The Jerusalem Prize

2003 - Arthur Miller

Born: 17 October 1915, Harlem, New York; USA

Author's quote: "The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing him, always."

Field: Fiction and Drama

Prize share: 1/1

Books Written By Arthur Miller

About Arthur Miller

Arthur Asher Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) was an American playwright, essayist, and prominent figure in twentieth-century American theatre. Among his plays are All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953) and A View from the Bridge (1955, revised 1956). He also wrote the screenplay for the film The Misfits (1961). Miller was often in the public eye, particularly during the late 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. During this time, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee; and was married to Marilyn Monroe. He received the Prince of Asturias Award in 2002 and Jerusalem Prize in 2003.

His 1940 play, The Man Who Had All the Luck, garnered precisely the antithesis of its title, closing after just four performances and a stack of woeful reviews. Six years later, however, All My Sons achieved success on Broadway, and earned him his first Tony Award (best author). Working in the small studio that he built in Roxbury, Connecticut, Miller wrote the first act of Death of Salesman in less than a day. It opened on February 10, 1949 at the Morosco Theatre, and was adored by nearly everyone. Salesman won him the triple crown of theatrical artistry: the Pulitzer Prize, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and a Tony.

In 1956, Miller left his first wife, Mary Slattery. Shortly thereafter, he married famed actress Marilyn Monroe. Later that year, the House of Un-American Activities Committee refused to renew Miller's passport, and called him in to appear before the committee—his play, The Crucible, a dramatization of the Salem witch trials of 1692 and an allegory of McCarthyism, was the foremost reason for their strong-armed summons. However, Miller refused to comply with the committee's demands to "out" people who had been active in certain political activities.

In 1961, Monroe starred in The Misfits, a film for which Miller supplied the screenplay. Around the same time, Monroe and Miller divorced.

Within several months, Miller married Austrian-born photographer Inge Morath. The couple had two children, Rebecca and Daniel. Miller insisted that their son, Daniel, who was born with down syndrome, be completely excluded from the family's personal life. Miller's son-in-law, actor Daniel Day-Lewis, visited his wife's brother frequently, and eventually persuaded Miller to reunite with his adult son.

In his final years, Miller's work continued to grapple with the weightiest of societal and personal matters. His last play of note was The Price (1968), a piece about family dynamics. In 2002, Miller's third wife, Inges, died. The famed playwright promptly took a fourth wife, 34-year-old minimalist painter Agnes Barley. The two planned to marry, but on February 10, 2005 (the 56th anniversary of Death of a Salesman's Broadway debut), Arthur Miller, surrounded by Barley, family and friends, died of heart failure. He was 89 years old.


Death of a Salesman - Arthur Miller

By Michael Crane

Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman," while confusing when just read through the text alone, is an awesomely crafted play that takes drama to the next level. Now being interested in plays, I decided it was time to read this one, being that this is considered a classic by many (which I could easily see why). Reading this play makes me want to write plays. Reading something like this makes me believe that I can some up with something great too. I am glad that I finally took the time to read it. The story is about a broken-hearted salesman, Willy Loman. He is a man no longer living in the real world but is mostly trapped in his own delusional world. He can't let go of the past no matter how hard he tries, and it's eating him up inside. He wants to believe that his family is a shoe-in for greatness, no matter how lonely and sad his wife is, or how much of a player/swinger his youngest son is, or how confused and anti-business his oldest son is. You put all of this together and you get a glimpse of an American tragedy that is so powerful and sad that it makes you think these things happen all the time. From Page 1 you know it's not going to end on a happy note, but you decide to take the path anyways. And a path worth taking it is. I admit that I was confused at certain points, because through the text alone it is very hard to separate Willy's reality from his imagination. There are places where Willy departs from reality and goes back to the past and it makes it very hard for us to figure out what is going on if we're only reading it. When I saw the movie version after reading this, I was able to appreciate the play more. I understood what confused me and I was able to figure out what was happening. Despite some confusing moments it is still a tremendous play that is very involving from start to finish. You are able to sympathize with the main character, and with the rest of the characters as well. You know a writer has done the job right when you are able to feel or care for every single character (or at least almost all of them, being there will be a few minor characters you're really not supposed to care for that much. This is something that always happens in the world of fiction and is to be expected). Arthur Miller did an amazing job of writing such a realistic and emotionally driven play. The characters were realistic as well as the dialogue. "Death of a Salesman" is more than just simply a stunning play; it is a beautiful portrait of a family dealing with hardships and troubles. As soon as I began the play I was unable to put it down until it was finished. If you want to read a great play and are interested in great works of drama, this is the one for you. (Note: If you are confused by the play, see the movie afterwards. It really helps.)


Death of a Salesman - Arthur Miller

By Tom Doyle

A work becomes a classic when it transcends the years, just as DOAS does. The themes of dissatisfaction, striving to achieve an almost impossible ideal, and not being able to sit to one side and realise what's really important as life in the fast lane creates a blur -- they're all as relevant now as in the late 40s. Post-war idealism meant that many lived the winner-takes-all dream (as Willy's brother Ben is imagined to have), but not everyone can win. Willy pictures himself as being among the losers, even if he has had a successful career for many years as an on-the-road seller. As he comes to the end of his energy nearing retirement age, he is frustrated not to have broken through and made it truly big... and his mind is on all those others who have. He's also preoccupied with his goldenboy son Biff, high school football star, who somehow failed to slip into the winning world that Willy imagines. Willy realises that his past successes were based on a broad smile, but the smile no longer works and he feels empty - left with nothing. His wife Linda recognises his achievements, and wants him to relax into old age. Meanwhile, unexpressed impulses are making Willy want to plant the family's small garden... to do something with his hands that is 'real'. But vegetables won't grow as their house is now surrounded by apartment blocks that keep out sunlight. He loses his job and his way. And Miller captures the mindset of a worker in freefall when capitalism goes wrong... just as it is across the globe today, with economic crisis after econmic crisis. But in those post war years, the backdrop of coming out of a monumental struggle shoved all these issues to the fore, at a time when people felt that they had suffered for a better future than the one they were living. Miller has captured this perfectly, and the voice of Willy's dejection lives on, as does Linda's plaintive encouragement: "You're doing well enough Willy! ... Why must everybody conquer the world?"