Wendell Pierce as Willy Loman at the Young Vic Theatre, London, 2019 (c. Brinkoff Mogenburg)
013 – Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller’s great American classic Death of a Salesman is surely one of the most famous plays in history, being a constant on stages around the world and an enduring standard on educational curriculums. Miller’s psychological portrait of the eponymous salesman, Willy Loman, became emblematic of the personal challenges and costs for ordinary people in pursuit of the American Dream. It remains popular and relevant not just for its social commentary, but also for its innovative dramatic form and language, and for the emotional power of its characters and story.
We are delighted to welcome Dr Stephen Marino, founder of the Arthur Miller Society, to the podcast, who joins us from New York to explore how a play about a particular American family written more than seventy years ago continues to provoke and move us.
Dr Stephen Marino
Stephen Marino is the founding editor of The Arthur Miller Journal, which features essays on all aspect of Miller’s life, work, and career. It is published by the Arthur Miller Society, in cooperation with the Arthur Miller Centre at the University of East Anglia and St. Francis College in Brooklyn, where Dr Marino is also on the faculty.
He is also the former president of the Arthur Miller Society, and his work on Arthur Miller has appeared in many journals and essay collections. He is the editor and author of several books on Miller, including Death of a Salesman & The Crucible – A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism (2015), Arthur Miller’s Century, Essays Celebrating the 100th Birthday of America’s Great Playwright (2017) and most recently Arthur Miller for the 21st Century – Contemporary Views of his Writings and Ideas published in 2020.
When I contacted Steve to ask him if he’d join me on the podcast his response was that “he never passes up the opportunity to talk about Miller!”
If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. You will also be supporting an independent bookseller. Thank you.
We have footnotes for this episode …
The Footnotes to our Death of a Salesman episode cover the real life salesman in Miller’s family, why Happy likes bowling, more on fathers and sons, and on the fluid form of the play.
Suggest a play
We’re always open to suggestions about plays to talk about, so if you’d like us to discuss a favourite of yours, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know why you think we should cover it, and if you know anyone who’d be excited and qualified to talk about it with us (even yourself if modesty permits!).
You might also be interested in …
The dramatic tragedy of a wife who murders her own two sons in a desperate act of grief and revenge remains as disturbing and deeply moving as when it was written nearly 2,500 years ago. Medea by Euripides is timeless not only because of our fascination with Medea’s horrific crime, but for the poetry of its language, and its unflinching portrayal of a woman all but powerless in a patriarchal world. The play was recently revived at the National Theatre with a stunning performance by Helen McCrory in the title role, which is now available to view on the National Theatre at Home. I’m joined by renowned classical scholar Edith Hall to explore our enduring fascination with Medea.
The main characters in Nina Raine’s play Consent are barristers contesting a brutal rape case. As the case unfolds the lawyers’ marriages come unravelled and they themselves cross the line of honour or even of the law. Consent explores some of the most charged issues of our time: the sources of sexual betrayal and violence, the ambiguities of consent, and the failings of the justice system to account proportionally or sensitively with cases of sexual abuse. I am delighted and honoured to be joined in this episode by the author of Consent, Nina Raine, and by actor Adam James, who appeared in the National Theatre production in the role of Jake.
Footnotes Volume 2 is a selection of facts and observations culled from the library of information that we’ve compiled to accompany each of the plays in the past ten episodes. These include fascinating bits of trivia as well as more extended exploration of specific aspects of the plays. A smorgasbord of dramatic intelligence befitting of the best kind of Footnote.
Before the theatres went dark this month I was lucky enough to see Caryl Churchill’s A Number at the Bridge, and spend more than seven hours in thrall to Robert Lepage’s Seven Streams of the River Ota at the National. Plus, some thoughts on what we miss when there is no theatre.
Another great mix of shows this month, from Tom Stoppard’s new play, to Ibsen, Beckett and newer plays in smaller London venues.
The January roundup included both classic plays, such as The Duchess of Malfi, Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters, as well as recent musicals Dear Evan Hansen and Girl from the North Country …