Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play written by Arthur Miller (1915-2005). The Pulitzer Prize winning drama has had four successful runs on Broadway since its premier in February of 1949. The play is credited as the first great American tragedy that brought Miller into Prominence.
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Summary


Death of a Salesman tells the story of Willy Loman, a man in search of the quintessential "American Dream", ultimately having no luck in finding such. His wife, Linda, and their two sons, Biff and Happy, worry for their father's mental stability as his frequent hallucinations have begun affecting his everyday life. The boys go as far as lying about their success in order to please their father who is forever comparing his family to his neighbor Charley and his son Bernard. When Willy is ultimately fired from his longtime salesman job, the facade of his unrealistic expectations for his family collapses as he gets into several arguments with his sons. Still, Willy ignores what his family is truly saying and kills himself in hopes of giving them a better life.

The play is well-renowned as Miller;s comment on humanity, with critics calling it a "criticism of society and its system of beliefs", resulting in a "rejection" of society.[1]

​Characters


  • Willy Loman: Lackluster salesman, 63-years-old, mentally unstable (imaginative events cause real life difficulties), a popular interpretation of his last name being a comment on his social standing has been greatly argued.
  • Linda Loman: Willy's loving, supportive wife. She encourages Willy although she does not always believe in his endeavors. She expects her sons to help bring their father back to reality by having them succeed to make Willy happy.
  • Biff Loman: Willy and Linda's oldest son, former high-school football superstar with declining opportunities. He failed a math course that kept him from graduating and dropped out of summer school when he witnessed his father having an affair.
  • Howard 'Happy' Loman: Willy and Linda's younger son who is living in is brother's shadow. He is a womanizer who feels stuck, wishing to advance in his career and receive some recognition from his parents. He gets his nickname from his positive support of his family.
  • Charley: The Loman's neighbor who pities Willy. He is always willing to help Willy (offering him a job several times) even though he is not treated well in return.
  • Bernard: Charley's son, former schoolmate of Biff. Willy recounts that Bernard was a nerd who Biff would always bully. Bernard grows up to become a successful lawyer with a growing family of his own, all that Willy wishes for his sons.
  • Uncle Ben: Willy's older, deceased brother who was a diamond tycoon. Willy often seeks advice from his brother in the form of hallucinations.
  • The Woman (from Boston): A woman with whom Willy had an affair.
  • Howard Wagner: Willy's boss who cares more about the company's wealth than its employees. Willy worked for the company when Howard's father was in charge and was the one to suggest the name "Howard". Howard does not acknowledge this or the many years Willy spent working for the company when he fires Loman.
  • Jenny/Secretary: Charley's secretary.
  • ​Stanley: A waiter at the restaurant Happy encounters.
  • Miss Forsythe: A prostitute who claims to be more than she is, approached by Happy and Biff who lie about their success in life.
  • Letta: Miss Forsythe's associate and friend.

1949 Production


The first professional production of Death of a Salesman premiered at the now-demolished Morosco Theater on February 10th, 1949. The show closed on November 18th, 1950, running for a total of 742 performances. The show was directed by the renowned Elia Kazan, best known for introducing the concept of Method Acting and starred Lee J. Cobb (12 Angry Men) as Willy, Mildred Dunnock as Linda, Arthur Kennedy (who appeared in several other Miller plays) as Biff, and Cameron Mitchell (founding member of The Actor's Studio) as Happy. Reviews for the first production were mostly positive. Critics praised the show, calling it "suburb" and citing Combs as "heroic"[2] while other cast members "never falter"[3] . Critics agreed that the show accurately portrayed the "ordinary American" and his daily struggles which become "Poetry in spite of itself"[4] . They commend Miller for the play's conclusion, as there essentially is none, which can be viewed as a comment on life itself, unlike other plats that offer solutions as the conclusion of the second act. Ultimately, the critics agreed that the original production of ​Salesman​ was "not easily to be forgotten"[5] .
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  • Awards
    1. 1949 New York Drama Critics' Circle Best Play
    2. 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
    3. 1949 Tony Award for Best Play
    4. 1949 Tony Award for Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Arthur Kennedy)
    5. 1949 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design (Jo Mielziner)
    6. 1949 Tony Award for Best Producers (Kermit Bloomgarden, Walter Fried)
    7. 1949 Tony Award for Best Author (Arthur Miller)
    8. 1949 Tony Award for Best Director (Elia Kazan)


​1975 Revival


​The first revival of ​Death of a Salesman​ premiered at the Circle in the Square Theater on June 26th, 1975. Previews began on May 30th, 1975. The show closed on August 24th, 1975 running for a total of 23 previews and 73 performances. The show was directed by George C. Scott (known for his role as George S. Patton in the film ​Patton​) who also portrayed the role of Willy. Academy Award winner Teresa Wright played his wife Linda, with James Farentino and Harvey Keitel appearing as their sons Biff and Happy. Reviews for the first revival of ​Salesman​ were negative to neutral. Critics like Clive Barnes once again praised Millter's attempt to "question the American Dream" but this time were skeptical of his portrayal of the character, generally agreeing that Miller "condemns" the lowly salesman-likes of the world rather than bring attention to them. The critics almost unaimously agree that George C. Scott had no right to stage his version of ​Salesman​, ​arguing that Scott "actually makes Willy unlikeable"[6] . There is, however, praise for the actors who portrayed Lina, Biff and Happy. Overall, critics felt the moral message was well portrayed, but not as polished as it had been during its initial performance.[7]

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  • ​Awards
    1. 1976 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play (George C. Scott) - Nominated

​1984 Revival


​The second revival of ​Death of a Salesman​ premiered at the Broadhurst Theater on March 29th, 1984 with previews beginning March 21st, 1984. The show closed on July 1st, 1984 for a total of 9 previews and 97 performance. The show was so popular that it re-opened for a return engagement on September 14th, 1984. The second run closed on November 18th, 1984 for an additional run of 88 performances. The show was directed by Michael Rudman and starred Dustin Hoffman as Willy, Kate Reid as Linda, John Malkovich as Biff, Stephan Lang as Happy and David Huddleston as Charley. The reviews for this revival were overwhelmingly positive. Critics argue that although Hoffman is not as convincing in his appearance as past-Willy's have been[8] , this does not affect the portrayal of the character's diminished hopes from being conveyed through to the audience, calling the veteran actor "remarkable"[9] , a line Willy often utters throughout the play. Others are referred to as "convincing" but it is Hoffman and Malkovich whose performances "meet in a blinding passion"[10] , enough to persuade the critics to react positively. A majority of the cast returned for a televised version filmed for CBS in 1985.

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      • ​Awards
    1. 1984 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Revial
    2. 1984 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Play (Dustin Hoffman)
    3. 1984 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play (John Malkovich)
    4. 1984 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play (David Huddleston) - Nominated
1984 Tony Award for Best Reproduction




​1999 Revival (50th Anniversary)


​The 50th Anniversary production of ​Death of a Salesman​ premiered at the Eugene O'Neill Theater on February 10th, 1999 with previews beginning on January 22nd, 1999. The show closed on November 7th, 1999 for a total run of 22 previews and 274 performances, the longest running production of the show to date. The show was directed by Robert Falls and starred Brian Dennehy as Willy, Elizabeth Franz as Linda, Kevin Anderson as Biff and Ted Koch as Happy. The 50th Anniversary production had critics citing that "Attention must be paid - Again!"[11] . Multiple reviews praised director Robert Falls for reimagining the play rather than producing a straight-forward revival. Roma Torre claimed that this production was as "equally masterful"[12] as Miller's original script with others claiming the show to be just as "remarkable and memorable"[13] as its predecessors. Jeffry Lyons claimed that "watching Brian Dennehy act is a privilege"[14] and numerous others agreed that Dennehy's performance was as enticing as Lee J. Cobb's performance of Willy. Elizabeth Franz was also commended for her "astonishing portrayal" of Linda that often left people "sobbing"[15] .

  • ​Awards
    1. ​1999 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play
    2. 1999 Tony Award Best Actor in a Play (Brian Dennehy)
    3. 1999 Tony Award Best Featured Actor in a Play (Kevin Anderson) - Nominated
    4. 1999 Tony Award Beast Featured Actor in a Play (Howard Witt) - Nominated
    5. 1999 Tony Award Best Featured Actress in a Play (Elizabeth Franz)
    6. 1999 Tony Award Best Direction of a Play (Robert Falls)
    7. 1999 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Revival of a Play
    8. 1999 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Play (Brian Dennehy)
    9. 1999 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Play (Elizabeth Franz)
    10. 1999 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play (Kevin Anderson)
    11. 1999 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play (Howard Witt) - Nominated
    12. 1999 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Play (Robert Falls) - Nominated
    13. 1999 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music in a Play (Richard Woodbury) - Nominated

​2012 Revival


​Death of a Salesman​ was most recently performed at the Ethel Barrymore Theater for a limited 16-week engagement. The show premiered on March 15th, 1012 with previews having begun on February 14th, 2012. The shows closed on June 2nd, 2012 for a total run of 30 previews and 78 performances. The show was directed by Mike Nichols and starred Academy Award Winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Willy, Tony Aware Nominee Linda Emond as Linda, and critically acclaimed actor Andrew Garfield of ​The Social Network ​and ​The Amazing Spiderman ​as Biff. This new production was much hyped about but critics agree the revival fell short. Ben Brantley of The New York Times commended Nichols for his opening homage to the original production in the sense of set, light and sound design but he believes that this is where the praise should stop. He argues that the production was the most "lucid" he had ever seen, which does not fit with Miller's original intend of the disorganized nature of the play . He and many others agree that there is a lack of chemistry between the leads which is understandable as there have been claims that the actors had been miscast[16] . Charles Isherwook, also of the New York Times, felt as though the timing of the production was off as well, having just been through a recession. While Miller's intent was for Americans to recognize the sufferings going on
around them in everyday life, production might have been on the borderline of "too soon".[17]
  • ​Awards
    external image death-of-a-salesman.jpg
    1. 2012 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play
    2. 2012 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play (Mike Nichols)
    3. 2012 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) - Nominated
    4. 2012 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play (Andrew Garfield) - Nominated
    5. 2012 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play (Linda Emond) - Nominated
    6. 2012 Tony Award for Best Sound Design of a Play (Scott Lehrer) - Nominated








​Cast Lists



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  1. ^ Emami, Kaveh K. "An Anti-Social Socialist: A Critical Reading of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman." Journal of Language Teaching and Research 2.2 (2011): 355-58.
  2. ^ Atkinso n, Brooks. "At the Theater." The New York Times 11 Feb. 1949: n. pag. The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 1998. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.
  3. ^ Barnes, Howard. "A Great Play is Born." The New York Herald Tribune 11 Feb. 1949: n. pag. The New York Herald Tribune. 1998. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.
  4. ^ Atkinso n, Brooks. "At the Theater." The New York Times 11 Feb. 1949: n. pag. The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 1998. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.
  5. ^ Watts Jr., Richard. "'Death of a Salesman' A Powerful Drama." The New York Post 11 Feb. 1949: n. pag. Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Toby Simkin, 1999. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.
  6. ^ Barnes, Clive. "Scott Puts Acting Magic in 'Salesman'." The New York Times 27 June 1975: n. pag. The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 1998. Web. 21 Apr, 2013.
  7. ^ Watt, Douglas. "Theater: Triumph." Newsweek 7 July 1975: n. pag. Newsweek. 1998. Web. 3 May, 2013.
  8. ^ Kissel, Howard. "'Death of a Salesman'." Women's Wear Daily 30 March 1984: n. pag. Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Toby Simkin. 1999. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.
  9. ^ Wilson, Edwin. "'Death of a Salesman,' New York." The Wall Street Journal 4 Apr. 1984: n. pag. Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Toby Simkin. 1999. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.
  10. ^ Rich, Frank. "'Death of a Salesman,' at the Broadhurst Theater." The New York Times 30 March 1984: n. pag Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Toby Simkin. 1999. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.
  11. ^ Brantley, Ben. "'Death of a Salesman, Attention Must be Paid, Again." The New York Times 11 Feb. 1999: n. pag. The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 2012. Wen. 21 Apr. 2013.
  12. ^ Torre, Roma. New York 1-TV 11 Feb. 1999. Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Toby Simkin. 1999. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.
  13. ^ Brantley, Ben. "'Death of a Salesman, Attention Must be Paid, Again." The New York Times 11 Feb. 1999: n. pag. The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 2012. Wen. 21 Apr. 2013.
  14. ^ Lyons, Jeffrey. WNBC-TV, Channel 4 11 Feb. 1999. Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Toby Simkin. 1999. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.
  15. ^ Brantley, Ben. "'Death of a Salesman, Attention Must be Paid, Again." The New York Times 11 Feb. 1999: n. pag. The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 2012. Wen. 21 Apr. 2013.
  16. ^ Jones, Chris. "Feeling the Absence of an Everyman in 'Death of a Salesman' on Broadway." The Chicago Triubune 15 March 2012: n. pag. The Chicago Tribune, 2012. Web. 3 May 2013..
  17. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "'Salesman' Comes Calling, Right on Time." The New York Times 23 Apr. 2012: n. pag. The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 2012. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.