Is Death of a Salesman a Greek tragedy according to Aristotle?

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One would have to say that no, Death of a Salesman is not a tragedy according to Aristotelian principles. For one thing, the play doesn't adhere to the three dramatic unities of time, place, and action. A lot of the play's significant action—such as Willy's meeting with his sons at...

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One would have to say that no, Death of a Salesman is not a tragedy according to Aristotelian principles. For one thing, the play doesn't adhere to the three dramatic unities of time, place, and action. A lot of the play's significant action—such as Willy's meeting with his sons at Frank's Chop House and his being fired by Howard—takes place away from the Lomans' house and over a period of time considerably greater than a single day. Miller's frequent use of flashbacks also undermines the three unities, though they are absolutely essential to the dramatic unity of the play, even if they radically depart from Aristotle's principles.

Also, the protagonist of the play, Willy Loman, does not experience a reversal of fortune, as per Aristotle's stipulation. He begins the play down on his luck and filled with suicidal thoughts, and ends the play six feet under having finally done what we'd always thought he'd do.

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Death of a Salesman is not a Greek Tragedy, according to Aristotle.

Basically, a Greek tragedy is about a prosperous, renowned character bringing about his own downfall through a fatal flaw. Willy Loman is not prosperous or renowned, and you could argue whether he has a fatal flaw or suffers from clinical depression. 

In Poetics, which you can read more about on eNotes here, Aristotle said that a proper tragedy must have six elements: Plot, Characters, Diction, Thought, Spectacle, and Melody, and then he went on to define details of these six elements.

Plot: Aristotle said that the plot should at least have a "change of fortune," or catastrophe. Fortune refers to fate. Willy Loman's fortune doesn't change in the plot of Death of a Salesman. At the beginning he is poor and depressed, and at the end he is poor and depressed (and dead.)

Characters: According to Aristotle, the main character should be renowned and prosperous, so his reversal of fortune can be from good to bad, and the change should come about from a frailty in character, or character flaw. Willy Loman, though he wishes to be "well-liked," is not, as evidenced by the poor turn-out at his funeral. He certainly isn't prosperous.

Aristotle doesn't explain much about the third element, Thought, but Death of a Salesman seems thoughtful enough.

However, in the fourth element, Diction, Aristotle expects a 'good command of metaphor.' There are several excellent metaphors at work in Death of a Salesman, such as stockings symbolizing Willy's guilt over his extramarital affair.

Next is Melody. Aristotle's Greek tragedy should have a fully-integrated Chorus. Death of a Salesman has no chorus.

Aristotle also mentions Spectacle, but he prefers for a play to not rely too heavily on spectacle. When you read the stage directions, you can see that Miller uses a lot of lighting and other effects to enhance dream sequences and create a mood of pity and terror.

Finally, the tragedy should end in catharsis, or the purging of emotion. This catharsis should leave the audience with a feeling of pleasure. While sad and pathetic, Death of a Salesman has never left me personally with a catharsis or a feeling of pleasure. You may have a different response.

Overall, however, Death of a Salesman does not fit the definition of a Greek tragedy according to Aristotle. 

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