduced by Senator Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) against people who were suspected of communist activities. Kazan was called before the HUAC investigation committee (the House of Un-American Activities Committee), where he gave the names of people in the New York City theatre community who were involved in communism. As a response to Kazan's betrayal, Miller wrote The Crucible, which premiered in 1953. The dramatist based the play on the Salem witch trials of 1692-93 in Massachusetts, in which people were prosecuted and executed for alleged witchcraft, but it was also an allegory for McCarthyism.

In 1956, Miller divorced Mary Slattery and married Marilyn Monroe. The same year, he appeared before HUAC and refused to save himself from scandal by giving the names of other people involved in supposed communist activities. Miller was convicted for contempt, and he lost some of his privileges, including his US passport. Two years later, in 1958, the case was overruled.

In 1960, Arthur Miller wrote the screenplay for The Misfits, a film directed by John Huston and starring Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. At this point, Miller's marriage was falling apart. The following year, Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe had a divorce.

In 1962, Miller married Austrian photographer Inge Morath, and the couple had two children. Their son, Daniel, had Down syndrome. Miller sent him to institutions, and he wasn't keen on visiting him. In 1964, two of Miller's most well-known plays, After the Fall and Incident at Vichy, were produced. After the Fall was based on the playwright's marriage to Marilyn Monroe, and the play reunited him with Elia Kazan.

In the late 1960s, Miller's works were banned in the Soviet Union because he spoke out for the freedom of dissident writers (writers who openly disagreed with the Soviet ideology). For the rest of his career, Miller kept writing plays, screenplays, and essays while continuing to explore and experiment with theatre.

In 1897, he published his autobiography, Timebends. Miller received several awards for his achievements, including the National Medal of Arts (1993), the PEN/Laura Pels Theater Award (1998), and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (1999), among others.

Inge Morath died in 2002. In 2004, Miller announced that he was in a relationship with a much younger woman, the minimalist painter Agnes Barley. He intended to marry her, but he died on 10 February 2005 at the age of 89 in his home in Roxbury, Connecticut. The cause of death was congestive heart failure.

Arthur Miller had a writing career that spanned over half a century. His legacy includes 25 plays, numerous screenplays, essays, novels, and short stories.

Arthur Miller: Plays

Now we will explore Arthur Miller's most famous works: All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, and The Crucible.

All My Sons

Chris: I don't know why it is, but every time I reach out for something I want, I have to pull back because other people will suffer.

(Act 1)

All My Sons is a three-act play by Arthur Miller. It was written in 1946 and premiered on 19 January 1947 at the Coronet Theatre in New York City. The play was dedicated to its director, Elia Kazan. All My Sons won the Tony Award for Best Author and the Tony Award for Best Director.

All My Sons is based on a true story. It follows the immoral businessman, Joe Keller, whose son went missing during World War II. The play explores issues surrounding the economic interpretation of the American dream.

The American dream is the idea that every American citizen, no matter where they come from and what social class they belong to, can aspire to be successful in life. The American dream is based on the 1776 Declaration of Independence, which states that all people should have equal opportunities.

Did you know that the band Twenty One Pilots is named after All My Sons? In the play, Joe Keller sends faulty aeroplane parts during World War II and doesn't admit his error because he is afraid he might lose money. This results in the death of exactly 21 pilots.

Death of a Salesman

Willy: [...] You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away – a man is not a piece of fruit.

(Act 2)

Death of a Salesman is a two-act play by Arthur Miller. It was written in 1948 and premiered on 10 February 1949 at the Morosco Theatre in New York City. Death of a Salesman won the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The play is a tragedy set in New York City in the 1940s. Told through a montage of memories, it follows a travelling salesman, Willy Loman, as he struggles to survive in a success-driven society. Death of a Salesman explores the place of an everyday man in society and the pressures of the American dream.

Arthur Miller The Crucible

Proctor: I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another. I have no tongue for it.

(Act 4)

Arthur Miller's The Crucible is a four-act play. It was first performed on 22 January 1953 at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York City.

The play is about the Salem witch trials of 1692-93. Miller used this historical event to allude to his own time, the 1950s. The witch hunt is an allegory for McCarthyism and the persecution of Americans involved in communist activities. The Crucible discusses what suspicion and fear can do to a community.

Arthur Miller's Main Themes

Let's discuss three of the main themes in Arthur Miller's works: society vs the individual, guilt and blame, and the American dream.

Society vs the individual

Arthur Miller explores the complex relationship between individuals and the rest of society. The characters in Miller's plays try to follow the ways of society, but at the same time, they have their own inner guidance.

In Death of a Salesman, the main character Willy Loman maintains false beliefs about himself and his sons that don't match the way that society perceives them.

In The Crucible, the character John Proctor refuses to confess to something he hasn't done, even when his life depends on it. His personal integrity is more important to him than conforming to what his community expects of him.

Guilt and Blame

In his works, Miller explores the guilt that is a part of a person's inner world and the blame that triggers it from the outside.

The Crucible is a play that describes the moral degradation of a community operating on blame. The people of Salem are forced to admit they're guilty of crimes they didn't commit. The cycle of accusation leads to hysteria, and it exposes the cruellest side of human nature.

In All My Sons, Joe Keller is plagued by the guilt that he doesn't admit to. When he is blamed for his actions, he keeps coming up with excuses.

The American Dream

Miller was critical of the American dream ideal and the decisions American people resort to taking in order to achieve it.

Death of a Salesman explores the romanticised view that Willy Loman has of the American dream. In theory, equal opportunity to achieve high goals is a good idea. However, in the play, Miller shows us that the competition and pressures that this idea creates can destroy a person's life.

Arthur Miller importance to English Literature

Arthur Miller is one of the most influential American playwrights whose name is recognised all over the world. His plays are considered classics in the canon of American drama.

The realism in Miller's works depicts the society in which the characters coexist. At the same time, through the use of expressionist techniques, the dramatist shows the audience the inner reality of the characters.

Realism in theatre aims to mirror real life on stage. There are several dramatic techniques that help to achieve that, including a realistic set and costumes, linear narrative structure, and authentic rather than poetic dialogues.

Expressionism in theatre is known for its exaggerated (rather than realistic) dramatic techniques and staging that are used to express the inner emotions of the characters to the audience. Expressionist techniques include abstract settings, episodic structures, and fragmented dialogues.

Arthur Miller's plays are still popular in many countries, but they are especially popular in the place they were first staged – on Broadway in New York City.

Arthur Miller - Key takeaways

  • Arthur Miller was an American dramatist, screenwriter, and essayist. He was one of the most influential American playwrights of the 20th century. Miller has won several Tony Awards.
  • On 17 October 1915, Arthur Miller was born in Harlem, New York City. He died on 10 February 2005 in his home in Roxbury, Connecticut.
  • Between 1956 and 1961, Arthur Miller was married to Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe.
  • Arthur Miller's most well-known plays are All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), and The Crucible (1953).
  • The main themes in Miller's works are society vs the individual, guilt and blame, and the American dream.

Arthur Miller

3 interesting facts about Arthur Miller:

1. Arthur Miller was of Jewish and Polish descent.

2. In the late 1960s, Miller's works were banned in the Soviet Union because he spoke out for the freedom of dissident writers (writers who openly disagreed with the Soviet ideology).

3. Arthur Miller wrote the screenplay for The Misfits (1961), a film starring Marilyn Monroe, while his marriage to her was falling apart.

Arthur Miller was born in Harlem, New York City.

Arthur Miller died in Roxbury, Connecticut.

Arthur Miller is famous for exploring both the inner world of his characters and the external societal issues they face. His most well-known play is Death of a Salesman (1949). Arthur Miller is also known for his marriage to Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe.

In his plays, Arthur Miller was critical of the American dream ideal and the decisions American people resort to taking in order to achieve it.

Final Arthur Miller Quiz

Question

True or false: Death of a Salesman follows the last 24 hours of Willy Loman's life.

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

True or false: Happy has witnessed Willy's infidelity.

Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

Question

How does Willy justify his sucide?

Show answer

Answer

He wants the insurance money to go to his elder son, Biff, and to pay off the family's debts.

Show question

Question

The seeds are NOT a symbol of....?

Show answer

Answer

 Willy's hidden fortune

Show question

Question

True or false: the melody of the flute symbolises Willy's memories. 


Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

True or false: Willy gives stockings to his wife, Linda.

Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

Question

Which member of the Loman family breaks free from the illusions they live on?

Show answer

Answer

Biff

Show question

Question

True or false: after Willy dies, Happy decides to follow in his footsteps.

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

'You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away - a man is not a piece of fruit.'


What is the meaning of this quote?


Show answer

Answer

People should not be disposable, they're not only as valuable as the profit they make. 


Show question

Question

True or false: Willy Loman has an idealised view of the American Dream.

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

Which dead person does Willy talk to when he hallucinates?

Show answer

Answer

His brother

Show question

Question

Who is aware of Willy's first attempt to commit suicide?

Show answer

Answer

Linda

Show question

Question

True or false: the play takes place entirely in the present.

Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

Question

Arthur Miller grew up in....

Show answer

Answer

Brooklyn, New York City

Show question

Question

True or false: Arthur Miller wrote his first play, No Villain (1936), when he was at college (university).

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

True or false: Miller served in the army during World War II. The experience inspired some of his works.

Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

Question

True or false: both Arthur Miller and the director Elia Kazan were called before HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Committee).

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

True or false: the famous actress Marilyn Monroe was Miller's only wife.

Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

Question

Which play doesn't discuss the American Dream?

Show answer

Answer

The Crucible (1953)


Show question

Question

Which play explores the place of an everyday man in society?

Show answer

Answer

Death of a Salesman (1949)


Show question

Question

Which of these is NOT one of the main themes in Arthur Miller's works?

Show answer

Answer

The history of art

Show question

Question

True or false: The Crucible (1953) takes places in the 1940s.

Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

Question

True or false: Miller's plays are considered to be classics in the canon of American drama. 


Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

What techniques did Arthur Miller use to shows the audience the inner reality of the characters in his plays?

Show answer

Answer

Expressionist techniques

Show question

Question

True or false: Arthur Miller believed that the American Dream was a flawless idea.

Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

Question

True or false: in the late 17th century, the town of Salem was a theocratic community formed by Puritans.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

True or false: The Crucible is not based on a true story.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

The witch hunt is an allegory for...

Show answer

Answer

McCarthyism

Show question

Question

True or false: in The Crucible, Miller shows us that a community operating on blame and guilt is dysfunctional.

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

'I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another. I have no tongue for it.'


Which character says this?

Show answer

Answer

John Proctor

Show question

Question

Who owns the poppet that gets Elizabeth Proctor arrested?

Show answer

Answer

 Mary Warren

Show question

Question

True or false: in the end of the play, Abigail is punished for her crimes.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

True or false: Elizabeth forgives her husband, John Proctor, because he dies an honest man.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Which of these characters confesses to witchcraft?

Show answer

Answer

Mary Warren

Show question

Question

John Proctor had an affair wih....

Show answer

Answer

Abigail Williams

Show question

Question

Who is responsible for the false accusations of witchcraft that start the Salem witch trials?

Show answer

Answer

Abigail, Betty, and other girls 

Show question

Question

What is one of the main themes in The Crucible?

Show answer

Answer

Society vs the individual

Show question

Question

In the end of the play, which character feels guilty for taking part in the trials and wants to save John Proctor's life?

Show answer

Answer

Hale

Show question

More about Dramatists
60%

of the users don't pass the Arthur Miller quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.