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IN-PERSON: Arthur Miller and the Challenge of Writing Tragedy in the Modern World   

**This class will be taught in-person**

Over nearly 2500 years of the history of theatre, the concept of Tragedy has undergone many changes. For the ancient Greeks, it was a religious ritual having to do with the workings of fate and the inscrutable will of the gods; in Elizabethan England, it was the quintessential popular entertainment, the drama of the fall of great men, as the Wheel of Fortune turned. But in twentieth-century America, any playwright choosing to tackle the subject had to deal with a national consciousness that embraced ideals of equality and social parity; where to find the towering figures whose downfall generates the feelings of “pity and terror” that Aristotle identified as an essential feature of the tragic experience? In a society without kings and heroes, what does tragedy even mean? For Arthur Miller (1915-2005), perhaps the greatest of American playwrights, the answer lay in redefining the very idea of tragedy. Miller believed that the questions of the individual protagonist confronting the moral crises of life were not confined to figures of power and destiny, but could be found in the challenges facing ordinary men and women struggling to lead meaningful lives in a modern democracy. In plays like All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, A View from the Bridge, The Crucible and Incident at Vichy, Miller developed a new kind of domestic tragedy, focusing on his protagonists’ struggle to lead meaningful, moral lives in an era of eroding values and moral uncertainty. The resulting plays take their rightful place among the masterpieces of the modern theatre.


 

Week by Week Outline


Week One: introduction to tragedy; Arisotle’s Poetics

Introduction to All My Sons 

 

Week Two: Discuss All My Sons; introduction to Death of a Salesman

 

Week Three: Discuss Death of a Salesman; introduction to A View from the Bridge

 

Week Four: Discuss A View from the Bridge; introduction to The Crucible

 

Week Five: Discuss The Crucible; introduction to Incident at Vichy

 

Week Six: Discuss Incident at Vichy; general survey and wrap-up

 

 

This class is not available at this time.