Arthur Miller’s eloquence, insight into human frailty and his powerful commitment to human justice have been felt on stage and screen for over five decades. Death of a Salesman, All My Sons
and The Crucible
are three of the great plays in postwar American drama, exposing the hysteria and hypocrisy of the McCarthy era. The Misfits was written in 1957 for Marilyn Monroe, whom Miller would marry; the emotional pressures of their marriage would be examined in Miller’s 1964 play After the Fall
. The fate of the individual in society, freedom of speech and thought, and issues of contemporary morality have been consistent themes throughout Miller’s career. In his own words: ‘Art has always been the revenge of the human spirit upon the shortsighted'.
Arthur Miller has enriched the stage for over five decades with his eloquence, his profound insight into human frailty, and his powerful commitment to justice. The first of his plays to be a commercial success was All My Sons
in 1947, but with Death of a Salesman
in 1949 Miller reached a universal audience and set a standard that marked him as a playwright for his time and for all time.
In the United States of the 1940s and 50s, conformity was becoming the political requirement of the day and citizens could be punished by congressional committees for their thoughts and opinions. Many of Miller’s friends were attacked for their pro-Communist beliefs. The Crucible, 1953, reflects Miller’s take on McCarthy period hysteria. In 1956 Miller was subpoenaed by the House of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee, and interrogated about his writings and associations. He refused to implicate others and was sentenced for contempt of Congress. The sentence was later reversed by the US Court of Appeals in a victory that was a triumph for constitutional democracy.
Miller wrote The Misfits in 1957 for Marilyn Monroe. The character of Maggie in his 1964 After the Fall reflects the emotional troubles Marilyn faced during their marriage. Like The Crucible, this play also examines the individual facing social hysteria and hypocrisy. The fate of the individual in society, the tragedy of the common man who loses his integrity due to social and economic pressures, the moral and political issues of our time, including the right to speak and think freely – these are the themes that have occupied Miller throughout his career. Arthur Miller continues to be a major force in world theater. He says that the 1970s and 80s were a time that only musicals could survive the premium Broadway put on light entertainment. But his career had a resurgence in the 1990s with the production of The Ride Down Mt. Morgan (opened in London in 1991 and in revised form in the US in 1997, and to be filmed soon), The Last Yankee, 1993, Broken Glass, 1994, and Mr. Peter's Connections, 1998. A revival of The Crucible will open on Broadway in February, 2002, and a week later a revival of The Man Who Had All The Luck will open.
In addition to writing plays with strong social commentary, Miller has been active in PEN, an international literary organization that provides artists and writers a forum for expressing their views and fighting governmental repression worldwide. He has also published several volumes of short stories, a long autobiography, and several other nonfiction works, including a book about his experiences directing a production of Death of a Salesman in Beijing. In an essay ‘On Politics and the Art of Acting’ for Harpers, he writes ‘Art has always been the revenge of the human spirit upon the shortsighted … Artists are not particularly famous for their steady habits, the acceptability of their opinions, or their conformity with societal mores, but whatever is not turned into art disappears forever.’ He has just completed a new play called Resurrection Blues that he says is a serious comedy about people having and losing faith in life. His novel Focus opens in October, 2001, as a film
He passed away on February 10, 2005, Connecticut.