A complete guide to Arthur Miller

Learn more about the American playwright, as well as his famous characters and award-winning works. Get tickets to see Arthur Miller plays in the West End.

Sophie Thomas
Sophie Thomas

Arthur Miller was an American playwright, essayist, and screenwriter. His notable works include The Crucible, Death of a Salesman, and A View from the Bridge. Miller’s plays typically concern myths surrounding the American Dream. They also look at power conflicts and social responsibility throughout the middle of the twentieth century.

Miller always connected drama with reality for plays that captured human stories. Discover more about the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, and see an Arthur Miller play in London.

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Where did Arthur Miller grow up?

Born into a Polish-Jewish family in Harlem in 1915, Arthur Miller always struggled to fit in. Leaving Harlem for Brooklyn, the family later suffered in the Great Depression, having to rebuild their lives while forming their own American Dream. In 1934, he started a journalism degree at the University of Michigan, but still needed help finding his niche as a playwright.

When did Arthur Miller make it to Broadway?

Arthur Miller made his Broadway playwriting debut in 1943 with The Man Who Had All The Luck. Although the play won a Theatre Guild’s National Award, the play only ran for four performances.

This Broadway break inspired him. His second play, All My Sons, solidified the playwright as a leading contemporary cultural figure. His examination into life after post-World War Two won a Drama Critics’ Circle Award. In 1949, his next play, Death of a Salesman, won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

With Arthur Miller’s success came contestation from officials. In 1956 and 1957, Arthur Miller testified to HUACabout his refusal to identify writers believed to hold Communist sympathies, stating that he would bring trouble to another person, saying the following:

“I am trying to delve to the bottom of this and come up with a positive answer, but I have had to go to helof Broadway premiere of meet the devil. You can’t know what the worst is until you have seen the worst, and it is not for me to make easy answers and come forth before the American people and tell them everything is all right when I look in their eyes and I see them troubled.”

Amid this Red Scare, Miller’s work continued to play on Broadway, with audiences commenting on the similarities between real life and dramatised events.

What plays did Arthur Miller write?

Arthur Miller penned 37 stage plays over his career, with many becoming pioneering 20th-century texts. We’ve put together a list of some of his most famous works.

All My Sons (1947)

Set in post-World War Two, the Keller family comes to terms with their eldest son lost in battle. Truths come to the foreground in this dramatic play that looks at the brutal reality of the American Dream.

Death of a Salesman (1949)

One of Arthur Miller’s championed pieces of writing, the story tells of Willy Loman, a hard-working businessman whose dream of becoming wealthy fades away with old age. When his past comes back to haunt him, the hard worker faces his reality in this hard-hitting drama.

The Crucible (1953)

Inspired by the Salem witch trials, The Crucible tells the story of John Proctor as he tries to save himself in a community rife with witch hysteria. Fear of betrayal ruins a small community, especially when the court decides a witch’s status.

A View From the Bridge (1955)

The American Dream is the central theme in this play, where you must earn freedom. Set in an Italian-American neighbourhood, Eddie Carbone reunites with his Italian cousins in New York. The family reaches their breaking point when one of Eddie’s relatives falls in love with an American woman.

Incident at Vichy (1964)

Set in a police station in the French state in 1942, Incident at Vichy questions the purpose of interrogating men during the war. During the play, eight men are left in the dark for why they’re called into questioning. Some go free. Others are never seen again.Those left in the police station must work out what’s happened.

The American Clock (1980)

Arthur Miller dramatised the Wall Street crash in The American Clock. In a capitalist world, the misfortuned Baum family loses out in the banking crisis. Even in the Great Depression, the family remains confident their country will come into good fortune once more, and they will regain their wealth.

What characters did Arthur Miller create?

With award-winning plays, it is no surprise that Miller’s central characters are highly-coveted theatre roles.

Willy Loman

A traditional businessman, Willy Loman advocates for the American Dream. He believes that hard work will get you far, and you will be rewarded if you strive for success. Loman takes pride in himself. He speaks up for what he believes in, and is a patriot for himself, his family, and his country.

John Proctor

Self-assured in the witch trials, John Proctor is the confident protagonist in The Crucible as he seeks to defend himself in a hysterical Salem. While he may come across as a blunt character, this is because he will fight for himself to survive.

Joe Keller

An American citizen who built himself up to where he is, the All My Sons patriarch is the typical “average Joe”. Rising from nothing, Joe Keller struggles to express his true feelings when faced with tragedy. However he is a hardworking man who has earned his position in society.

What was Arthur Miller's relationship to Marilyn Monroe?

In 1956, Arthur Miller wed Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe saying "Marilyn will only make one film in every 18 months or so, which will take her about eight weeks, and the other 18 months she will be my wife. That's a full-time job". Standing by his side at his political hearings, the power couple remained married for five years, before divorcing in 1961.

The rocky relationship affected Miller badly, however he channelled his anger into later Arthur Miller plays including After the Fall, a dramatic explanation of Marilyn’s betrayal.

See an Arthur Miller play in London

Lyndsey Turner directs an urgent revival of Arthur Miller's The Crucible at the Gielgud Theatre in 2023. In a five-star review, our critic said: "The innocence-meets-murderous malevolence of the girls is conjured by their exaggerated pink ruffled frocks (Catherine Fay) and eerie a cappella singing (Caroline Shaw’s compositions). But most extraordinary is Tim Lutkin’s work: he lights the actors like an Old Master painting, and they’re swallowed up by darkness upstage. This is the National firing on all cylinders."

Book The Crucible tickets on London Theatre.

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