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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Clair C. Olson

First Committee Member

DeMarcus Brown

Second Committee Member

Martha Pierce


In recent years, Arthur Miller has been the subject of much critical debate. Numerous critics have stated that his plays are not true tragedies because they do not meet the requirements for tragic drama. Several other critics, however, attempting to some to Miller’s defense, have stated just the opposite. So far, the situation has not been resolved; and there appears to be little chance that it will, considering the manner in which both Miller’s defenders and sensors have been approaching the problem. First, they have been brandishing a term which does not carry the same meaning for each of them. They have been forcing this term, with all its ramifications, upon Miller’s plays in order to make some erudite statement about the plays. Each has been attempting to justify his position by comparing Miller’s plays and his tragic heroes with plays and heros that symbolize best his own interpretation of tragedy. This approach is inconsistent, contradictory, and illogical; for it shows that the critics are examining Miller’s plays not as literary expressions unique in themselves but by standards which are far too often completely irrelevant to the situation. Also, this approach forces the critics to examine the plays out of context, thereby destroying their relevance. It is this problem that attention must be paid first.

Therefore, the task before this paper is twofold. First, it is to examine MIller’s concept of tragedy, the philosophical ideas behind his plays, in order to see whether it is a logical, rational theory, one that is valid in itself. Once it has been determined whether Miller’s concept is valid then the second step can be taken: to analyze his plays in order to see whether they are artistic expressions true to and incorporating the beliefs expounded in his concept of tragedy. In no way does this approach invalidate the idea that the works must be examined by themselves and in themselves, for Miller’s theory and his plays should be expressions of the same viewpoint.





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