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Is Death of a Salesman a Tragedy?

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Is Death of a Salesman a Tragedy? Hayley Porter 12NH The question which arises within Death of a Salesman is, 'Is this a modern Tragedy?' A tragic play can be commonly observed when a protagonist falls from a great height. His decline is not about immediate death, although in most cases death becomes apparent at the end of the play, e.g. Macbeth. A tragedy shows the suffering of a character and utter compulsion of him if he does not succeed to reach his dream. These plays show the blissful release from intolerable suffering this character feels. In most tragedies the immediate audience is unable to relate directly to this torture the character is going through. They will still have emotions towards the play but usually, e.g. Shakespeare's plays the main tragic protagonist is that of status, a king. Aristotelian defined tragedy as "the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself." It incorporates "incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish the catharsis of such emotions." The tragic hero will most effectively evoke both our pity and terror if he is neither thoroughly good nor thoroughly evil but a combination of both. ...read more.


Willy's biggest mistake was not taking the opportunity to go to Alaska with Ben. Ben is the only person he will admit his defeat to. 'If I'd gone to Alaska that time everything would be different.' At the time of this play America was a free Enterprise Economy, conceived as a land of opportunity. The play shows the consequences of the common man, Willy. He was a victim of the capitalist system. The play says to be successful you have to do your own thing, and it takes a sympathetic view of the pressures of big life in business. Unfortunately for Willy the audience feel empathy for him as they see him fail greatly. In Willy's world he is exploited as a salesman, ridiculed on the pay of commission only. He has been used up and now has little left to give. In a tragedy some people come down somewhere but Willy does every where. As he is a common man the audience of this particular play fear for themselves. They know that Willy is going to die if it is a tragedy but selfishly they begin to fear for themselves as they can adapt to his life style, as he is not unreachable. ...read more.


To conclude weather this play is a tragedy I look at Willy's deterioration. He was rooted in commercial success; his dream was too exclusive and therefore could never be filled. From here on his fall began. He brought Biff down also as he too excluded his dream of getting out of the city into open spaces and own a large ranch. Willy thought this was a boy's dreams not a man's. Eventually he met a tragic death. When this play was initially staged the audience remained silent for a number of minutes after it had concluded. The director thought that they did not enjoy it, after which he found out that the silence was emotion as the play was so touching that the audience could immediately reach out and relate to the Loman's life. They did not clap immediately as they had become so engrossed with it that their natural instincts reminded them that it was rude to clap at a funeral. This accompanied the idea that the audience was deeply affected by pity and fear, like all tragic plays. This clarifies to me that this is a modern day tragedy. Approached with an air of realism, not a fa´┐Żade. ...read more.

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