Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman as Epic Tragedy Essay

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Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman as Epic Tragedy

Aristotle's Poetics defines the making of a dramatic or epic tragedy and presents the general principles of the construction of this genre. Surprisingly, over the centuries authors have remained remarkably close to Aristotle's guidelines. Arthur Miller's twentieth century tragedy Death of a Salesman is an example of this adherence to Aristotle's prescription for tragedy. It is significant to test Aristotle's definition and requirements of tragedy by comparison and contrast, against a contemporary tragedy and to make observations with regard to what influence society and culture may have on the genre. This discussion however, will be confined to the realm of plot and the more
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Aristotle further states that the noble and complete action must be an imitation of fearful and pitiable incidents and that these actions are intensified when they occur unexpectedly, yet because of one another. It is important to define fearful and pitiable action in Aristotle's own words before continuing to support a later point. Aristotle states, "pity is aroused by someone who undeservedly falls into misfortune, and fear is evoked by our recognizing that it is someone like ourselves who enters this misfortune"(51). To extend on this, it is necessary to momentarily digress from plot to character since an error in Aristotle's view of character promotes the truth of his view on pity and fear. In regards to character, Aristotle commands that he must be, " one who succumbs through miscalculation. He must also be a person who enjoys great reputation and good fortune,"(51). Taking these factors and applying them to Death of a Salesman reveals the depths of their validity. In assessing the required traits of character the reader finds that it is not necessary for the character to be a person who enjoys great reputation and good fortune. The character of Willy Loman in Miller's tragedy certainly is not afforded the benefits of good reputation or fortune. Aristotle holds that if an unqualifiedly good human being falls from good fortune to bad it is repellent, but in the case of Willy Loman the reader is instead, attracted. This is another example of

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