Death of a Salesman

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Death of a Salesman
DeathOfASalesman.jpg
First edition cover (Viking Press)
Written byArthur Miller
CharactersWilly Loman
Linda Loman
Biff Loman
Happy Loman
Ben Loman
Bernard
Charley
The Woman
Howard
Date premieredFebruary 10, 1949
Place premieredMorosco Theatre
New York City
Original languageEnglish
SubjectThe waning days of a failing salesman
GenreTragedy
SettingLate 1940s; Willy Loman's house; New York City and Barnaby River; Boston
 
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This article is about the play. For other uses, see Death of a Salesman (disambiguation).
Death of a Salesman
DeathOfASalesman.jpg
First edition cover (Viking Press)
Written byArthur Miller
CharactersWilly Loman
Linda Loman
Biff Loman
Happy Loman
Ben Loman
Bernard
Charley
The Woman
Howard
Date premieredFebruary 10, 1949
Place premieredMorosco Theatre
New York City
Original languageEnglish
SubjectThe waning days of a failing salesman
GenreTragedy
SettingLate 1940s; Willy Loman's house; New York City and Barnaby River; Boston

Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play written by American playwright Arthur Miller. It was the recipient of the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. The play premiered on Broadway in February 1949, running for 742 performances, and has been revived on Broadway four times,[1] winning three Tony Awards for Best Revival.

Plot[edit]

Willy Loman returns home exhausted after a cancelled business trip. Worried over Willy's state of mind and recent car accident, his wife Linda suggests that he ask his boss Howard Wagner to allow him to work in his home city so he will not have to travel. Willy complains to Linda that their son, Biff, has yet to make good on his life. Despite Biff's promise as an athlete in high school, he flunked senior-year math and never went to college.

Biff and his brother Happy, who are temporarily staying with Willy and Linda after Biff's unexpected return from the West, reminisce about their childhood together. They discuss their father's mental degeneration, which they have witnessed in the form of his constant vacillations and talking to himself. Willy walks in, angry that the two boys have never amounted to anything. In an effort to pacify their father, Biff and Happy tell Willy that Biff plans to make a business proposition the next day.

The next day, Willy goes to ask his boss, Howard, for a job in town while Biff goes to make a business proposition, but neither is successful. Willy gets angry and ends up getting fired when the boss tells him he needs a rest and can no longer represent the company. Biff waits hours to see a former employer who does not remember him and turns him down. Biff impulsively steals a fountain pen. Willy then goes to the office of his neighbor Charley, where he runs into Charley's son Bernard (now a successful lawyer); Bernard tells him that Biff originally wanted to do well in summer school, but something happened in Boston when Biff went to visit Willy that changed his mind.

Happy, Biff, and Willy meet for dinner at a restaurant, but Willy refuses to hear bad news from Biff. Happy tries to get Biff to lie to their father. Biff tries to tell him what happened as Willy gets angry and slips into a flashback of what happened in Boston the day Biff came to see him. Willy had been having an affair with a receptionist on one of his sales trips when Biff unexpectedly arrived at Willy's hotel room. A shocked Biff angrily confronted his father, calling him a liar and a fraud. From that moment, Biff's views of his father changed and set Biff adrift.

Biff leaves the restaurant in frustration, followed by Happy and two girls that Happy has picked up. They leave a confused and upset Willy behind in the restaurant. When they later return home, their mother angrily confronts them for abandoning their father while Willy remains talking to himself outside. Biff goes outside to try to reconcile with Willy. The discussion quickly escalates into another argument, at which point Biff forcefully tries to convey to his father that he is not meant for anything great, insisting that both of them are simply ordinary men meant to lead ordinary lives. The feud culminates with Biff hugging Willy and crying as he tries to get Willy to let go of the unrealistic expectations that he still has for him and to accept him for who he really is. He tells his father he loves him.

Rather than listen to what Biff actually says, Willy thinks his son has forgiven him and thinks Biff will now pursue a career as a businessman. Willy kills himself, intentionally crashing his car so that Biff can use the life insurance money to start his business. However, at the funeral Biff retains his belief that he does not want to become a businessman. Happy, on the other hand, chooses to follow in his father's footsteps.

Characters[edit]

Productions[edit]

The original Broadway production was produced by Kermit Bloomgarden and opened at the Morosco Theatre on February 10, 1949, closing on November 18, 1950, after 742 performances. The play starred Lee J. Cobb as Willy Loman, Mildred Dunnock as Linda, Arthur Kennedy as Biff and Cameron Mitchell as Happy. Albert Dekker and Gene Lockhart later played Willy Loman during the original Broadway run. It won the Tony Award for Best Play, Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Arthur Kennedy), Best Scenic Design (Jo Mielziner), Producer (Dramatic), Author (Arthur Miller), and Director (Elia Kazan), as well as the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play. Jayne Mansfield performed in a production of the play in Dallas, Texas, in October 1953. Her performance in the play attracted Paramount Pictures to hire her for the studio's film productions.[3]

The play has been revived on Broadway four times:

It was also part of the inaugural season of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1963.

Christopher Lloyd portrayed Willy Loman in a 2010 production by the Weston Playhouse in Weston, Vermont, which toured several New England venues.[5]

Film and television adaptations[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

1949 Broadway
1975 Broadway revival
1984 Broadway revival
1999 Broadway revival

2012 Broadway revival

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Death of a Salesman". Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Martin Gottfried (2004). Arthur Miller: His Life and Work. Perseus Books Group. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-306-81377-1. 
  3. ^ Sullivan, Steve. Va Va Voom, General Publishing Group, Los Angeles, California, p.50.
  4. ^ Gans, Andrew."Starry Revival of Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman' Opens on Broadway" playbill.com, March 15, 2012
  5. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (25 August 2010). "Christopher Lloyd stars in 'Death of a Salesman'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-09-08. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

"Death of a Salesman" at Playbill Vault :