Tap to Read ➤

Famous Plays of Arthur Miller

Rave Uno Jul 22, 2020
Arthur Miller is known for his amazing field of work, which revolutionized the scene of American theater and defined the desperateness of the average American. In the story below, his most popular and acclaimed plays are discussed along with a brief synopsis.
Great works of art are not defined by beauty or fitting to some particular standard, they are actually snapshots or time capsules of a particular age or time. Even after years, decades and even centuries have passed, 1 read, 1 watch or 1 revival can help us catch a glimpse of what those times were like. One such American playwright, whose works are centered around the Great Depression, the Second World War and how the American public went through such hardships, is Arthur Miller.
The loss of hope and dreams, the quiet despairing nature of man, as he watches his every wish turn to ash and how chasing the American Dream can turn into a nightmare... were some themes, central to his plays. Indeed, many plays of Arthur Miller are noted and revered today, as classic examples of American literature at its finest. Below is a detailed look at three of his greatest plays.

Arthur Miller's Most Famous Plays

I. All My Sons

Joe Keller: That's the way they do, George. A little man makes a mistake and they hang him by the thumbs; the big ones become ambassadors.

Premiered in 1947 at the Coronet Theater on Broadway
✍ Synopsis: Guilt and grief at losing a much-loved family member to war can leave cracks in the lives of the family left behind. This play revolves around the Keller family, who have lost their son Larry in the war. Larry was a pilot, whose body was never found. His mother, Kate refuses to accept his death and waits for him to come home. She even maintains that Larry's old flame Ann, is still his girl and refuses to acknowledge the romance between her younger son, Charlie and Ann.
Joe is hiding a terrible secret. He used to sell airplane parts to the U.S. army and one day, in his quest to excel, he sells a shipment of incomplete parts to the Army. 21 pilots die and Joe, to avoid imprisonment, lies and puts the blame on his partner Steve (Ann's father), who is jailed.
Another secret is kept by Ann, who knows that Larry actually committed suicide, on hearing that his father was arrested for such a crime. In the climax, Joe's and Ann's secrets are revealed, leading to a breaking down of familial relationships and a tragic end.
★ Film version: 2 films were released, 1 in 1948 starring Burt Lancaster and Edward G. Robinson and the other in 1987, a TV movie starring James Whitmore and Aidan Quinn.
♜ Awards:
  • Tony Award for Best Play
  • Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play
  • New York Drama Critics' Circle Award

II. Death of a Salesman

After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive.
He's a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. A salesman has got to dream, boy.

Premiered in 1949 at the Morosco Theater
✍ Synopsis: Dreams, personal and aspirations of others, form the central point of this play. Willy Loman is a very unsuccessful traveling salesman, who mumbles and talks to himself as well indulges in daydreams and hallucinations, all key signs of an unraveling psyche. He is further angered by the lack of any ambition and failure of his elder son Biff. Willy gets fired and Biff loses the chance to get an important business deal.
Both father and son get into a big fight, and Biff admits to his father, that he does not want to be a traveling salesman like him, and wants to make his own way. Though it seems like the conflict is over, Willy just hears what he wants to hear and commits suicide, so that the insurance money received from his death, will help Biff become a success. The ending shows the grieving family and friend Charley, lamenting over Willy's death but free from his harrowing presence.
★ Film version: 1 film adaptation in 1951, starring Frederic March and Kevin McCathy. 5 films made for TV, most notable version is the 1985 film starring Dustin Hoffman.
♜ Awards:
  • Pulitzer Prize for Drama
  • Tony Award for Best Play
  • New York Drama Critics' Circle Award

III. The Crucible

Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang!

Premiered in 1953 at the Martin Beck Theater on Broadway
✍ Synopsis: This play ranks as one of the best plays of Arthur Miller's career, as it talks about one story and masquerades as the other. It is a retelling of the Salem witchcraft trials as well as serves as an allegory to McCarthyism, of which Miller himself was a victim. The story begins with the antics of some local girls in Salem, who disappear in the forest with a slave Tituba. One of the girls' father , Rev Parris catches them and his daughter falls ill from the shock.
The whole town is agog with rumors of evil doings and witchcraft. Abigail, the leader of the group of girls, insists they were doing nothing wrong and with the crazy rants of the slave, accuses other townsfolk of indulging in magical practices and talking to the Devil.
The whole town starts to turn on each other and the completely innocent John Proctor is dragged into the conflict. Ultimately the play climaxes with the innocent being punished, all the while retaining their honor and refusing to incriminate others.
★ Film version: 2 films were made, one in 1957, a French German production, Les Sorcières de Salem and the other in 1996, a Hollywood production, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder. 7 television adaptations and 1 opera have been made of this play.
♜ Awards:
  • Tony Award for Best Play
The above famous plays of Arthur Miller are just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to this playwright's work. His bitter yet apt explanation through fictional characters, on the futility of pursuing the American Dream, are considered treasures of American literature.