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Awards & Honors: 2001 Jefferson Lecturer

Arthur Miller Excerpts

THE CRUCIBLE

John Proctor’s House.

HALE: Mary Warren, a needle have been found inside this poppet.

MARY WARREN, bewildered: Why I meant no harm by it, sir.

PROCTOR, quickly: You stuck that needle in yourself?

MARY WARREN: I--I believe I did, sir I--

PROCTOR, to Hale: What say you now?

HALE, watching Mary Warren closely: Child, you are certain this be your natural memory? May it be, perhaps that someone conjures you even now to say this?

MARY WARREN: Conjures me? Why no sir, I am entirely myself, I think. Let you ask Susanna Walcott—-she saw me sewin’ it in court. Or better still: Ask Abby, Abby sat beside me when I made it.

PROCTOR, to Hale and Cheever: Bid him begone. Your mind is surely settled now. Bid him out, Mr. Hale.

ELIZABETH: What signifies a needle?

HALE: Mary—-you charge a cold and cruel murder on Abigail.

MARY WARREN: Murder! I charge no—-

HALE: Abigail was stabbed tonight; a needle were found stuck into her belly—-

ELIZABETH: And she charges me?

HALE: Aye.

ELIZABETH, her breath knocked out: Why—-! The girl is murder! She must be ripped out of the world!

CHEEVER, pointing at Elizabeth: You’ve heard that, sir! Ripped out of the world! Herrick, you heard it!

PROCTOR, suddenly snatching the warrant out of Cheever’s hands: Out with you.

CHEEVER, Proctor, you dare not touch the warrant.

PROCTOR, ripping the warrant: Out with you!

CHEEVER: You’ve ripped the Deputy Governor’s warrant, man!

PROCTOR: Damn the Deputy Governor! Out of my House!

HALE: Now, Proctor, Proctor!

PROCTOR: Get y’gone with them! You are a broken minister.

HALE: Proctor, if she is innocent, the court—-

PROCTOR: If she is innocent! Why do you never wonder if Parris be innocent, or Abigail? Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God’s fingers? I’ll tell you what’s walking Salem—-vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law! This warrant’s vengeance! I’ll not give my wife to vengeance!

THE CRUCIBLE opened in 1953 at the Martin Beck. © Arthur Miller 1952, reprinted with permission.

ALL MY SONS

The Kellers’ backyard.

KELLER: Listen, you do like I did and you’ll be all right. The day I come home, I got out of my car;—but not in front of the house . . . on the corner. You should’ve been here, Annie, and you too, Chris; you’d-a seen something. Everybody knew I was getting out that day; the porches were loaded. Picture it now; none of them believed I was innocent. The story was, I pulled a fast one getting myself exonerated. So I get out of my car, and I walk down the street. But very slow. And with a smile. The beast! I was the beast; the guy who sold cracked cylinder heads to the Army Air Force; the guy who made twenty-one P-40’s crash in Australia. Kid, walkin’ down the street that day I was guilty as hell. Except I wasn’t, and there was a court paper in my pocket to prove I wasn’t, and I walked . . . past . . . the porches. Result? Fourteen months later I had one of the best shops in the state again, a respected man again; bigger than ever.

CHRIS with admiration: Joe McGuts.

KELLER: now with great force: That’s the only way you lick ‘em is guts!

ALL MY SONS opened in 1947 at the Coronet Theater. © Arthur Miller 1947, reprinted with permission.

DEATH OF A SALESMAN

Howard’s Office.

WILLY, desperately: Just let me tell you a story, Howard—

HOWARD: ’Cause you gotta admit, business is business.

WILLY, angrily: Business is definitely business, but just listen for a minute. You don't understand this. When I was a boy—eighteen, nineteen— I was already on the road. And there was a question in my mind as to whether selling had a future for me. Because in those days I had a yearning to go to Alaska. See, there were three gold strikes in one month in Alaska, and I felt like going out. Just for the ride, you might say.

HOWARD, barely interested: Don't say.’

WILLY: Oh, yeah, my father lived many years in Alaska. He was an adventurous man. We've got quite a little streak of self-reliance in our family. I thought I'd go out with my older brother and try to locate him, and maybe settle in the North with the old man. And I was almost decided to go, when I met a salesman in the Parker House. His name was Dave Singleman. And he was eighty-four years old, and he’d drummed merchandise in thirty-one states. And old Dave, he’d go up to his room, y’understand, put on his green velvet slippers—I’ll never forget—and pick up his phone and call the buyers, and without ever leaving is room, at the age of eighty-four, he made his living. And when I saw that, I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want. ’Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people? Do you know? When he died—and by the way he died the death of a salesman, in his green velvet slippers in the smoker of the New York, New Haven and Hartford, going into Boston—when he died, hundreds of salesmen and buyers were at his funeral. Things were sad on a lotta trains for months after that. He stands up. Howard has not looked at him. In those days there was personality in it, Howard. There was respect, and comradeship, and gratitude in it. Today, it’s all cut and dried, and there’s no chance for bringing friendship to bear—or personality. You see what I mean? They don’t know me anymore.

DEATH OF A SALESMAN opened in 1949 at the Morosco Theater. © Arthur Miller 1949, reprinted with permission.

THE PRICE

The attic of a Manhattan brownstone soon to be torn down.

WALTER: Vic, I wish we could talk for weeks, theres so much I want to tell you . . . . It is not rolling quite the way he would wish and he must pick examples of his new feelings out of the air. I never had friends—-you probably know that. But I do now, I have good friends. He moves, sitting nearer Victor, his enthusiasm flowing. It all happens so gradually. You start out wanting to be the best, and there’s no question that you do need a certain fanaticism; there’s so much to know and so little time. Until you’ve eliminated everything extraneous—-he smiles—-including people. And of course the time comes when you realize that you haven’t merely been specializing in something—-something has been specializing in you. You become a kind of instrument, an instrument that cuts money out of people, or fame out of the world. And it finally makes you stupid. Power can do that. You get to think that because you can frighten people they love you. Even that you love them.—-And the whole thing comes down to fear. One night I found myself in the middle of my living room, dead drunk with a knife in my hand, getting ready to kill my wife.

ESTHER: Good Lord!

WALTER: Oh ya—-and I nearly made it too! He laughs. But there’s one virtue in going nuts—-provided you survive, of course. You get to see the terror—-not the screaming kind, but the slow, daily fear you call ambition, and cautiousness, and piling up the money. And really, what I wanted to tell you for some time now—-is that you helped me to understand that in myself.

VICTOR: Me?

WALTER: Yes. He grins warmly, embarrassed. Because of what you did. I could never understand it, Vic—-after all, you were the better student. And to stay with a job like that through all those years seemed . . . He breaks off momentarily, the uncertainty of Victor’s reception widening his smile. You see, it never dawned on me until I got sick—that you’d made a choice.

VICTOR: A choice, how?

WALTER: You wanted a real life. And that’s an expensive thing; it costs.

THE PRICE opened in 1974 at the Morosco Theater. © Arthur Miller 1968, reprinted with permission.

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE

A law office.

ALFIERI: Eddie, I want you to listen to me. Pause. You know, sometimes God mixes up the people. We all love somebody, the wife, the kids—-every man’s got somebody that he loves, huh? But sometimes . . . there’s too much. You know? There’s too much, and it goes where it mustn’t. A man works hard, he brings up a child, sometimes it’s a niece, sometimes even a daughter, and he never realizes it, but through the years—-there is too much love for the daughter, there is too much love for the niece. Do you understand what I’m saying to you?

EDDIE, sardonically: What do you mean, I shouldn’t look out for her good?

ALFIERI: Yes, but these things have to end, Eddie, that’s all. The child has to grow up and go away, and the man has to learn to forget. Because after all, Eddie—-what other way can it end? Pause. Let her go. That’s my advice. You did your job, now it’s her life; wish her luck, and let her go. Pause. Will you do that? Because there’s no law, Eddie; make up your mind to it; the law is not interested in this.

EDDIE: You mean to tell me, even if he’s a punk? If he’s—

ALFIERI: There’s nothing you can do.

The one-act version of A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE opened in 1956 at the Coronet Theater; the two-act version also opened in 1956 at London’s Comedy Theater. © Arthur Miller 1955, reprinted with permission.