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Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is a play that examines the themes of aging, honesty, and the concept of the American Dream. One version that has gotten considerable praise for its depictions of Willy Loman and his family was the 1985 depiction of the play which starred Dustin Hoffman in the title role of Willy. This was a taped performance rather than a live one, so there is no theatre that can be listed for the area in which it was performed. Examining this particular rendition of the play shows that the director, Volker Schlöndorff, was successful at using scene design, specific acting methods, and specific elements of lighting in order to create a successful rendition of the play. < Click Essay Writer to order your essay >

The first element of the play that is important to examine is the particular script that was utilized for this play. The major conflicts that were driving the plot of the play forward came with Wily Loman and the fact that the American Dream, a prominent theme of the play, proved to be non-existent. Willy had worked for his sales company for decades and instead of being celebrated and rewarded for his hard work, Willy was being forced to accept few hours and worsening conditions. This leads to Willy not having money, which he considers to be the ultimate measure of success. This concept carries over to the relationships that Willy has with his sons, Biff and Happy. Ultimately, Biff is a man in his mid-thirties that is still directionless in life because he was always encouraged to make people like him rather than learning an important skill. Moreover, his relationship is complicated with his father after he learns of the fact that his father was cheating on his mother, completing the sense of disillusionment that Biff has with his father. The other son, Happy, is only marginally more successfully than Biff and makes the same mistake as his father in believing that he can find success in being a travelling salesman. These conflicts drive Willy to the realization that he is futilely struggling against fate, and he kills himself to give insurance money to his family. . [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]

The primary aspect of the directing that facilitated the success of the film was the means through which the director provided a view into the lives of the characters in the play. The very first scene features Willy and his wife Linda, where Willy is disparaging their sons for coming home and being directionless. The direction of this part of the play allows the viewer to see the couple through the window of their home as an individual who is on the outside and looking in. However, as the scene draws to a conclusion, it is revealed that the two sons have a window into the room from above, showing that they are even looking down into the room where their parents are speaking. The multiple layers of visual fields are important throughout the play because the viewer is always able to see the action that is taking place from different perspectives. This becomes more important later in the play when Willy’s breaks with reality have his dead brother Ben appears along with past times. This is ultimately tied into the scenery, but demonstrates a high degree of success on Schlöndorff’s part. The multiple fields of vision allow the viewer to see and accept this altered reality as a part of the story.

Dustin Hoffman and John Malkovich as Willy and Biff are individuals who were well-cast and contribute to the success of the story. Hoffman’s ability to speak in a neurotic and distressed manner while maintaining a warm exterior makes his character sympathetic yet frustrating for the audience. Malkovich’s Biff is played as an upbeat but directionless man whose anger and frustration comes boiling forth when he finds that Willy is engaged in an affair. While physically successful, Malkovich has difficulty portraying the casual and confident Biff, and may not be the best individual for this position. .  [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]

The costumes that were used for the production were historical in the sense that they tied to the 1940s when the play took place. However, in Act I, Scene 3 there is a flashback that takes place with Willy living in the present but still seeing the past. During this period of time the cast changes to football uniforms and fall-oriented items. This concept is important because there are several instances, especially with Willy and Ben, where the costume design shows the breaks in reality that are plaguing Willy.

The lighting and sound in this particular version of the play are significant to the production because they are used to illustrate the decay of Willy’s life. The first flashback to Ben’s arrival is bright and filled with cheerful music, with the family and Willy case in equally bright light. However, the final flashback and break with reality of the play in Act 2 shows Willy cast completely in darkness while his brother, who is not even truly present, is cast in light. There is no music playing and it is obvious that this was purposeful to show how the happiness and lightheartedness of Willy’s life had come to an end. Overall, the light and sound in the play was utilized to great effect in foreshadowing the encroaching darkness for the Lomans.

Overall, the play was most successful due to the directorial work, the actors, and the lights and sound. The play was ultimately a successful rendition that was stylized to show the decline of the American Dream. The experience of viewing this production was important because it showed that reading the text of the play is important but that it is only a single dimension of the entire story. A performance of the play renders the ideas and gives new life and meaning to the words in the work.

Works Cited

Death of a Salesman. Dir. Volker Schlöndorff. 16 Aug. 1985. Online. 28 July 2016.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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