Arthur Miller: Collected Plays 1944-1961

January 1, 2006
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Arthur Miller: Collected Plays 1944-1961
Arthur Miller Edited by: Tony Kushner

The Library of America
01/01/2006
Hardcover/774 pages
ISBN: 1-931082-91-X
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"Miller uncovers the masks we wear in order to be loved and accepted so that we do not end up alone. These basic truths are the enduring legacy of Arthur Miller's plays."

"…A must-read for anyone who wants to understand human nature."

" . . . Miller's stories ring true even in the 21st century."

“Life does not have to be shouted to be heard clearly.”

The collected plays of Arthur Miller, one-time husband of Marilyn Monroe and playwright from Brooklyn, New York, are a must-read for anyone who wants to understand human nature. A single theme runs through each play, whether it is set in early American history or the still wild West of the 20th century: It is not the protected and nurtured fragile orchid that is strongest, but the untended and often forgotten weed.

The first three plays, The Man Who Had All The Luck, All My Sons, and Death of a Salesman tell the story of three very different families with one similarity: the favored sons fail to achieve any success while the neglected sons thrive and flourish. Set in earlier and simpler times, the characters leap off the page, fully realized, as people any of us would know intimately today.

Miller updated Henrik Ibsen''s An Enemy of the People by translating it into a colloquial American setting. In spite of this, he retained Ibsen''s theme of the slow inexorable corruption of a town that turns against the one honest man in their midst for the sake of profit and personal gain. Miller wrote about the times and places he knew. The people he sketched with simple strokes could live next door or just down the street—or even within our own family.

Not one of the plays, even The Crucible, about the 17th century Salem witch trials, falls flat or seems dated. Miller combines historical figures for the sake of clarity, but his rendering is true to the time period, down to the forces and society that shaped such a dark period in history. He gives the ghosts of the past new life and a clear and recognizable voice.

From the warehouse district in New York in the 1950s to Nevada in 1961, Miller’s stories ring true even in the 21st century. Miller captured the unchanging and basic essence of who and what we are, demonstrating how far we will go to protect our families or succeed in business. Miller uncovers the masks we wear in order to be loved and accepted so that we do not end up alone. These basic truths are the enduring legacy of Arthur Miller''s plays.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell

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