Arthur Miller Born and raised New York Born and raised New York Dropped out of high school due to The Great Depression Dropped out of high school due to The Great Depression Went to the University of Michigan—graduated in 1938—began his writing career Went to the University of Michigan—graduated in 1938—began his writing career Started out writing radio scripts, then moved to playwriting Started out writing radio scripts, then moved to playwriting 1947—first Broadway success with All My Sons 1947—first Broadway success with All My Sons 1949—produced his best known play Death of a Salesman which won a Pulitzer Prize 1949—produced his best known play Death of a Salesman which won a Pulitzer Prize
Which play won Miller the Pulitzer Prize? a. All My Sons b. Death of a Salesman c. The Crucible :10
Miller’s political crucible Politically minded, Miller was disturbed by the 1950’s anticommunism campaign of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Miller was summoned to testify by the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 to explain his own political beliefs. Miller was uncooperative when asked to name others interested in communist meetings; he was indicted for contempt of court.
What was Arthur Miller indicted for? 1. Refusing to show up in court 2. Refusing to name his own political belief 3. Refusing to name names of others attending communist meetings 10
Miller and Monroe His personal life took an interesting turn when he married Marilyn Monroe in 1956. He wrote the play The Misfits for her to star in. They divorced in 1961. Both his ordeal with McCarthy and his marriage to Monroe kept Miller in the public eye, making his popularity as a playwright even more pronounced.
How did a marriage to Marilyn Monroe affect Miller’s Life? 1.He became more popular. 2.After the divorce, he was in a writing slump 3.No change. :10
Influences on Miller’s work Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, and Anton Chekhov (three 19 th century European playwrights) paved the way for American realist drama: They tackled subjects such as guilt, sexuality, and mental illness—subjects never portrayed on stage before. These European realists bequeathed the dramatic “slice of life” technique to their American heirs so that they, too, could write about life as it is actually lived.
The Realists dramatists wrote about taboo subjects like sex and mental illness. 10 1. True 2. False
American Realism and Eugene O’Neill Realistic drama employs the 4 th wall technique— which has the audience looking into the lives of characters as if the 4 th wall of a room is removed and we voyeuristically peer in. Realistic drama employs the 4 th wall technique— which has the audience looking into the lives of characters as if the 4 th wall of a room is removed and we voyeuristically peer in. Became dominant mode of American drama after the beginning of 20 th cent. Became dominant mode of American drama after the beginning of 20 th cent. Eugene O’Neill experimented with characters and dialogue to reveal a “new realism.” Eugene O’Neill experimented with characters and dialogue to reveal a “new realism.”
The 4 th wall technique became the prominent form of drama in the 20 th century. 1. True 2. False 10
Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams Represent 2 principal movements in modern American drama: realism and imaginative realism Miller is the playwright of our social conscience; Williams is the playwright of our souls.
Which realist dramatist is considered the playwright of our social conscience? 1.Arthur Miller 2.Tennessee Williams 10
Miller’s writing style Uses spare, plain language Characters are ordinary people caught up in social tensions Plot and character development depend upon psychological, social, philosophical, and economic atmosphere of setting About drama, Miller stated, “ To me the theater is not a disconnected entertainment, which it usually is to most people here. It’s the sound and the ring of the spirit of the people at any one time. It is where a collective mass of people, through the genius of some author, is able to project its terrors and its hopes and to symbolize them. … I personally feel that the theater has to confront the basic themes always. And the faces change from generation to generation to generation, but their roots are generally the same, and that is a question of man’s increasing awareness of himself and his environment, his quest for justice and for the right to be human.”
Which characteristics are true of Miller’s writing? 1.Elaborate characters 2.Detailed, expansive dialogue 3.Spare, plain language 10
How are Miller’s characters and plot often developed? 1.Using the social, economic atmosphere of the time 2.Using the psychological and philosophical atmosphere of the time 3.Playing upon the tensions of the time period 4.Only 1 & 2 5.All of the above 10
Puritans “recap” Left Church of England for religious freedom Left Church of England for religious freedom Eventually settled in Boston and Salem in America Eventually settled in Boston and Salem in America Established theocracy, a fusion of church and state Established theocracy, a fusion of church and state Laws based on religious and moral precepts Laws based on religious and moral precepts Judgment and punishment were harsh Judgment and punishment were harsh
Setting of the play Literal Literal 1692 1692 Massachusetts Massachusetts Small rooms, simply furnished Small rooms, simply furnished Claustrophobic —both intellectually and physically Claustrophobic —both intellectually and physically Symbolic Symbolic 1953 1953 United States— post WWII United States— post WWII Anywhere a communist “witch-hunt” was taking place Anywhere a communist “witch-hunt” was taking place Claustrophobic- -intellectually Claustrophobic- -intellectually
Which setting had the small simple rooms set in 1692? 1. Literal 2. Symbolic :10
Cast of Characters John Proctor: farmer, husband of Elizabeth, adulterer with Abigail Williams, respected in community, honest and blunt, practical Elizabeth Proctor: wife, morally good, unforgiving at first, suspicious Abigail Williams: niece of Rev. Samuel Parris, 17 years old, seductress of John Proctor, manipulative, intelligent
Characters cont. Rev. Samuel Parris: village minister, indecisive, hypocritical, worried about his social position, weak/materialistic man Rev. John Hale: renowned witchcraft expert, sincere but somewhat narrow minded, willing to change his mind Deputy Gov. Danforth: highest ranking civil authority, presides over witch trials, hard and determined, unable to admit error Mary Warren: shy, lonely, teenager, Proctors’ servant, easy target for Abigail’s manipulation
Take a guess: who’s going to be the villains? 1.Elizabeth Proctor 2.Abigail Williams 3.Deputy Governor Danforth 4.John Proctor 5.Both 1 & 4 6.Both 2 & 3 7.All of the above
Questions to consider for themes What constitutes true authority? What is the proper application of authority? How can people deal with sin and guilt? What responsibility does an individual have to speak out against injustice? Is it possible to apply the logic and rationalism of justice to fear and hysteria? In what ways can appearances misrepresent reality? What are the consequences of revenge for the individual and society?
Remember to read all narrative notes-- They represent Arthur Miller himself talking to you, telling you what you need to know to understand the dual nature of the play. Enjoy a piece of dramatic history!
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