Saturday, February 12, 2005

Arthur Miller obituaries

There are numerous obituaries and tributes in all today's newspapers for Arthur Miller who died on Thursday. For example, The Independent, The Times, and the LA Times.

The New York Times, as you would expect, has probably the most comprehensive coverage.
The author of "Death of a Salesman," a landmark of 20th-century drama, Mr. Miller grappled with the weightiest matters of social conscience in his plays and in them often reflected or reinterpreted the stormy and very public elements of his own life - including a brief and rocky marriage to Marilyn Monroe and his staunch refusal to cooperate with the red-baiting House Un-American Activities Committee.

However, it's a short piece by Michael Billington in The Guardian that caught my eye, with it's analysis of Miller's work in the context of both American and European theatre.
Arthur Miller helped to define American drama.

Although there were notable American dramatists before him, most famously Eugene O'Neill, he did not have a rich tradition on which to draw. Along with his contemporary, Tennessee Williams, Miller in the immediate postwar period gave American theatre maturity, dignity and an enduring record of the frustrations of contemporary man.

And, even though Miller latterly fell out of fashion, he never gave up: astonishingly, at the age of 89, he saw his most recent play premiered in Chicago last autumn.

In one sense, the absence of a living tradition of American drama worked in Miller's favour. Most of the serious inter-war playwrights, such as Clifford Odets, Elmer Rice and Maxwell Anderson, were either dead or defunct by the time Miller started writing. In consequence, he looked to Europe: especially to the ancient Greeks and Ibsen, both of whom left a profound, and beneficial, impact on Miller's work.

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