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John Simkin

Arthur Miller (1915-2005)

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Arthur Miller’s death was announced yesterday. I believe Miller was the most important playwright of the 20th century. More importantly, he was a great human being. Despite coming under intense pressure he did not surrender to McCarthyism and never betrayed his former comrades. He fought back in the only way he knew how, he wrote a play about it.

I assume most people have seen all of his great plays. Death of a Salesman (1949) is still the best but the Crucible (1953), All My Sons (1947), View From the Bridge (1955) and The Price (1968) run it close. However, you might not have read his autobiography, Timebends (1987). It is one of the best books ever written.

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A number of teachers at my school were dicussing the sad loss of this playwright yesterday. One colleague lamented that Miller will probably be best remembered in the public imagination as one of Marilyn Monroe's ex-husbands, while the name "The Crucible" is likelier to be associated with a certain snooker venue in Sheffield than with one of Miller's most celebrated dramas.

David Wilson

http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/

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Guest Andrew Moore

Perhaps the greatest playwright of the century - I'd say the best English-language playwright, but the accolade usually (and, I think, rightly) goes to Bert Brecht - whose influence appears in A View from the Bridge but not All My Sons.

If John's judgement is right - and I think it is - then David's fears will not be realized.

It's worth noting, though, that Miller has long been more highly-regarded in Britain than in the USA. His importance can seem exaggerated, too, by the way in which many of his plays appear on British exam specifications as set works.

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Guest Andrew Moore

A possible silver lining in this cloud might be the broadcasting of a lot of Miller's stuff - perhaps including the BBC2/Open University A View from the Bridge, sought after by the nation's English teachers (the BBC does not sell it on VHS)...

Let's keep an eye on the schedules, especially BBC4.

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Although the Crucible is applicable to McCarthyism it portrays an unfortunately timeless phenomenon. The Stalinist Yezhovchina in which people could hope to clear themselves by accusing other of Trotskyism and on a rather less fatal level the expulsion of Socialists from the Labour Party have similar characteristics.

The play itself with the ultimate redemption of the flawed central character Proctor is a lot more than a commentary on contemporary American morals as well.

I do rather hope the BBC will make it available to people who live in the wrong kind of area for digital too.

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Perhaps the greatest playwright of the century - I'd say the best English-language playwright, but the accolade usually (and, I think, rightly) goes to Bert Brecht - whose influence appears in A View from the Bridge but not  All My Sons.

If John's judgement is right - and I think it is - then David's fears will not be realized.

It's worth noting, though, that Miller has long been more highly-regarded in Britain than in the USA. His importance can seem exaggerated, too, by the way in which many of his plays appear on British exam specifications as set works.

I agree that Brecht is more influential than Miller. However, I believe that Miller’s analysis of capitalism is superior to that of Brecht.

You are right that Miller is more popular in the UK than the USA. I suspect that his plays touch a raw nerve in America. I believe that Miller’s plays are popular in China. One can understand why.

There is an interesting story about Miller and Joseph McCarthy. Miller was once sitting in the audience of a production of the Crucible. A young man in front of Miller was reading the programme notes. He turned to his partner and said: “Who was this guy McCarthy anyway?”

Miller told a friend: “At that moment I realised that my name would last longer than McCarthy’s”. I suspect he was rather concerned about that.

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My daughter was "doing" Miller for GCSE and she found Tony Mulhearn's article in The Socialist useful.

Tony Mulhearn's article

Tony was one of the people "witch hunted" out of the Labour Party. This event laid the basis for New Labour. Among the people who instigated the witch hunt was Roy Hattersley. He now bleats about the inevitable consequences of his actions: the betrayal of everything he believed in in the Labour Party. I might also mention Kilfoyle - the witchfinder general who now has a few problems with the Labour leadership himself!

In any case it is a good article.

Edited by Derek McMillan

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Nicholas Hytner summed up why Miller will never be universally popular in the USA: "America felt rebuked by him. Many Americans have felt insulted... his refusal to meet them halfway was the magnificent stubbornness of the great artist." In short, he exposed the emptiness of the American Dream. Perhaps, it should not be a matter for surprise that he took this line having lived and suffered through the Great Crash of 1929. This certainly helped to fix his mind not only on social and economic injustice, but also the impact of such tumultuous events on the family unit. He was rightly famous for the manner in which he drew attention to social and political injustice, but for me Miller offered an insightful commentary on how people struggle to cope and survive in terrible circumstances. Some people cope better than others. Miller was one of those people.

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there is a good article in the NATE magazine this month (April 2005) about why we still love teaching Miller.

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Arthur Miller has always been one of the inspirational playwrights for me as well as Tennessee Williams,

Eugene O'Neil, Harold Pinter, etc.

Crucible and Death of A Salesman were the plays I loved studying the most in my university years.

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Arthur Miller has always been one of the inspirational playwrights for me as well as Tennessee Williams,

Eugene O'Neil, Harold Pinter, etc.

Crucible and Death of A Salesman were the plays I loved studying the most in my university years.

Two great plays. Have you read his autobiography, Timebends? Great book.

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Arthur Miller has always been one of the inspirational playwrights for me as well as Tennessee Williams,

Eugene O'Neil, Harold Pinter, etc.

Crucible and Death of A Salesman were the plays I loved studying the most in my university years.

Two great plays. Have you read his autobiography, Timebends? Great book.

No, I haven't read it yet but I'm sure it's a great work.

I've always loved plays and short stories. The ones I'll never forget are The Dark Room by Tennessee Williams, which I translated into

Turkish for a literature journal in 2000, The Tell Tale Heart by Poe and One Man's Destiny by Sholokhov, the '65 Nobel Prize winner short

story.

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