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 email@example.com. 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 …
Tom Stoppard’s ambitious new play Leopoldstadt is a sweeping work of history and ideas which charts the diaspora and decline of an Austrian Jewish family through the convulsive events of the first half of the twentieth century. It addresses profound moral questions of identity, memory and prejudice that are insistently relevant in our time. It is not only a towering intellectual achievement, it is also very personally poignant because it is based partly on Stoppard’s own remarkable family history.
Leopoldstadt opened in the West End in January 2020, only to be closed prematurely by the pandemic a few weeks later. Happily it has returned to the London stage this Autumn, and I am privileged and delighted to talk in this episode with the director of the London productions, playwright Patrick Marber.
Footnotes Volume 3 is a recording of the facts and observations that we’ve published on the website to supplement the plays that we’ve covered in episodes 24-31. A smorgasbord of trivia and analysis ranging from Greek Tragedy to the stock characters of Commedia dell’Arte , through the music of Bob Dylan, the filming of Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone during lockdown, and the theatrical installations of Samuel Beckett.
A compendium of dramatic intelligence!
Samuel Beckett’s third great dramatic masterpiece Happy Days is a timeless exploration of existential threat and personal survival. It’s central image of Winnie buried in a mound of scorched earth also speaks to our own time when many have endured enforced confinement in a world struck by collective disaster.
Irish actress and Beckett scholar Lisa Dwan, fresh from her triumphant performance as Winnie at the Riverside Studios in London, joins us to share her unique experience of playing Beckett and this majestic play.
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 …