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English Literature

Context

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To understand the context of Arthur Miller's play you need to know a bit about Miller himself, and some background facts about migration from Italy to the US during the 1950s.

Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller

Playwright Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller was born to a Jewish family in New York in 1915. His grandparents had come to America from Poland. When the family business failed, they moved to Brooklyn, where A View from the Bridge is set. There, Arthur worked in a warehouse to earn money for his university fees.

He began to write plays while he was a student at the University of Michigan and continued to do so after he graduated in 1938 and became a journalist [journalist: A person who researches and writes articles for newspapers, magazines or the broadcasting media. ]. He received much acclaim from All My Sons in 1947; Death of a Salesman (1949) - which won the Pulitzer Prize [Pulitzer Prize: Prizes for literature, named after Joseph Pulitzer, an American newspaper publisher who was born in Hungary in 1847. ] - and The Crucible (1952) confirmed him as a great playwright [playwright: A writer or maker of plays. (Note the spelling: it comes from the same derivation as 'wheelwright', a maker of wheels, and has nothing to do with the word 'write'!) ].

Between his years as a journalist and making his name as a writer, Miller worked in the Brooklyn shipyards for two years, where he befriended the Italians he worked alongside. He heard a story of some men coming over to work illegally and being betrayed. The story inspired A View from the Bridge, which was written in 1955. It was originally a one-act play, but Miller re-worked it into a two-act play the following year.

Miller's first marriage ended in divorce in 1956. He then married the actress Marilyn Monroe, but they divorced in 1961. His third marriage was to a photographer, Inge Morath.

Most of his work is set in the America of the day and portrays realistic characters and events. He deals with political and moral issues and weaves in ideas from Greek tragedy [Greek tragedy: The first tragedies were written by Greek playwrights of the 5th century BCE. They feature individuals who experience a terrible fate, and a chorus who comment on proceedings. ]. He is interested in how personal relationships dictate the way one leads one's life and about people's struggles to do what is right.

Miller died in 2005 at the age of 89. Today, he is regarded as one of the greatest dramatists [dramatist: Another word for playwright - a writer or maker of plays. ] of the 20th century.

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