Understanding Death of a Salesman: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Death of a Salesman: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Death of a Salesman: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Death of a Salesman: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Synopsis

This collection of social, cultural, and historical documents and popular materials, with linking explanations and commentary, will help the reader to study the play in the context of its time and cultural background. The collected materials are designed to work with the play to highlight inherent conflicts within American society which lie at the heart of Death of a Salesman, and to explore how the play affects and is affected by social mores and beliefs. Salesmanship and the changing face of business, along with perceptions of sports, gender, and families, are explored through selections drawn from a rich variety of sources that provide forceful evidence of the play's influence. Documents include essays, articles, and fiction, which have created or explored the social expectations of a typical American family in the late 1940s; unusual selections such as a self-analysis chart, an obituary, and a diary, which help to trace the history of salesmanship from the nineteenth century to the present day; and advertisements, song lyrics, speeches, how-to books, and other readings that promote an interdisciplinary study of the play.

Excerpt

The premiere of Death of a Salesman on February 10, 1949, was a significant event in the history of the American theatre. Recognized from its opening night as one of the greatest achievements by an American playwright, Salesman ran for an extraordinary 742 performances on Broadway, winning the Pulitzer Prize, the Donaldson Award, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best play of the season. In July it opened in London, beginning a stage life that has gone on continuously ever since. The play's immense popularity through the years has demonstrated that it has something to say to audiences across several generations and in diverse cultures throughout the world. Landmark productions have been staged in France, Germany, England, Australia, Russia, and China, where it was directed by Miller himself.

Death of a Salesman has had even wider influence in its film and television versions. It was first filmed in 1951. It has been televised in England by the BBC and in Canada by the CBC. In the United States, a 1966 CBS television production with the original stars, Lee J. Cobb and Mildred Dunnock, reached an audience of 17 million viewers. In 1985 a new CBS television version based on the 1984 Broadway revival, with Dustin Hoffman, Kate Reid, and John Malkovich, reached an audience of 25 million. In book form, Death of a Salesman was the first play to be included as a Book- of-the-Month Club . . .

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