US dramatist, regarded as one of the leading American playwrights of the twentieth century.
The son of a Jewish manufacturer, Miller was born in New York City, where he suffered at first hand the effects of the Depression when it hit his hitherto prosperous family. This taught him at an early age to recognize the destructive effects of poverty, a theme he later explored in his plays. After leaving school, he held various odd jobs and attended a course in journalism at Michigan University. His first play was The Man Who Had All the Luck (1944), but it was All My Sons (1947) and more notably his masterpiece Death of a Salesman (1947), which won him the 1949 Pulitzer Prize, that brought both recognition and fame. The Crucible (1953) drew an unmistakable parallel between the Salem witch trials of 1692 and the McCarthy witchhunts of the 1950s, during which Miller refused to name suspected communists. Subsequent plays included A View from the Bridge and A Memory of Two Mondays (both 1955), The Price (1968), The Creation of the World and Other Business (1972), Playing for Time (1981), The Ride down Mt Morgan (1991), and Mr Peters' Connections (1998). After the Fall (1964) examined with typical honesty his unhappy relationship with Marilyn Monroe, whom he married in 1955; he also wrote the screenplay for Monroe's last film, The Misfits (1961).
A fine distinction can be drawn between Miller's early and later plays. All concern relationships, but the earlier works focus primarily on the individual in relation to the outside world and the need for self-knowledge as a means of coming to terms with reality; the later plays emphasize relationships between individuals. He published his autobiography, Timebends: A Life, in 1987.
Subjects: Literature — Theatre.