February 15, 2015
Great American Playwrights of the 20th Century
There is no better way to express the creative mind of an author than in the form of a play. Through plays, many authors have been able to expressively show their ideas in writing. The most influential playwrights of the 20th century are Arthur Miller, followed by Lorraine Vivian Hansberry III, and Tennessee Williams. Each playwright has not only written a chart toping play, but has also greatly influenced readers with their words. These playwrights have changed the hearts and minds of readers and greatly influenced the world of theater to this day. Arthur Miller was the most influential playwright of the 20th century. Miller wrote Death of a Salesman in 1948 and in February 1949, almost a year later, Viking Press published the play (Florman, Kestler). Many critics have said that Death of a Salesman was the first great American tragedy play. In Death of a Salesman, you see the conflicts of a family but as you read the play and analyze its content you begin to question a lot of issues regarding American values. Although these issues may seem mild in the 21st century, this play was published after World War II. For readers in the 1940’s and 1950’s this play challenged the ideas of postwar America. Nearly 70 years after publication Death of a Salesman is still used across the United States to teach the young minds of American students (Walsh). Following the publication of Death of a Salesman was The Crucible. Miller uses the Salem Witch trials to show a comparison between anti-communism postwar America and other communist world powers. Arthur Miler used his plays to show his views of America. Miller died in 2005; nearly 70 years after his first play was published and continues to grow as an influential author. Lorraine Vivian Hansberry III was an influential playwright, not only for her work of A Raisin in the Sun, but also because she was the first African American playwright. In the 1950’s, African Americans were fighting for their rights and women had little rights at all (Florman). Lorraine was the first African American woman to publish a play. She wrote A Raisin in the Sun in New York City, and Random House published it in 1959. A Raisin in the sun takes a deep look inside a struggling black family and how they deal with the tension between white and black society. The play hits a lot of empowering points showing the struggle for a black family in the 1950’s. When the show hit the stage in 1959, it was the first play to show a young black family in an honest depiction. For many, this play was a major movement in the art society being the first play to realistically portray black charters, themes and conflicts. Lorraine also became very involved in the Civil Rights movement. This playwright used her writing to impact society and her readers in a way no other playwright had before her.
Tennessee Williams was a very influential playwright whose plays were filled complex meanings and ideas. Williams has three very well known plays: The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. Williams’s most influential play was A Streetcar Named Desire. This play was written in 1947 and published by New Directions that same year. Streetcar is arguably the best show for a critical thinker to see. Williams gives the readers just enough to have them completely question and think about the symbolism in the play. Within the first scene…