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death of a salesman and tragedy

In his play Death of a Salesman, does Arthur Miller succeed in his aim of writing the tragedy of the common man? The idea of dramatic tragedy is a classical one, discussed in Aristotles Poetics. Before it can be established as to whether Miller really has written a tragedy or not, the very concept of tragedy must be investigated. Aristotle asserted, Tragedy is a representation, an imitation, of an action.1 He went on to outline the common features tragic drama must have. Tragedy has six elements, which, in order of importance, are: plot, character, thought, music, language, and spectacle. The plot requires peripeteia, anagnorisis, and cathartic effect. It must take place in one day, in one setting, with a unity of plot (i.e. all tragic, no comic subplot). The character must be good (there is some debate as to the vague nature of this word), be true to type, be consistent in behaviour, be a great man (that is, to be representative of a whole society), and have one single tragic flaw. Thought is exactly that; the ideas that the speakers express in language2. Music is also self-explanatory. As for language and spectacle, the development of these is the perpetual instinct of drama to struggle closer and closer to real life3.Willy Lomans character does adhere to the tragic hero guidelines to a certain extent. Rather than being a man who is a representative of a society, he represents society. His allegorical name of Loman or Low-man allowed Miller to twist the formula somewhat. He is true to type in that he dreams the American Dream, and subscribes to the desire for money and material possessions in capitalist society. Whether Willy is a good man is debatable; his affair would indicate that he is not, his wife dotes on him, and Biff is crushed by the discovery of the mistress, so much so that he loses all faith in his father, and eventually rejects his way of life (although with good reason). In terms of plot, Aristotles definition of peri...

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