Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”

Resource Kit by
Naomi Bilmes

Module Content

Introduction

Introduction

Death of a Salesman made its debut in 1949 and quickly became a success on the stage. It was the second triumph for playwright Arthur Miller, after All my Sons debuted in 1947. 

Arthur Asher Miller was born in 1915 in New York City to a Jewish, Yiddish-speaking family. His family was affected by the Great Depression, but he was able to attend the University of Michigan where he began writing plays and won an award for his early work, and he eventually became one of America’s most popular playwrights. He died in 2005. 

While Death of a Salesman mentions nothing about Judaism and can be taught excellently without any mention of Jewishness, many critics and artists have seen something Jewish in the play—it's even been adapted into Yiddish. The resources in this kit will help students consider what, if anything, makes Death of a Salesman a Jewish text, and whether looking at it through a Jewish lens adds to our understanding of Miller's American classic.

Cover image: Miller in the Netherlands, September 28, 1966.