A Critical Study of the Major Plays of Arthur Miller

Publication Year



literature, playwriting, Arthur Miller, theatre, dramas, literary criticism


American Literature | Comparative Literature | Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory | English Language and Literature | Playwriting | Theatre and Performance Studies


This thesis is a critical analysis of the major dramatic works of Arthur Miller. Its purpose is to employ critical standards as a coherent system of principles upon which it is possible to base an evaluation of his plays. It is designed to elucidate the dramas rather than to offer subjective judgments. A clarification of the true value of Miller's works is necessary because of the numerous emotional, subjective reviews and criticisms that have recently been directed at Miller. The assumptions of this paper are that non-objective standards of criticism are invalid and that the purpose of literary criticism is to develop objective criteria by which the value of divergent art works may be determined. Inherent in this critical method is the belief that art ultimately springs form the mind of the artist and represents not the entirety of life in its imperative chaos, but rather the whole of human life, intensified and heightened by its amalgamation in the mind of the artist; it "apprehends and concentrates our experience within the limitations of form." Miller asserts that the drama is the art form most suited to his artistic concentrating of experience:

"I have found a viable form in which to grasp the many contradiction of life in our time and the paradoxes in that condition....At the same time, due to the complexity of the form, I can carry forward the underlying life force in which I do believe, so that it does not collapse into a demonstration of futility."

This statement of Miller's bears witness to the assumption that underlies every one of his plays: "that life has meaning." Miller believes that the purpose of drama is to make man more aware of his viable connection with other men, and in this sense he is related to the Greek dramatist who saw man only in his relation to the polis or social unit.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

English: Literature and Writing

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