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The Life and Works of Arthur Miller

It has been a decade since the world lost one of its greatest playwrights. Arthur Miller, a famous American playwright and dramatist was well-regarded by the theatre and cinema for his critical plays on the problems of society and politics.

Born in Harlem, New York on 1915 to Jewish parents, Arthur Asher Miller grew up in a rich family. However, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 rendered them broke forcing him to look for work while studying to help his family make ends meet. After high school, he had to do several odd jobs to fund his college tuition fees at the University of Michigan.

At the university, he worked as a writer for the school paper and also wrote scripts for the school play. His first play, No Villain, won the Avery Hopwood Award and jumpstarted his career as a playwright. His second play in college entitled, Honors at Dawn, also won the award before he graduated.

His early works were as much as celebrated as it were critiqued by the critics and the government. The Man Who Had All the Luck garnered the Theatre’s Guild National Award but was shut down immediately because of reviews tying him up with the communists.

His most famous play, the Death of a Salesman bagged three major awards – the Tony Award for Best Author, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Circle Critics Award. It had been performed 742 times ever since its launch.

In 1956, he was summoned to appear before the House of Un-American Activities Committee because of his play, The Crucible. The play which dramatized the Salem witch trials in1692 was believed to be an allegory of McCarthyism. This made the HUAC suspicious of Miller’s political stand and more convinced that he was involved in communist activities.

Miller’s personal life was as complex as his plays’ plots. He left his first wife in 1956 for the famous actress Marilyn Monroe. After five years as a couple, Miller wrote the screenplay for Monroe’s starring film, The Misfits in 1961. Before the film premiered, they divorced. The next year, Miller married photographer Inge Morath and had two children with her. One of his children, Daniel, had Down syndrome. Miller kept the boy out of his life by entrusting him to an institution. Not only after the death of his wife in 2002 did he reunite with his son through the persuasion of his son-in law, actor Daniel Day Lewis.

In the 56th anniversary of the Broadway debut of his greatest play, Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller died of heart failure on February 10, 2005 at age 89. After years of battling against pneumonia, congestive heart disease and cancer, he finally breathed his last surrounded by his friends and family in Connecticut.

Arthur Miller’s achievements in his seven decade career made him one of the greatest playwrights of the twentieth century. His alma mater, University of Michigan even built the Arthur Miller Theatre in 2007 to honor his memory.

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