Death of a Salesman

By Allen Austin,2014-06-18 00:21
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Death of a Salesman ...

     The action takes place in WILLY LOMAN‟S house and yard and in various places he visits in the New York and Boston of today.

     ACT I

     A melody is heard, playing upon a flute. It is small and fine, telling of grass and trees and the horizon. The curtain rises.

     Before us is the Salesman‟s house. We are aware of towering, angular shapes

    behind it, surrounding it on all sides. Only the blue light of the sky falls upon the house and forestage; the surrounding area shows an angry flow of orange. As more light appears, we see a solid vault of apartment houses around the small, fragile-seeming home. An air of the dream clings to the place, a dream rising out of reality. The kitchen at center seems actual enough, for there is a kitchen table with three chairs, and a refrigerator. But no other fixtures are seen. At the back of the kitchen there is a draped entrance, which leads to the living-room. To the right of the kitchen, on a level raised two feet, is a bedroom furnished only with a brass bedstead and a straight chair. On a shelf over the bed a silver athletic trophy stands. A window opens onto the apartment house at the side.

     Behind the kitchen, on a level raised six and a half feet, is the boys‟ bedroom, at

    present barely visible. Two beds are dimly seen, and at the back of the room a dormer window. At the left a stairway curves up to it from the kitchen.

     The entire setting is wholly or, in some places, partially transparent. The roofline of the house is one-dimensional; under and over it we see the apartment buildings. Before the house lies an apron, curving beyond the forestage into the orchestra. This forward area serves as the back yard as well as the locale of all WILLY‟S imaginings and of his city scenes. Whenever the action is in the present the actors observe the imaginary wall-lines, entering the house only through its door at the left. But in the scenes of the past these boundaries are broken, and characters enter or leave a room by stepping “through” a wall onto the forestage.

     From the right, WILLY LOMAN, the Salesman, enters, carrying two large sample cases. The flute plays on. He hears but is not aware of it. He is past sixty years of age, dressed quietly. Even as he crosses the stage to the doorway of the house, his

exhaustion is apparent. He unlocks the door, comes into the kitchen, and thankfully

    lets his burden down, feeling the soreness of his palms. A word-sigh escapes his

    lips—it might be “Oh, boy, oh, boy.” He closes the door, then carries his cases out

    into the living-room, through the draped kitchen doorway.

     LINDA, his wife, has stirred in her bed at the right. She gets out and puts on a

    robe, listening. Most often jovial, she has developed an iron repression of her

    exceptions to WILLY‟S behavior—she more than loves him, she admires him, as

    though his mercurial nature, his temper, his massive dreams and little cruelties, served

    her only as sharp reminders of the turbulent longings within him, longings which she

    shares but lacks the temperament to utter and to follow to their end.

    LINDA: [Hearing WILLY outside the bedroom, calls with some trepidation]Willy!

    WILLY: It‟s all right. I came back.

    LINDA: Why? What happened? [Slight pause.] Did something happen, Willy?

    WILLY: No, nothing happened.

    LINDA: You didn‟t smash the car, did you? WILLY: [With casual irritation.] I said nothing happened. Didn‟t you hear me?

    LINDA: Don‟t you feel well?

    WILLY: I‟m tired to the death. [The flute has faded away. He sits on the bed beside

    her, a little numb]I couldn‟t make it. I just couldn‟t make it, Linda.

    LINDA: [Very carefully, delicately.] Where were you all day? You look terrible.

    WILLY: I got as far as a little above Yonkers. I stopped for a cup of coffee. Maybe it

    was the coffee.

    LINDA: What?

    WILLY: [After a pause.] I suddenly couldn‟t drive any more .The car kept going off

    onto the shoulder, y‟know?

    LINDA: [Helpfully.] Oh. Maybe it was the steering again. I don‟t think Angelo knows

    the Studebaker.

    WILLY: No, it‟s me, it‟s me. Suddenly I realize I‟m goin‟ sixty miles an hour and I

    don‟t remember the last five minutes. I‟m—I can‟t seem to—keep my mind to it. LINDA: Maybe it‟s your glasses. You never went for your new glasses.

WILLY: No, I see everything. I came back ten miles an hour. It took me nearly four

    hours from Yonkers.

    LINDA: [Resigned.] Well, you‟ll just have to take a rest, Willy, you can‟t continue

    this way.

    WILLY: I just got back from Florida.

    LINDA: But you didn‟t rest your mind. Your mind is overactive , and the mind is

    what counts, dear.

    WILLY: I‟ll start out in the morning. Maybe I‟ll feel better in the morning. [She is

    taking off his shoes.] These goddam arch supports are killing me.

    LINDA: Take an aspirin. Should I get you an aspirin? It‟ll soothe you.

    WILLY: [With wonder.] I was driving along, you understand? And I was fine. I was

    even observing the scenery. You can imagine, me looking at scenery, on the road

    every week of my life. But it‟s so beautiful up there, Linda, the trees are so thick, and

    the sun is warm. I opened the windshield and just let the warm air bathe over me. And

    then all of a sudden I‟m going‟ off the road! I‟m tellin‟ ya, I absolutely forgot I was

    driving. If I‟d‟ve gone the other way over the white line I might‟ve killed somebody.

    So I went on again—and five minutes later I‟m dreamin‟ again, and I nearly—[He

    presses two fingers against his eyes.] I have such thought, I have such strange


    LINDA: Willy, dear. Talk to them again. There‟s no reason why you can‟t work in

    New York.

    WILLY: They don‟t need me in New York. I‟m the New England man. I‟m vital in

    New England.

    LINDA: But you‟re sixty years old. They can‟t expect you to keep traveling every


    WILLY: I‟ll have to send a wire to Portland. I‟m supposed to see Brown and Morrison

    tomorrow morning at ten o‟clock to show the line. Goddammit, I could sell them! [He

    starts putting on his jacket.]

    LINDA: [Taking the jacket from him.] Why don‟t you go down to the place tomorrow

    and tell Howard you‟ve simply got to work in New York? You‟re too accommodating,


    WILLY: If old man Wagner was alive I‟d a been in charge of New York now! That man was a prince, he was a masterful man. But that boy of his, that Howard, he does‟t

    appreciate. When I went north the first time, the Wagner Company didn‟t know where

    New England was!

    LINDA: Why don‟t you tell those things to Howard, dear? WILLY: [Encouraged.] I will, I definitely will. Is there any cheese?

    LINDA: I‟ll make you a sandwich.

    WILLY: No, go to sleep. I‟ll take some milk. I‟ll be up right away. The boys in?

    LINDA: They‟re sleeping. Happy took Biff on a date tonight. WILLY: [Interested.]That so?

    LINDA: It was so nice to see them shaving together, one behind the other, in the

    bathroom. And going out together. You notice? The whole house smells of shaving


    WILLY: Figure it out. Work a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it, and

    there‟s nobody to live in it.

    LINDA: Well, dear, life is a casting off. It‟s always that way. WILLY: No, no, some peoplesome people accomplish something. Did Biff say

    anything after I went this morning?

    LINDA: You shouldn‟t have criticized him, Willy, especially after he just got off the

    train. You mustn‟t lose your temper with him. WILLY: When the hell did I lose my temper? I simply asked him if he was making

    any money. Is that a criticism?

    LINDA: But, dear, how could he make any money?

    WILLY: [Worried and angered.] There‟s such an undercurrent in him. He became a

    moody man. Did he apologize when I left this morning?

    LINDA: He was crestfallen, Willy. You know how he admires you. I think if he finds

    himself, then you‟ll both be happier and not fight any more.

    WILLY: How can he find himself on a farm? Is that a life? A farmhand? In the

    beginning, when he was young, I thought, well, a young man, it‟s good for him to

    tramp around, take a lot of different jobs. But it‟s more than ten years now and he has yet to make thirty-five dollars a week?

    LINDA: He‟s finding himself, Willy.

    WILLY: Not finding yourself at the age of thirty-four is a disgrace!

    LINDA: Shh!

    WILLY: The trouble is he‟s lazy, goddammit!

    LINDA: Willy, please!

    WILLY: Biff is a lazy bum!

    LINDA: They‟re sleeping. Get something to eat. Go on down. WILLY: Why did he come home? I would like to know what brought him home.

    LINDA: I don‟t know. I think he‟s still lost, Willy. I think he‟s very lost. WILLY: Biff Loman is lost. In the greatest country in the world a young man with

    such—personal attractiveness, gets lost. And such a hard worker. There‟s one thing

    about Biff—he‟s not lazy.

    LINDA: Never.

    WILLY: [With pity and resolve.] I‟ll see him in the morning; I‟ll have a nice talk with

    him. I‟ll get him a job selling. He could be big in no time. My God! Remember how

    they used to follow him around in high school? When he smiled at one of them their

    faces lit up. When he walked down the street …[He loses himself in reminiscences.]

    LINDA: [Trying to bring him out of it.] Willy, dear, I got a new kind of American

    type cheese today. It‟s whipped.

    WILLY: Why do you get American when I like Swiss?

    LINDA: I just thought you‟d like a change—

    WILLY: I don‟t want a change! I want Swiss cheese. Why am I always being contradicted?

    LINDA: [With a covering laugh] I thought it would be a surprise.

    WILLY: Why don‟t you open a window in here, for God‟s sake? LINDA: [With infinite patience.]They‟re all open, dear. WILLY: The way they boxed us in here. Bricks and windows, windows and bricks.

    LINDA: We should‟ve bought the land next door.

WILLY: The street is lined with cars. There‟s not a breath of fresh air in the

    neighborhood. The grass don‟t grow any more, you can‟t raise a carrot in the back

    yard. They should‟ve had law against apartment houses. Remember those two

    beautiful elm trees out there? When I and Biff hung the swing between them?

    LLIDA: Yeah, like being a million miles from the city.

    WILLY: They should‟ve arrested the builder for cutting those down. They massacred

    the neighborhood. [Lost.] More and more I think of those days, Linda. This time of

    year it was lilac and wisteria. And then the peonies would come out, and the daffodils.

    What fragrance in this room!

    LINDA: Well, after all, people had to move somewhere.

    WILLY: No, there‟s more people now.

    LINDA: I don‟t think there‟s more people. I think— WILLY: There‟s more people! That‟s what ruining this country! Population is getting

    out of control. The competition is maddening! Smell the stink from that apartment

    house! And another one on the other side ...How can they whip cheese?

    [On WILLY‟s last line, BIFF and HAPPY raise themselves up in their beds, listening.]

    LINDA: Go down, try it. And be quiet.

    WILLY: [Turning to LINDA, guiltily.] You‟re not worried about me, are you, sweetheart?

    BIFF: What‟s the matter?

    HAPPY: Listen!

    LINDA: You‟ve got too much on the ball to worry about. WILLY: You‟re my foundation and my support, Linda. LINDA: Just try to relax, dear. You make mountains out of mole-hills.

    WILLY: I won‟t fight with him any more. If he wants to go back to Texas, let him go.

    LINDA: He‟ll find his way.

    WILLY: Sure. Certain men just don‟t get started till later in life. Like Thomas Edison,

    I think. Or B.F. Goodrich. One of them was deaf. [He starts for the bedroom doorway.]

    I‟ll put my money on Biff.

    LINDA: And Willy—if it‟s warm Sunday we‟ll drive in the country. And we‟ll open

the windshield, and take lunch.

    WILLY: No, the windshields don‟t open on the new cars. LINDA: But you opened it today.

    WILLY: Me? I didn‟t. [He stops.] Now isn‟t that peculiar! Isn‟t that a remarkable—

    LINDA: What, darling?

    WILLY: That is the most remarkable thing.

    LINDA: What, dear?

    WILLY: I was thinking of the Chevvy. [Slight pause.] Nineteen twenty-eight... when I

    had that red Chevvy[Breaks off.] That funny? I couda sworn I was driving that

    Chevvy today.

    LINDA: Well, that‟s nothing. Something must‟ve reminded you.

    WILLY: Remarkable. Remember those days? The way Biff used to simonize that Car?

    The dealer refused to believe there was eighty thousand miles on it. [He shakes his

    head.] Heh! [To LINDA.] Close your eyes, I‟ll be right up. [He walks out of the


    HAPPY: [To BIFF.] Jesus, maybe he smashed up the car again!

    LINDA: [Calling after WILLY.] Be careful on the stairs, dear! The cheese is on the

    middle shelf! [She turns, goes over to the bed, takes his jacket, and goes out of the


    [Light has risen on the boys‟ room. Unseen, WILLY is heard talking to himself,

    “Eighty thousand miles,” and a little laugh. BIFF gets out of bed, comes downstage a bit, and stands attentively. BIFF is two years older than his brother HAPPY, well

    built, but in these days bears a worn air and seems less self -assured. He has

    succeeded less, and his dreams are stronger and less acceptable than HAPPY‟s.

    HAPPY is tall, powerfully made. Sexuality is like a visible color on him, or a scent

    that many women have discovered. He, like his brother, is lost, but in a different way,

    for he has never allowed himself to turn his face toward defeat and is thus more

    confused and hard-skinned, although seemingly more content.]

    HAPPY: [Getting out of bed.] He‟s going to get his license taken away if he keeps that

    up. I‟m getting nervous about him, y‟know, Biff?

BIFF: His eyes are going.

    HAPPY: No, I‟ve driven with him. He sees all right. He just doesn‟t keep his mind on

    it. I drove into the city with him last week. He stops at a green light and then it turns

    red and he goes .[He laughs.]

    BIFF: Maybe he‟s color-blind.

    HAPPY: Pop? Why he‟s got the finest eye for color in the business. You know that. BIFF: [Sitting down on his bed.] I‟m going to sleep. HAPPY: You‟re not still sour on Dad, are you, Biff? BIFF: He‟s all right, I guess.

    WILLY: [Underneath them, in the living-room.] Yes, sir, eighty thousand

    mileseighty-two thousand!

    BIFF: You smoking?

    HAPPY: [Holding out a pack of cigarettes.] Want one?

    BIFF: [Taking a cigarette.] I can never sleep when I smell it.

    WILLY: What a simonizing job, heh!

    HAPPY: [With deep sentiment.] Funny, Biff, y‟know? Us sleeping in here again? The

    old beds. [He pats his bed affectionately.] All the talk that went across those two beds,

    huh? Our whole lives.

    BIFF: Yeah. Lotta dreams) and plans.

    HAPPY: [With a deep and masculine laugh.] About five hundred women would like

    to know what was said in this room.

    BIFF: Remember that big Betsy something--what the hell was her name--over on

    Bushwick Avenue?

    HAPPY: [Combing his hair.] With the collie dog!

    BIFF: That‟s the one. I got you in there, remember? HAPPY: Yeah, that was my first time--I think. Boy, there was a pig! [They laugh,

    almost crudely.] You taught me everything I know about women. Don‟t forget that.

    BIFF: I bet you forgot how bashful you used to be. Especially with girls.

    HAPPY: Oh, I still am, Biff.

    BIFF: Oh, go on.

HAPPY: I just control it, that‟s all. I think I got less bashful and you got more so.

    What happened, Biff? Where‟s the old humor, the old confidence? [He shakes BIFF‟s

    knee. BIFF gets up and moves restlessly about the room.] What‟s the matter?

    BIFF: Why does Dad mock me all the time?

    HAPPY: He‟s not mocking you, he-

    BIFF: Everything I say there‟s a twist of mockery on his face. I can‟t get near him.

    HAPPY: He just wants you to make good, that‟s all. I wanted to talk to you about Dad

    for a long time, Biff. Something‟s--happening to him. He talks to himself.

    BIFF: I noticed that this morning. But he always mumbled.

    HAPPY: But not so noticeable. It got so embarrassing I sent him to Florida. And you

    know something? Most of the time he‟s talking to you. BIFF: What‟s he say about me?

    HAPPY: I can‟t make it out.

    BIFF: What‟s he say about me?

    HAPPY: I think the fact that you‟re not settled, that you‟re still kind of up in the air....

    BIFF: There‟s one or two things depressing him, Happy. HAPPY: What do you mean?

    BIFF: Never mind. Just don‟ lay it all to me.

    HAPPY: But I think if you just got started--I mean--is there any future for you out


    BIFF: I tell ya, Hap, I don‟t know what the future is. I don‟t know-what I‟m supposed

    to want.

    HAPPY: What do you mean?

    BIFF: Well, I spent six or seven years after high school trying to work myself up.

    Shipping clerk, salesman, business of one kind or another. And it‟s a measly manner

    of existence. To get on that subway on the hot mornings in summer. To devote your

    whole life to keeping stock, or making phone calls, or selling or buying. To suffer

    fifty weeks of the year for the sake of a two-week vacation, when all you really desire

    is to be outdoors, with your shirt off. And always to have to get ahead of the next fella.

    And still-that‟s how you build a future.

HAPPY: Well, you really enjoy it on a farm? Are you content out there?

    BIFF: [With rising agitation.] Hap, I‟ve had twenty or thirty different kinds of jobs

    since I left home before the war, and it always turns out the same. I just realized it

    lately. In Nebraska when, I herded cattle, and the Dakotas, and Arizona, and now in

    Texas. It‟s why I came home now, I guess, because I realized it. This farm I work on,

    it‟s spring there now, see? And they‟ve got about fifteen new colts. There‟s nothing more inspiring or—beautiful than the sight of a mare and a new colt. And it‟s cool

    there now, see? Texas is cool now, and it‟s spring. And whenever spring comes to

    where I am, I suddenly get the feeling, my God, I‟m not gettin‟ anywhere! What the hell am I doing, playing around with horses, twenty-eight dollars a week! I‟m thirty-four years old. I oughta be makin‟ my future. That‟s when I come running home.

    And now, I get there, and I don‟t know what to do with myself. [After a pause.] I‟ve always made a point of not wasting my life, and everytime I come back here I know

    that all I‟ve done is to waste my life.

    HAPPY: You‟re a poet, you know that, Biff? You‟re a--you‟re an idealist! BIFF: No, I‟m mixed up very bad. Maybe I oughta get married. Maybe I oughta get stuck into something. I‟m not in business, I just--I‟m like a boy. Are you content, Hap?

    You‟re a success, aren‟t you? Are you content?

    HAPPY: Hell, no!

    BIFF: Why? You‟re making money, aren‟t you?

    HAPP: [Moving about with energy, expressiveness.] All I can do now is wait for the

    merchandise manager to die. And suppose I get to be merchandise manager? He‟s a

    good friend of mine, and he just built a terrific estate on Long Island. And he lived

    there about two months and sold it, and now he‟s building another one. He can‟t enjoy

    it once it‟s finished. And I know that‟s just what I would do. I don‟t know what the

    hell I‟m workin‟ for. Sometimes I sit in my apartment--all alone. And I think of the rent I‟m paying. And it‟s crazy. But then, it‟s what I always wanted. My own

    apartment, a car, and plenty of women. And still, goddammit, I‟m lonely. BIFF: [With enthusiasm.] Listen, why don‟t you come out West with me? HAPPY: You and I, heh?

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