The Dramatic Influences

  • Created by: nelliott
  • Created on: 28-09-21 19:56

Brief Synopsis

  • Whole play follows the last 24 hours of Willy’s life
  • Through conversation and scenes that take place in Willy’s mind, Miller reveals hopes, dreams, and secrets as well as the truth behind them
  • The play is a psychological drama, and the audience is invited to see inside Willy’s mind and try to understand why it is disintegrating to the point where the only way he can see of fulfilling his dream is to commit suicide
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General Context

  • In the 19302/1940s, American theatre was experiencing a ‘golden age’
  • 4 major playwrights challenged the dramatic conventions of the time with ‘serious’ yet popular plays
  • Influenced by European dramatists who focused more on the inner workings of a character
  • Meta-theatrical devices – theatre draws attention to its own theatricality
  • Williams and Miller both incorporated expressionism into their plays
  • The late 19th and early 20th century American stage was dominated by farce and melodrama
  • The Group Theatre trained actors in the style known as ‘method acting’ – this originated from Konstantin Stanislavski’s teaching methods
  • In this method, actors were trained to base their performance on real life emotional experiences that they could recall
  • This theatre group aided to create a company of actors dedicated to promoting plays with a social message
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Psychological Realism

  • The Group Theatre disbanded in 1941 but its ethic was revived in 1947 by the founding of the Actors Studio by Elia Kazan
  • Lee Strasberg taught his ‘method’ approach and introduced a whole generation of stage and screen actors
  • Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and Dustin Hoffman were all trained using this ‘method’ approach, as was Marilyn Monroe
  • They elevated the art of acting into a highly respected art form who enrolled with the skills to apply to a detailed and psychologically credible approach to characterisation
  • It produced a group of actors capable of interpreting the complex roles that playwrights such as Williams, Miller and others created in their plays
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  • A genre that began as artistic and can be described as an exaggeration or distortion of surface reality is used to depict inner truth
  • Emerged in early 20th century Germany

1.Focus – plays of protest and rebellion

2.Setting – often abstract or dream like and unlocalised. Props are sparse and symbolic

3.Action – episodic often representing stages of life as a series or ‘visions’

4.Characters – remain nameless or representative of a role in society

5.Crowd scenes – involve robotic movement and anonymous performers

6.Dialogue – often reduced to ‘telegram’ style: clipped speech 

7.Style of acting – declamatory and/or expressive of intense emotions

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  • Miller admitted that when writing DOAS, he often found himself laughing out loud – Willy is full of contradictions
  • Contradiction is a feature of absurdism
  • Elements of absurdism:

1.Non-naturalistic ‘symbolic’ set

2.Fractured time structure

3.The use of non-rational events, such as the manifestation of ben in DOAS

4.The disruption of language and meaning, as evidenced in Willy’s contradictions, exaggerations and rants

5.The lack of dramatic resolution as Hap prepares to perpetuate a dream that has been exposed as futile

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The Inside of his Head

  • Miller’s original setting would have consisted of an enormous face the height of the proscenium arch, which would appear and then open, revealing the inside of a man’s head.
  • Such a setting would certainly have been expressionistic
  • Miller later abandoned the title and proposed setting.
  • However, in the first production, the director, designer, and composer found a way of creating a set that reflected both the realistic and expressionistic forms that Miller blends in the lengthy stage directions that open the play. 
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