Death of a Salesman
CERTAIN PRIVATE CONVERSATIONS IN
TWO ACTS AND A REQUIEM
LINDA, his wife
BIFF, his son
HAPPY, his son
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.
Throughout the play, in the stage directions, left and right mean stage left and stage right.
A melody is heard, played 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 glow 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 livingroom. To the right of the kitchen, on a level raised two feet, is a bedroom furnished only with a brass bestead 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. (This bedroom is above the unseen livingroom.) 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 the 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 livingroom, 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 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? (Sight 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 am tired to 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.
WILLY (after a pause) I suddenly couldn’t drive any more. The car kept going 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 ever week of my life. But it’s so beautiful up there, Linda, the trees are so think, 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 goin’ 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 thoughts, I have such strange thoughts.
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 (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, dear.
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 don’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 lotion.
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 people—some 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 lost 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!
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.
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 They 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 a law against apartment houses. Remember those two beautiful elm trees out there? When I and Biff hung the swing between them?
LINDA 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’s ruining this country! Population is getting out of control. The competition is maddening! Smell the stink from that apartment house! And another 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?
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 molehills.
WILLY I wont’ 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 remarkable—(He breaks off in amazement and fright as the flute is heard distantly.)
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 coulda sworn I was driving that Chevvy today.
LINDA Well, that’s nothing. Something must’ve reminded you.
WILLY Remarkable. Ts. 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 bedroom.)
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 bedroom.)
Light has risen on the boys’ room. Unseen, Willy is heard talking to himself, “Eight 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. Eh 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 livingroom) Yes, sir, eighty thousand miles—eighty-two thousand!
BIFF You smoking?
HAPPY (holding out a packet 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.
They share a soft laugh.
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 other things depressing him, Happy.
HAPPY What do you mean?
BIFF Never mind. Just don’t lay it all to me.
HAPPY But I think if you just got started—I mean—is there any future for you out there?
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 your 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 coll 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 getting’ 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 hom. And now, I get here, 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 every time 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. Maybe that’s my trouble. I’m like a boy. I’m not married, 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?
HAPPY (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?
BIFF Sure, maybe we could buy a ranch. Raise cattle, use our muscles. Men built like we are should be working out in the open.
HAPPY (avidly) The Loman Brothers, heh?
BIFF (with vast affection) Sure, we’d be known all over the countries!
HAPPY (enthralled) That’s what I dream about, Biff. Sometimes I want to just rip my clothes off in the middle of the store and outbox that goddam merchandise manager. I mean I can oubox, outrun, and outlift anybody in that store, and I have to take orders from those common, petty sons-of-bitches till I can’t stand it any more.
BIFF I’m telln’ you, kid, if you were with me I’d be happy out there.
HAPPY (enthused) See, Biff, everybody around me is so false that I’m constantly lowering my ideals …
BIFF Baby, together we’d stand up for one another, we’d have someone to trust.
HAPPY If I were around you—
BIFF Hap, the trouble is we weren’t brought up to grub for money. I don’t know how to do it.
HAPPY Neither can I!
BIFF Then let’s go!
HAPPY The only thing is—what can you make out there?
BIFF But look at your friend. Builds an estate and then hasn’t the peace of mind to live in it.
HAPPY Yeah, but when he walks into the store the waves part in front of him. That’s fifty-two thousand dollars a year coming through the revolving door, and I got more in my pinky finger than he’s got in his head.
BIFF Yeah, but you just said—
HAPPY I gotta show some of those pompous, self-important executives over there that Hap Loman can make the grade. I want to walk into the store the way he walks in. Then I’ll go with you, Biff. We’ll e together yet, I swear. But take those two we had tonight. Now weren’t they gorgeous creatures?
BIFF Yeah, yeah, most gorgeous I’ve had in years.
HAPPY I get that any time I want, Biff. Whenever I feel disgusted. The only trouble is, it gets like bowling or something. If just keep knockin’ them over and it doesn’t mean anything. You still run around a lot?
BIFF Naa. I’d like to find a girl—steady, somebody with substance.
HAPPY That’s what I long for.
BIFF Go on You’d never come home.
HAPPY I would! Somebody with character, with resistance! Like Mom, y’know? You’re gonna call me a bastard when I tell you this. That girl Charlotte I was with tonight is engaged to be married in five weeks. (He tries on his new hat.)
BIFF No kiddin’!
HAPPY Sure, the guy’s in line for the vice-presidency of the store. I don’t know what gets into me, maybe I just have an overdeveloped sense of competition or something, but I went and ruined her, and furthermore I can’t get rid of her. And he’s the third executive I’ve done that to. Isn’t that a crummy characteristic? And to top it all, I go to their weddings! (Indignantly, but laughing.) Like I’m not supposed to take bribes. Manufacturers offer me a hundred-dollar bill now and then to throw an order their way. You know how honest I am, but it’s like this girl, see. I hate myself for it. Because I don’t want the girl, and, still, I take it and—I love it!
BIFF Let’s go to sleep.
HAPPY I guess we didn’t settle anything, heh?
BIFF I just got one idea that I think I’m going to try.
HAPPY What’s that?
BIFF Remember Bill Oliver?
HAPPY Sure, Oliver is very big now. You want to work for him again?
BIFF No, but when I quit he said something to me. He put his arm on my shoulder, and he said, “Biff, if you ever need anything, come to me.”
HAPPY I remember that. That sounds good.
BIFF I think I’ll go to see him. If I could get ten thousand or even seven or eight thousand dollars I could buy a beautiful ranch.
HAPPY I bet he’d back you. ’Cause he thought highly of you, Biff, I mean, they all do. You’re well liked, Biff. That’s why I say to come back here, and we both have the apartment. And I’m telln’ you, Biff, any babe you want …
BIFF No, with a ranch I could do the work I like and still be something. I just wonder though. I wonder if Oliver still thinks I stole that carton of basketballs.
HAPPY Oh, he probably forgot that long ago. It’s almost ten years. You’re too sensitive. Anyway, he didn’t really fire you.
BIFF Well, I think he was going to. I think that’s why I quit. I was never sure whether he knew or now. I know he thought the world of me, though. I was the only one he’d let lock up the place.
WILLY (below) You gonna wash the engine, Biff?
Biff looks at Happy, who is gazing down, listening. Willy is mumbling in the parlor.
HAPPY You hear that?
They listen. Willy laughs warmly.
BIFF (growing angry) Doesn’t he know Mom can hear that?
WILLY Don’t get your sweater dirty, Biff!
A look of pain crosses Biff’s face.
HAPPY Isn’t that terrible? Don’t leave again, will you? You’ll find a job here. You gotta stick around. I don’t know what to do about him, it’s getting embarrassing.
WILLY What a simonizing job!
BIFF Mom’s hearing that!
WILLY No kiddin’, Billy, you got a date? Wonderful!
HAPPY Go on to sleep. But talk to him in the morning, will you?
BIFF (reluctantly getting into bed) With her in the house. Brother!
HAPPY (getting into bed) I wish you’d have a good talk with him.
The light on their room begins to fade.
BIFF (to himself in bed) That selfish, stupid …
HAPPY Sh … Sleep, Biff.
Their light is out. Well before they have finished speaking, Willy’s form is dimly seen below in the darkened kitchen. HE opens the refrigerator, searches in there, and takes out a bottle of milk. The apartment houses are fading out, and the entire house and surroundings become covered with leaves. Music insinuates itself as the leaves appear.
WILLY Just wanna be care with those girls, Biff, that’s all. Don’t’ make any promises. No promises of any kind. Because a girl, y’know, they always believe what you tell’em, and you’re very young, Biff, you’re too young to be talking seriously to girls.
Light rises on the kitchen. Willy, talking, shuts the refrigerator door and comes downstage to the kitchen table. He pours milk into a glass. He is totally immersed in himself, smiling faintly.
WILLY Too young entirely, Biff. You want to watch your schooling first. Then when you’re all set, there’ll be plenty of girls for a boy like you. (He smiles broadly at a kitchen chair.) That so? The girls pay for you? (He laughs.) Boy, you must really be makin’ a hit.
Willy is gradually addressing—physically—a point offstage, speaking through the wall of the kitchen, and his voice has been rising in volume to that of a normal conversation.
WILLY I been wondering why you polish the car so careful. Ha! Don’t leave the hubcaps, boys. Get the chamois to the hubcaps. Happy, use newspaper on the windows, it’s the easiest thing. Show him how to do it, Biff! You see, Happy? Pad it up, use it like a pad. That’s it, that’s it, good work. You’re doin’ all right, Hap. (He pauses, then nods in approbation for a few seconds, then looks upward.) Biff, first thing we gotta do when we get time is clip that big branch over the house. Afraid it’s gonna fall in a storm and hit the roof. Tell you what. We get a rope and slinger her around, and then we climb up there with a couple of saws and take her down. Soon as you finish the car, boys, I wanna see ya. I got a surprise for you, boys.
BIFF (offstage) Whatta ya got, Dad?
WILLY No, you finish first. Never leave a job till you’re finished—remember that. (Looking toward the “big trees.”) Biff, up in Albany I saw a beautiful hammock. I think I’ll buy it next trip, and we’ll hang it right between those two elms. Wouldn’t that be something? Just swingin’ there under those branches. Boy, that would be …
Young Biff and Young Happy appear from the direction Willy was addressing. Happy carries rags and a pail of water. Biff, wearing a sweater with a block “S,” carries a football.
BIFF (pointing in the direction of the car offstage) How’s that, Pop, professional?
WILLY Terrific. Terrific job, boys. Good work, Biff.
HAPPY Where’s the surprise, Pop?
WILLY In the back seat of the car.
HAPPY Boy! (He runs off.)
BIFF What is it, Dad? Tell me, what’d you buy?
WILLY (laughing, cuffs him) Never mind, something I want you to have.
BIFF (turns and starts off) What is it, Hap?
HAPPY (offstage) It’s a punching bag!
BIFF Oh, Pop!
WILLY It’s got Gene Tunney’s1 signature on it!
Happy runs onstage with a punching bag.
BIFF Gee, how’d you know we wanted a punching bag?
WILLY Well, it’s the finest thing for the timing.
HAPPY (lies down on his back and pedals with his feet) I’m losing weight, you notice, Pop?
WILLY (to Happy) Jumping rope is good too.
BIFF Did you see the new football I got?
WILLY (examining the ball) Where’d you get a new ball?
BIFF The coach told me to practice my passing.
WILLY That so? And he gave you the ball, heh?
BIFF Well, I borrowed it from the locker room. (He laughs confidentially.)
WILLY (laughing with him at the theft) I want you to return that.
HAPPY I told you he wouldn’t like it.
BIFF (angrily) Well, I’m bringing it back!
WILLY (stopping the incipient argument, to Happy) Sure, he’s gotta practice with a regulation ball, doesn’t he? (To Biff.) Coach’ll probably congratulate you on your initiative!
BIFF Oh, he keeps congratulating my initiative all the time, Pop.
WILLY That’s because he likes you. If somebody else took that ball there’d be an uproar. So what’s the report, boys, what’s the report?
BIFF Where’d you go this time, Dad? Gee we were lonesome for you.
WILLY (pleased, puts an arm around each boy and they come down to the apron) Lonesome, heh?
BIFF Missed you every minute.
WILLY Don’t say? Tell you a secret, boys. Don’t breathe it to a soul Someday I’ll have my own business, and I’ll never have to leave home any more.
HAPPY Like Uncle Charley, heh?
WILLY Bigger than Uncle Charley! Because Charley is not—liked. He’s liked, but he’s not—well liked.
BIFF Where’d you go this time, Dad?
WILLY Well, I got on the road, and I went north to Providence. Met the Mayor.
BIFF The Mayor or Providence!
WILLY He was sitting in the hotel lobby.
BIFF What’d he say?
WILLY He said, “Morning!” And I said, “You’ve got a fine city here, Mayor.” And then he had coffee with me. And then I went to Waterbury. Waterbury is a fine city. Big clock city, the famous Waterbury clock. Sold a nice bill there. And then Boston—Boston is the cradle of the Revolution. A fine city. And a couple of other towns in Mass., and on to Portland and Bangor and straight home!
BIFF Gee, I’d love to go with you sometime, Dad.
WILLY Soon as summer comes.
WILLY You and Hap and I, and I’ll show you all the towns. America is full of beautiful towns and fine, upstanding people. And they know me, boys, they know me up and down New England. The finest people. And when I bring you fellas up, there’ll be open sesame for all of us, ’cause one thing, boys: I have friends. I can park my car in any street in New England, and the cops protect it like their own. This summer, heh?
BIFF and HAPPY (together) Yeah! You bet!
WILLY We’ll take our bathing suits.
HAPPY We’ll carry your bags, Pop!
WILLY Oh, won’t that be something! Me comin’ into the Boston store with you boys carrin’ my bags. What a sensation!
Biff is prancing around, practicing passing the ball.
WILLY You nervous, Biff, about the game?
BIFF Not if you’re gonna be there.
WILLY What do they say about you in school, now that they made you captain?
BIFF (taking Willy’s hand) This Saturday, Pop, this Saturday—just for you, I’m going to break through for a touchdown.
HAPPY You’re supposed to pass.
BIFF I’m takin’ one play for Pop. You watch me, Pop, and when I take off my helmet, that means I’m breakin’ out. Then you watch me crash through that line!
WILLY (kisses Biff) Oh, wait’ll I tell this in Boston!
Bernard enters in knickers. He is younger than Biff, earnest and loyal, a worried boy.
BERNARD Biff, where are you? You’re supposed to study with me today.
WILLY Hey, looka Bernard. What’re you lookin’ so anemic about, Bernard?
BERNARD He’s gotta study, Uncle Willy. He’s got Regents next week.
HAPPY (tauntingly, spinning Bernard around) Let’s box, Bernard!
BERNARD Biff! (He gets away from Happy.) Listen, Biff, I heard Mr. Birnbaum say that if you don’t start studyin’ math he’s gonna flunk you, and you wont’ graduate. I heard him!
WILLY You better study with him, Biff. Go ahead now.
BERNARD I heard him!
BIFF Oh, Pop, you didn’t see my sneakers! (He holds up a foot for Willy to look at.)
WILLY Hey, that’s a beautiful job of painting!
BERNARD (wiping his glasses) Just because he printed University of Virginia on his sneakers doesn’t mean they’ve got to graduate him, Uncle Willy!
WILLY (angrily) What’re you talking about? With scholarships to three universities they’re gonna flunk him?
BERNARD But I heard Mr. Birnbaum say—
WILLY Don’t be a pest, Bernard! (To his boys.) What an anemic!
BERNARD Okay, I’m waiting for you in my house, Biff.
Bernard goes off. The Lomans laugh.
WILLY Bernard is not well liked, is he?
BIFF He’s liked, but he’s not well liked.
HAPPY That’s right, Pop.
WILLY That’s just what I mean. Bernard can get the best marks in school, y’understand, but when he gets out in the business world, y’understand, you are going to be five times ahead of him. That’s why I thank Almighty God you’re both built like Adonises. Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want. You take me, for instance. I never have to wait in line to see a buyer. “Willy Loman is here!” That’s all they have to know, and I go right through.
BIFF Did you knock them dead, Pop?
WILLY Knocked ’em cold in Providence, slaughtered ’em in Boston.
HAPPY (on his back, pedaling again) I’m losing weight, you notice, Pop?
Linda enters, as of old, a ribbon in her hair, carrying a basket of washing.
LINDA (with youthful energy) Hello, dear!
LINDA How’d the Chevvy run?
WILLY Chevrolet, Linda, is the greatest car ever built. (To the boys.) Since when do you let your mother carry wash up the stairs?
BIFF Grab hold there, boy!
HAPPY Where to, Mom?
LINDA Hang them up on the line. And you better go down to your friends, Biff. The cellar is full of boys. They don’t’ know what to do with themselves.
BIFF Ah, when Pop comes home they can wait!
WILLY (laughs appreciatively) You better go down and tell them what to do, Biff.
BIFF I think I’ll have them sweep out the furnace room.
WILLY Good work, Biff.
BIFF (goes through wall-line of kitchen to doorway at back and calls down) Fellas! Everybody sweep out the furnace room! I’ll be right down!
VOICES All right! Okay, Biff.
BIFF George and Sam and Frank, come out back! We’re hangin’ up the wash! Come on, Hap, on the double! (He and Happy carry out the basket.)
LINDA The way they obey him!
WILLY Well, that’s training, the training. I’m tellin’ you, I was sellin’ thousands and thousands, but I had to come home.
LINDA Oh, the whole block’ll be at that game. Did you sell anything?
WILLY I did five hundred gross in Providence and seven hundred gross in Boston.
LINDA No! Wait a minute, I’ve got a pencil. (She pulls pencil and paper out of her apron pocket.) That makes your commission … Two hundred—my God! Two hundred and twelve dollars!
WILLY Well, I didn’t figure it yet, but …
LINDA How much did you do?
WILLY Well, I—I did—about a hundred and eight gross in Providence. Well, no—it came to—roughly two hundred gross on the whole trip.
LINDA (without hesitation) Two hundred gross. That’s … (She figures.)
WILLY The trouble was that three of the stores were half closed for inventory in Boston. Otherwise I woulda broke records.
LINDA Well, it makes seventy dollars and some pennies. That’s very good.
WILLY What do we owe?
LINDA Well, on the first here’s sixteen dollars on the refrigerator—
WILLY Why sixteen?
LINDA Well, the fan belt broke, so it was a dollar eighty.
WILLY But it’s brand new.
LINDA Well, the man said that’s the way it is. Till they work themselves in, y’know.
They move through the wall-line into the kitchen.
WILLY I hope we didn’t get stuck on that machine.
LINDA They got the biggest ads of any of them!
WILLY I know, it’s a fine machine. What else?
LINDA Well, there’s nine-sixty for the washing machine. And for the vacuum cleaner there’s three and a half due on the fifteenth. Then the roof, you got twenty-one dollars remaining.
WILLY it don’t leak, does it?
LINDA No, they did a wonderful job. Then you owe Frank for the carburetor.
WILLY I’m not going to pay that man! That goddam Chevrolet, they ought to prohibit the manufacture of that car!
LINDA Well, you owe him three and a half. And odds and ends, comes to around a hundred and twenty dollars by the fifteenth.
WILLY A hundred and twenty dollars! My God, if business don’t pick up I don’t know what I’m gonna do!
LINDA Well, next week you’ll do better.
WILLY Oh, I’ll knock them dead next week. I’ll go to Hartford. I’m very well liked in Hartford. You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don’t seem to take to me.
They move onto the forestage.
LINDA Oh, don’t be foolish.
WILLY I know it when I walk in. They seem to laugh at me.
LINDA Why? Why would they laugh at you? Don’t talk that way, Willy.
Willy moves to the edge of the stage. Linda goes into the kitchen and starts darn stocking.
WILLY I didn’t know the reason for it, but they just pass me by. I’m not noticed.
LINDA But you’re doing wonderful, dear. You’re making seventy to a hundred dollars a week.
WILLY But I gotta be at it ten, twelve hours a day. Other men—I don’t know—they do it easier. I don’t know why—I can’t stop myself—I talk too much. A man oughta come in with a few words. One thing about Charley. He’s a man of few words, and they respect him.
LINDA You don’t’ talk too much, you’re just lively.
WILLY (smiling) Well, I figure, what the hell, life is short, a couple of jokes. (To himself.) I joke too much! (The smile goes.)
LINDA Why? You’re—
WILLY I’m fat. I’m very—foolish to look at, Linda. I didn’t tell you, but Christmas time I happened to be calling on F. H. Stewards, and a salesman I know, as I was going in to see the buyer I heard him say something about—walrus. And I—I cracked him right across the face. I wont’ take that. I simply will not take that. But they do laugh at me. I know that.
LINDA Darling …
WILLY I gotta overcome it. I know I gotta overcome it. I’m not dressing to advantage, maybe.
LINDA Willy, darling, you’re the handsomest man in the world—
WILLY Oh, no, Linda.
LINDA To me you are. (Slight pause.) The handsomest.
From the darkness is heard the laughter of a woman. Willy doesn’t turn to it, but it continues through Linda’s lines.
LINDA And the boys, Willy. Few men are idolized by their children the way you are.
Music is heard as behind a scrim, to the left of the house, The Woman, dimly seen, is dressing.
WILLY (with great feeling) You’re the best there is, Linda, you’re a pal, you know that? On the road—on the road I want to grab you sometimes and just kiss the life outa you.
The laughter is loud now, and he moves into a brightening area at the left, where The Woman has come from behind the scrim and is standing, putting on her hat, looking into a “mirror” and laughing.
WILLY ’Cause I get so lonely—especially when business is bad and there’s nobody to talk to. I get the feeling that I’ll never sell anything again, that I won’t make a living for you, or a business, a business for the boys. (He talks through The Woman’s subsiding laughter; The Woman primps at the “mirror.”) There’s so much I want to make for—
THE WOMAN Me? You didn’t make me, Willy. I picked you.
WILLY (pleased) You picked me?
THE WOMAN (who is quite proper-looking, Willy’s age) I did. I’ve been sitting at that desk watching all the salesmen go by, day in, day out. But you’ve got such a sense of humor, and we do have such a good time together, don’t we?
WILLY Sure, sure. (He takes her in his arms.) Why do you have to go now?
THE WOMAN It’s two o’clock …
WILLY No, come on in! (He pulls her.)
THE WOMAN … my sisters’ll be scandalized. When’ll you be back?
WILLY Oh, two weeks about. Will you come up again?
THE WOMAN Sure thing. You do make me laugh. It’s good for me. (She squeezes his arm, kisses him.) And I think you’re a wonderful man.
WILLY You picked me, heh?
THE WOMAN Sure. Because you’re so sweet. And such a kidder.
WILLY Well, I’ll see you next time I’m in Boston.
THE WOMAN I’ll put you right through to the buyers.
WILLY (slapping her bottom) right. Well, bottoms up!
THE WOMAN (slaps him gently and laughs) You just kill me, Willy. (He suddenly grabs her and kisses her roughly.) You kill me. And thanks for the stockings. I love a lot of stockings. Well, good night.
WILLY Good night. And keep your pores open!
THE WOMAN Oh, Willy!
The Woman bursts out laughing, and Linda’s laughter blends in. The Woman disappears into the dark. Now the area at the kitchen table brightens. Linda is sitting where she was at the kitchen table, but now is mending a pair of silk stockings.
LINDA You are, Willy. The handsomest man. You’ve got no reason to feel that—
WILLY (coming out of The Woman’s dimming area and going over to Linda) I’ll make it all up to you, Linda, I’ll—
LINDA There’s nothing to make up, dear. You’re doing fine, better than—
WILLY (noticing her mending) What’s that?
LINDA Just mending my stockings. They’re so expensive—
WILLY (angrily, taking them from her) I won’t have you mending stockings in this house! Now throw them out!
Linda puts the stockings in her pocket.
BERNARD (entering on the run) Where is he? If he doesn’t study!
WILLY (moving to the forestage, with great agitation) You’ll give him the answers!
BERNARD I do, but I can’t on a Regents! That’s a state exam! They’re liable to arrest me!
WILLY Where is he? I’ll whip him, I’ll whip him!
LINDA And he’d better give back that football, Willy, it’s not nice.
WILLY Biff! Where is he? Why is he taking everything?
LINDA He’s too tough with the girls, Willy. All the mothers are afraid of him!
WILLY I’ll whip him!
BERNARD He’s driving the car without a license!
The Woman’s laugh is heard.
WILLY Shut up!
LINDA All the mothers—
WILLY Shut up!
BERNARD (backing quietly away and out) Mr. Birnbaum says he’s stuck up.
WILLY Get outa here!
BERNARD If he doesn’t buckle down he’ll flunk math! (He goes off.)
LINDA He’s right, Willy, you’ve gotta—
WILLY (exploding at her) There’s nothing the matter with him! You want him to be a worm like Bernard? He’s got spirit, personality …
As he speaks, Linda, almost in tears, exits into the livingroom. Willy is alone in the kitchen, wilting and staring .The leaves are gone. It is night again, and the apartment houses look down from behind.
WILLY Loaded with it. Loaded! What is he stealing? He’s giving it back, isn’t he? Why is he stealing? What did I tell him? I never in my life told him anything but decent things.
Happy in pajamas has come down the stairs; Willy suddenly becomes aware of Happy’s presence.
HAPPY Let’s go now, come on.
WILLY (sitting down at the kitchen table) Huh! Why did she have to wax the floors herself? Everytime she waxes the floors she keels over. She knows that!
HAPPY Shh! Take it easy. What brought you back tonight?
WILLY I got an awful scare. Nearly hit a kid in Yonkers. God! Why didn’t I go to Alaska with my brother Ben that time! Ben! That man was a genius, that man was success incarnate! What a mistake! He begged me to go.
HAPPY Well, there’s no use in—
WILLY You guys! There was a man started with the clothes on his back and ended up with diamond mines!
HAPPY Boy, someday I’d like to know how he did it.
WILLY What’s the mystery? The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it! Walked into a jungle, and comes out, the age of twenty-one, and he’s rich! The world is an oyster, but you don’t crack it open on a mattress!
HAPPY Pop, I told you I’m gonna retire you for life.
WILLY You’ll retire me for life on seventy goddam dollars a week? And your women and your car and your apartment, and you’ll retire me for life! Christ’s sake, I couldn’t get past Yonkers today! Where are you guys, where are you? The woods are burning! I can’t drive a car!
Charley has appeared in the doorway. He is a large man, slow of speech, laconic, immovable. In all he says, despite what he says, there is pity, and now, trepidation. He has a robe over his pajamas, slippers on his feet. He enters the kitchen.
CHARLEY Everything all right?
HAPPY Yeah, Charley, everything’s …
WILLY What’s the matter?
CHARLEY I heard some noise. I thought something happened. Can’t we do something about the walls? You sneeze in here, and in my house hats blow off.
HAPPY Let’s go to bed, Dad. Come on.
Charley signals to Happy to go.
WILLY You go ahead, I’m not tired at the moment.
HAPPY (to Willy) Take it easy, huh? (He exits.)
WILLY What’re you doin’ up?
CHARLEY (sitting down at the kitchen table opposite Willy) Couldn’t sleep good. I had a heartburn.
WILLY Well, you don’t know how to eat.
CHARLEY I eat with my mouth.
WILLY No, you’re ignorant. You gotta know about vitamins and things like that.
CHARLEY Come on, let’s shoot. Tire you out a little.
WILLY (hesitantly) All right. You got cards?
CHARLEY (taking a deck from his pocket) Yeah, I got them. Someplace. What is it with those vitamins?
WILLY (dealing) They build up your bones. Chemistry.
CHARLEY Yeah, but there’s no bones in a heartburn.
WILLY What are you talkin’ about? Do you know the first thing about it?
CHARLEY Don’t get insulted.
WILLY Don’t talk about something you don’t know anything about.
They are playing. Pause.
CHARLEY What’re you doin’ home?
WILLY A little trouble with the car.
CHARLEY Oh. (Pause.) I’d like to take a trip to California.
WILLY Don’t say.
CHARLEY You want a job?
WILLY I got a job, I told you that. (After a slight pause.) What the hell are you offering me a job for?
CHARLEY Don’t get insulted.
WILLY Don’t insult me.
CHARLEY I don’t see no sense in it. You don’t have to go on this way.
WILLY I got a good job. (Slight pause.) What do you keep comin’ in here for?
CHARLEY You want me to go.
WILLY (after a pause, withering) I can’t understand it. He’s going back to Texas again. What the hell is that?
CHARLEY Let him go.
WILLY I got nothin’ to give him, Charley, I’m clean, I’m clean.
CHARLEY He won’t starve. None a them starve. Forget about him.
WILLY Then what have I got to remember?
CHARLEY You take it too hard. To hell with it. When a deposit bottle is broken you don’t get your nickel back.
WILLY That’s easy enough for you to say.
CHARLEY That ain’t easy for me to say.
WILLY Did you see the ceiling I put up in the livingroom?
CHARLEY Yeah, that’s a piece of work. To put a ceiling is a mystery to me. How do you do it?
WILLY What’s the difference?
CHARLEY Well, talk about it.
WILLY You gonna put up a ceiling?
CHARLEY How could I put up a ceiling?
WILLY Then what the hell are you bothering me for?
CHARLEY You’re insulted again.
WILLY A man who can’t handle tools is not a man. You’re disgusting.
CHARLEY Don’t’ call me disgusting, Willy.
Uncle Ben, carrying a valise and an umbrella, enters the forestage from around the right corner of the house. He is a stolid man, in his sixties, with a mustache and an authoritative air. He is utterly certain of his destiny, and there is an aura of far places about him. He enters exactly as Willy speaks.
WILLY I’m getting awfully tired, Ben.
Ben’s music is heard. Ben looks around at everything.
CHARLEY Good, keep playing; you’ll sleep better. Did you call me Ben?
Ben looks at his watch.
WILLY That’s funny. For a second there you reminded me of my brother Ben.
BEN I have only a few minutes. (He strolls, inspecting the place. Willy and Charley continue playing.)
CHARLEY You never heard from him again, heh? Since that time?
WILLY Didn’t Linda tell you? Couple of weeks ago we got a letter from his wife in Africa. He died.
CHARLEY That so.
BEN (chuckling) So this is Brooklyn, eh?
CHARLEY Maybe you’re in for some of his money.
WILLY Naa, he had seven sons. There’s just one opportunity I had with that man …
BEN I must make a train, William. There are several properties I’m looking at in Alaska.
WILLY Sure, sure! If I’d gone with him to Alaska that time, everything would’ve been totally different.
CHARLEY Go on, you’d froze to death up there.
WILLY What’re you talking about?
BEN Opportunity is tremendous in Alaska, William. Surprised you’re not up there.
WILLY Sure, tremendous.
WILLY There was the only man I ever met who knew the answers.
BEN How are you all?
WILLY (taking a pot, smiling) Fine, fine.
CHARLEY Pretty sharp tonight.
BEN Is Mother living with you?
WILLY No, she died a long time ago.
BEN That’s too bad. Fine specimen of a lady, Mother.
WILLY (to Charley) Heh?
BEN I’d hoped to see the old girl.
CHARLEY Who died?
BEN Heard anything from Father, have you?
WILLY (unnerved) What do you mean, who died?
CHARLEY (taking a pot) What’re you talkin’ about?
BEN (looking at his watch) William, it’s half-past eight!
WILLY (as though to dispel his confusion he angrily stops Charley’s hand) That’s my build!
CHARLEY I put the ace—
WILLY If you don’t know how to play the game I’m not gonna throw my money away on you!
CHARLEY (rising) It was my ace, for God’s sake!
WILLY I’m through, I’m through!
BEN When did Mother die?
WILLY Long ago. Since the beginning you never knew how to play cards.
CHARLEY (picks up the cards and goes to the door) All right! Next time I’ll bring a deck with five aces.
WILLY I don’t play that kind of game!
CHARLEY (turning to him) You should be ashamed of yourself!
CHARLEY Yeah! (He goes out.)
WILLY (slamming the door after him) Ignoramus!
BEN (as Willy comes toward him through the wall-line of the kitchen) So you’re William.
WILLY (shaking Ben’s hand) Ben! I’ve been waiting for you so long! What’s the answer? How did you do it?
BEN Oh, there’s a story in that.
Linda enters the forestage, as of old, carrying the wash basket.
LINDA Is this Ben?
BEN (gallantly) How do you do, my dear.
LINDA Where’ve you been all these years? Willy’s always wondered why you—
WILLY (pulling Ben away from her impatiently) Where is Dad? Didn’t you follow him? How did you get started?
BEN Well, I don’t know how much you remember.
WILLY Well, I was just a baby, of course, only three or four years old00
BEN Three years and eleven months.
WILLY What a memory, Ben!
BEN I have many enterprises, William and I have never kept books.
WILLY I remember I was sitting under the wagon in—was it Nebraska?
BEN It was South Dakota, and I gave you a bunch of wild flowers.
WILLY I remember you walking away down some open road.
BEN (laughing) I was going to find Father in Alaska.
WILLY Where is he?
BEN AT that age I had a very faulty view of geography, William. I discovered after a few days that I was heading south, so instead of Alaska, I ended up in Africa.
WILLY The Gold Coast!
BEN Principally, diamond mines.
LINDA Diamond mines!
BEN Yes, my dear. But I’ve only a few minutes—
WILLY No! Boys! Boys! (Young Biff and Happy appear.) Listen to this. This is your Uncle Ben, a great man! Tell my boys, Ben!
BEN Why, boys, when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. (He laughs.) And by God I was rich.
WILLY (to the boys) You see what I been talking about? The greatest things can happen.
BEN (glancing at his watch) I have an appointment in Ketchikan Tuesday week.
WILLY No, Ben! Please tell about Dad. I want my boys to hear. I want them to know the kind of stock they spring from. All I remember is a man with a big beard, and I was in Mamma’s lap, sitting around a fire, and some kind of high music.
BEN His flute. He played the flute.
WILLY Sure, the flute, that’s right!
New music is heard, a high, rollicking tune.
BEN Father was a very great and a very wild-hearted man. We would start in Boston and he’d toss the whole family into the wagon, and then he’d drive the team right across the country; through Ohio, and Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and all the Western stages. And we’d stop in the towns and sell the flutes that he’d made on the way. Great inventor, Father. With one gadget he made more in a week than a man like you could make in a lifetime.
WILLY That’s just the way I’m bringing them up, Ben—rugged, well liked, all-around.
BEN Yeah? (To Biff.) Hit that, boy—hard as you can. (He pounds his stomach.)
BIFF Oh, no, sir!
BEN (taking boxing stance) Come on, get to me! (He laughs.)
WILLY Go to it, Biff! Go ahead, show him!
BIFF Okay! (He cocks his fist and starts in.)
LINDA (to Willy) Why must he fight, dear?
BEN (sparring with Biff) Good boy! Good boy!
WILLY How’s that, Ben, heh?
HAPPY Give him the left, Biff!
LINDA Why are you fighting?
BEN Good boy! (Suddenly comes in, trips Biff, and stands over him, the point of his umbrella poised over Biff’s eye.)
LINDA Look out, Biff!
BEN (patting Biff’s knee) Never fight fair with a stranger, boy. You’ll never get out of the jungle that way. (Taking Linda’s hand and bowing.) It was an honor and a pleasure to meet you, Linda.
LINDA (withdrawing her hand coldly, frightened) Have a nice—trip.
BEN (to Willy) And good luck with your—what do you do?
BEN Yes. Well … (He raises his hand in farewell to all.)
WILLY No, Ben, I don’t’ want you to think … (He takes Ben’s arm to show him.) It’s Brooklyn, I know, but we hunt too.
BEN Really, now.
WILLY Oh, sure, there’s snakes and rabbits and—that’s why I moved out here. Why, Biff can fell any one of these trees in no time! Boys! Go right over to where they’re building the apartment house and get some sand. We’re gonna rebuild the entire front stoop right now! Watch this, Ben!
BIFF Yes, sir! On the double, Hap!
HAPPY (as he and Biff run off) I lost weight, Pop, you notice?
Charley enters in knickers, even before the boys are gone.
CHARLEY Listen, if they steal any more from that building the watchman’ll put the cops on them!
LINDA (to Willy) Don’t let Biff …
Ben laughs lustily.
WILLY You shoulda seen the lumber they brought home last week. At least a dozen six-by-tens worth all kinds of money.
CHARLEY Listen, if that watchman—
WILLY I gave them hell, understand. But I got a couple of fearless characters there.
CHARLEY Willy, the jails are full of fearless characters.
BEN (clapping Willy on the back, with a laugh at Charley) And the stock exchange, friend!
WILLY (joining in Ben’s laughter) where are the rest of your pants?
CHARLEY My wife bought them.
WILLY Now all you need is a golf club and you can go upstairs and go to sleep. (To Ben.) Great athlete! Between him and his son Bernard they can’t hammer a nail!
BERNARD (rushing in) The watchman’s chasing Biff!
WILLY (angrily) Shut up! He’s not stealing anything!
LINDA (alarmed, hurrying off left) Where is he? Biff, dear! (She exits.)
WILLY (moving toward the left, away from Ben) There’s nothing wrong. What’s the matter with you.
BEN Nervy boy. Good!
WILLY (laughing) Oh, nerves of iron, that Biff!
CHARLEY Don’t know what it is. My New England man comes back and he’s bleedin’, they murdered him up there.
WILLY It’s contacts, Charely, I got important contacts!
CHARLEY (sarcastically) Glad to hear it, Willy. Come in later, we’ll shoot a little casino. I’ll take some of your Portland money. (He laughs at Willy and exits.)
WILLY (turning to Ben) Business is bad, it’s murderous. But not for me, of course.
BEN I’ll stop by on my way back to Africa.
WILLY (longingly) Can’t you stay a few days? You’re just what I need, Ben, because I—I have a fine position here, but I—well, Dad left when I was such a baby and I never had a chance to talk to him and I still feel—kind of temporary about myself.
BEN I’ll be late for my train.
They are at opposite ends of the stage.
WILLY Ben, my boys—can’t we talk? They’d go into the jaws of hell for me, see, but I—
BEN William, you’re being first-rate with your boys. Outstanding, manly chaps!
WILLY (hanging on to his words) Oh, Ben, that’s good to hear! Because sometimes I’m afraid that I’m not teaching them the right kind of—Ben, how should I teach them?
BEN (giving great weight to each word, and with a certain vicious audacity) William, when I walked into the jungle, I was seventeen. When I walked out I was twenty-one. And, by God, I was rich! (He goes off into darkness around the right corner of the house.)
WILLY … was rich! That’s just the spirit I want to imbue them with! To walk into a jungle! I was right! I was right! I was right!
Ben is gone, but Willy is still speaking to him as Linda, in nightgown and robe, enters the kitchen, glances around for Willy, then goes to the door of the house, looks out and sees him. Comes down to his left. He looks at her.
LINDA Willy, dear? Willy?
WILLY I was right!
LINDA Did you have some cheese? (He can’t answer) It’s very late, darling. Come to bed, heh?
WILLY (looking straight up) Gotta break your neck to see a star in this yard.
LINDA You coming in?
WILLY What ever happened to that diamond watch fob? Remember? When Ben came from Africa that time? Didn’t he give me a watch fob with a diamond in it?
LINDA You pawned it, dear. Twelve, thirteen years ago. For Biff’s radio correspondence course.
WILLY Gee, that was a beautiful thing. I’ll take a walk.
LINDA But you’re in your slippers.
WILLY (starting to go around the house at the left) I was right! I was! (Half to Linda, as he goes, shaking his head.) What a man! There was a man worth talking to. I was right!
LINDA (calling after Willy) But you’re in your slippers, Willy!
Willy is almost gone when Biff, in his pajamas, comes down the stairs and enters the kitchen.
BIFF What is he doing out there?
BIFF God Almighty, Mom, how long has he been doing this?
LINDA Don’t, he’ll hear you.
BIFF What the hell is the matter with him?
LINDA It’ll pass by morning.
BIFF Shouldn’t we do anything?
LINDA Oh, my dear, you should do a lot of things, but there’s nothing to do, so go to sleep.
Happy comes down the stairs and sits on the steps.
HAPPY I never heard him so loud, Mom.
LINDA Well, come around more often; you’ll hear him. (She sits down at the table and mends the lining of Willy’s jacket.)
BIFF Why didn’t you ever write me about this, Mom?
LINDA How would I write to you? For over three months you had no address.
BIFF I was on the move. But you know I thought of you all the time. You know that, don’t you, pal?
LINDA I know, dear, I know. But he likes to have a letter. Just to know that there’s still a possibility for better things,
BIFF He’s not like this all the time, is he?
LINDA It’s when you come home he’s always the worst.
BIFF When I come home?
LINDA When you write you’re coming, he’s all smiles, and talks about the future, and—he’s just wonderful. And then the closer you seem to come, the more shaky he gets, and then, by the time you get here, he’s arguing, and he seems angry at you. I think it’s just that maybe he can’t bring himself to—to open up to you. Why are you so hateful to each other? Why is that?
BIFF (evasively) I’m not hateful, Mom.
LINDA But you no sooner come in the door than you’re fighting!
BIFF I don’t know why. I mean to change. I’m tryin’, Mom, you understand?
LINDA Are you home to stay now?
BIFF I don’t know. I want to look around, see what’s doin’.
LINDA Biff, you can’t look around all your life, can you?
BIFF I just can’t take hold, Mom. I can’t take hold of some kind of a life.
LINDA Biff, a man is not a bird, to come and go with the springtime.
BIFF Your hair … (He touches her hair.) Your hair got so gray.
LINDA Oh, it’s been gray since you were in high school. I just stopped dyeing it, that’s all.
BIFF Dye it again, will ya? I don’t want my pal looking old. (He smiles.)
LINDA You’re such a boy! You think you can go away for a year and … You’ve got to get it into your head now that one day you’ll knock on this door and there’ll be strange people here—
BIFF What are you talking about? You’re not even sixty, Mom.
LINDA But what about your father?
BIFF (lamely) Well, I meant him too.
HAPPY He admires Pop.
LINDA Biff, dear, if you don’t have any feeling for him, then you can’t have any feeling for me.
BIFF Sure I can, Mom.
LINDA No. You can’t just come to see me, because I love him. (With a threat, but only a threat, of tears.) He’s the dearest man in the world to me, and I won’t have anyone making him feel unwanted and low and blue. You’ve got to make up your mind now, darling, there’s no leeway any more. Either he’s your father and you pay him that respect, or else you’re not to come here. I know he’s not easy to get along with—nobody knows that better than me—but …
WILLY (from the left, with a laugh) Hey, hey, Biffo!
BIFF (starting to go out after Willy) What the hell is the matter wit him? (Happy stops him.)
LINDA Don’t—don’t go near him!
BIFF Stop making excuses for him! He always, always wiped the floor with you. Never hand an ounce of respect for you.
HAPPY He’s always had respect for—
BIFF What the hell do you know about it?
HAPPY (surlily) Just don’t call him crazy!
BIFF People are worse off than Willy Loman. Believe me, I’ve seen them!
LINDA Then make Charley your father, Biff. You can’t do that, can you? I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person. You called him crazy—
BIFF I didn’t mean—
LINDA No, a lot of people think he’s lost his—balance. But you don’t have to be very smart to know what his trouble is. The man is exhausted.
LINDA A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man. He works for a company thirty-six years this March, opens up unheard-of-territories to their trademark, and now in his old age they take his salary away.
HAPPY (indignantly) I didn’t know that, Mom.
LINDA You never asked, my dear! Now that you get your spending money someplace else you don’t trouble your mind with him.
HAPPY But I gave you money last—
LINDA Christmas time, fifty dollars! To fix the hot water it cost ninety-seven fifty! For five weeks he’s been on straight commission, like a beginner, an unknown!
BIFF Those ungrateful bastards!
LINDA Are they any worse than his sons? When he brought them business, when he was young, they were glad to see him. But now his old friends, the old buyers that loved him so and always found some order to hand him in a pinch—they’re all dead, retired. He used to be able to make six, seven calls a day to Boston. Now he takes his valises out of the car and puts them back and takes them out again and he’s exhausted. Instead of walking he talks now. He drives seven hundred miles, and when he gets there no one knows him any more, no one welcomes him. And what goes through a man’s mind, driving seven hundred miles home without having earned a cent? Why shouldn’t he talk to himself? Why? When he has to go to Charley and borrow fifty dollars a week and pretend to me that it’s his pay? How long can that go on? How long? You see what I’m sitting here and waiting for? And you tell me he has no character? The man who never worked a day but for your benefit? When does he get the medal for that? Is this his reward—to turn around at the age of sixty-three and find his sons, who he loved better than his live, one a philandering bum—
LINDA That’s all you are, my baby! (To Biff.) And you! What happened to the love you had for him? You were such pals! How you used to talk to him on the phone every night! How lonely he was till he could come home to you!
BIFF All right, Mom. I’ll live here in my room, and I’ll get a job. I’ll keep away from him, that’s all.
LINDA No, Biff. You can’t stay here and fight all the time.
BIFF He threw me out of this house, remember that.
LINDA Why did he do that? I never knew why.
BIFF Because I know he’s a fake and he doesn’t like anybody around who knows!
LINDA Why a fake? In what way? What do you mean?
BIFF Just don’t lay it all at my feet. It’s between me and him—that’s all I have to say. I’ll chip in from now on. He’ll settle for half my pay check. He’ll be all right. I’m going to bed. (He starts for the stairs.)
LINDA He won’t be all right.
BIFF (turning on the stairs, furiously) I hate this city and I’ll stay here. Now what do you want?
LINDA He’s dying, Biff.
Happy turns quickly to her, shocked.
BIFF (after a pause) Why is he dying?
LINDA He’s been trying to kill himself.
BIFF (with great horror) How?
LINDA I live from day to day.
BIFF What’re you talking about?
LINDA Remember I wrote you that he smashed up the car again? In February?
LINDA The insurance inspector came. He said that they have evidence. That all these accidents in the last year—weren’t—weren’t—accidents.
HAPPY How can they tell that? That’s a lie.
LINDA It seems there’s a woman … (She takes a breath as— )
BIFF (sharply but contained) What woman?
LINDA (simultaneously) … and this woman …
BIFF Nothing. Go ahead.
LINDA What did you say?
BIFF Nothing. I just said what woman?
HAPPY What about her?
LINDA Well, it seems she was walking down the road and saw this car. She says that he wasn’t driving fast at all, and that he didn’t skid. She says he came to that little bridge, and then deliberately smashed into the railing, and it was only the shallowness of the water that saved him.
BIFF Oh, no, he probably just fell asleep again.
LINDA I don’t think he fell asleep.
BIFF Why not?
LINDA Last month … (With great difficulty.) Oh, boys, it’s so hard to say a thing like this! He’s just a big stupid man to you, but I tell you there’s more good in him than in many other people. (She chokes, wipes her eyes.) I was looking for a fuse. The lights blew out, and I went down the cellar. And behind the fuse box—it happened to fall out—was a length of rubber pipe—just short.
HAPPY No kidding?
LINDA There’s a little attachment on the end of it. I knew right away. And sure enough, on the bottom of the water heater there’s a new little nipple on the gas pipe.
HAPPY (angrily) That—jerk.
BIFF Did you have it taken off?
LINDA I’m—I’m ashamed to. How can I mention it to him? Every day I go down and take away that little rubber pipe. But, when he comes home, I put it back where it was. How can I insult him that way? I don’t know what to do. I live from day to day, boys. I tell you, I know every thought in his mind. It sounds so old-fashioned and silly, but I tell you he put his whole life into you and you’ve turned your backs on him. (She is bent over in the chair, weeping, her face in her hands.) Biff, I swear to God! Biff, his life is in your hands!
HAPPY (to Biff) How do you like that damned fool!
BIFF (kissing her) All right, pal, all right. It’s all settled now. I’ve been remiss. I know that, Mom, but now I’ll stay, and I swear to you, I’ll apply myself. (Kneeling in front of her, in a fever of self-reproach.) It’s just—you see, Mom, I don’t fit in business. Not that I won’t try. I’ll try, and I’ll make good.
HAPPY Sure you will. The trouble with you in business was you never tried to please people.
BIFF I know, I—
HAPPY Like when you worked for Harrison’s. Bob Harrison said you were tops, and then you go and do some damn fool thing like whistling whole songs in the elevator like a comedian.
BIFF (against Happy) So what? I like to whistle sometimes.
HAPPY You don’t raise a guy to a responsible job who whistles in the elevator!
LINDA Well, don’t argue about tit now.
HAPPY Like when you’d go off and swim in the middle of the day instead of taking the line around.
BIFF (his resentment rising) Well, don’t you run off? You take off sometimes, don’t you? On a nice summer day?
HAPPY Yeah, but I cover myself!
HAPPY If I’m going to take a fade the boss can call any number where I’m supposed to be and they’ll swear to him that I just left. I’ll tell you something that I hate to say, Biff, but in the business world some of them think you’re crazy.
BIFF (angered) Screw the business world!
HAPPY All right, screw it! Great, but cover yourself!
LINDA Hap, Hap!
BIFF I don’t care what they think! They’ve laughed at Dad for years, and you know why? Because we don’t belong in this nut-house of a city! We should be mixing cement on some open plain, or—or carpenters. A carpenter is allowed to whistle!
Willy walks in from the entrance of the house, at left.
WILLY Even your grandfather was better than a carpenter. (Pause. They watch him.) You never grew up. Bernard does not whistle in the elevator, I assure you.
BIFF (as though to laugh Willy out of it) Yeah, but you do, Pop.
WILLY I never in my life whistled in an elevator! And who in the business world thinks I’m crazy?
BIFF I didn’t mean it like that, Pop. Now don’t make a whole thing out of it, will ya?
WILLY Go back to the West! Be a carpenter, a cowboy, enjoy yourself!
LINDA Willy, he was just saying—
WILLY I heard what he said!
HAPPY (trying to quiet Willy) Hey, Pop, come on now …
WILLY (continuing over Happy’s line) They laugh at me, heh? Go to Filene’s, go to the Hub, go to Slattery’s, Boston. Call out the name Willy Loman and see what happens! Big shot!
BIFF All right, Pop.
BIFF All right!
WILLY Why do you always insult me?
BIFF I didn’t say a word. (To Linda.) Did I say a word?
LINDA He didn’t say anything, Willy.
WILLY (going to the doorway of the livingroom) All right, good night, good night.
LINDA Willy, dear, he just decided …
WILLY (to Biff) If you get tired hanging around tomorrow, pain the ceiling I put up in the livingroom.
BIFF I’m leaving early tomorrow.
HAPPY He’s going to see Bill Oliver, Pop.
WILLY (interestedly) Oliver? For what?
BIFF (with reserve, but trying, trying) He always said he’d stake me. I’d like to go into business, so maybe I can take him up on it.
LINDA Isn’t that wonderful?
WILLY Don’t interrupt. What’s wonderful about it? There’s fifty men in the City of New York who’d stake him. (To Biff.) Sporting goods?
BIFF I guess so. I know something about it and—
WILLY He knows something about it! You know sporting goods better than Spalding, for God’s sake! How much is he giving you?
BIFF I don’t know, I didn’t even see him yet, but—
WILLY Then what’re you talkin’ about?
BIFF (getting angry) Well, all I said was I’m gonna see him, that’s all!
WILLY (turning away) Ah, you’re counting your chickens again.
BIFF (starting left for the stairs) Oh, Jesus, I’m going to sleep!
WILLY (calling after him) Don’t curse in this house!
BIFF (turning) Since when did you get so clean!
HAPPY (trying to stop them) Wait a …
WILLY Don’t use that language to me! I won’t have it!
HAPPY (grabbing Biff, shouts) Wait a minute! I got an idea. I got a feasible idea. Come here, Biff, let’s talk this over now, let’s talk some sense here. When I was down in Florida last time, I thought of a great idea to sell sporting goods. It just came back to me. You and I, Biff—we have a line, the Loman Line. We train a couple of weeks, and put on a couple of exhibitions, see?
WILLY That’s an idea!
HAPPY Wait! We form two basketball teams, see? Two water-polo teams. We play each other. It’s a million dollars’ worth of publicity. Two brothers, see? The Loman Brothers. Displays in the Royal Palms—all the hotels. And banners over the ring and the basketball court: “Loman Brothers.” Baby, we could sell sporting goods!
WILLY That is a one-million-dollar idea.
BIFF I’m in great shape as far as that’s concerned.
HAPPY And the beauty of it is, Biff, it wouldn’t be like a business. We’d be out playin’ ball again …
BIFF (enthused) Yeah, that’s …
WILLY Million-dollar …
HAPPY And you wouldn’t get fed up with it, Biff. It’d be the family again. There’d be the old honor, and comradeship, and if you wanted to go off for a swim or somethin’—well, you’d do it! Without some smart cooky getting’ up ahead of you!
WILLY Lick the world! You guys together could absolutely lick the civilized world.
BIFF I’ll see Oliver tomorrow. Hap, if we could work that out …
LINDA Maybe things are beginning to—
WILLY (wildly enthused, to Linda) Stop interrupting! (To Biff.) But don’t wear sport jacket and slacks when you see Oliver.
BIFF No, I’ll—
WILLY A business suit, and talk as little as possible, and don’t crack any jockes.
BIFF He did like me. Always liked me.
LINDA He loved you!
WILLY (to Linda) Will you stop! (To Biff.) Walk in very serious. You are not applying for a boy’s job. Money is to pass. Be quiet, fine, and serious. Everybody likes a kidder, but nobody lends him money.
HAPPY I’ll try to get some myself, Biff. I’m sure I can.
WILLY I can see great things for you, kids, I think your troubles are over. But remember, start big and you’ll end big. Ask for fifteen. How much you gonna ask for?
BIFF Gee, I don’t know—
WILLY And don’t say “Gee.” “Gee” is a boys’ word. A man walking in for fifteen thousand dollars does not say “Gee!”
BIFF Ten, I think, would be top though.
WILLY Don’t be so modest. You always started too low. Walk in with a big laugh. Don’t look worried. Start off with a couple of your good stories to lighten things up. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it—because personality always wins the day.
LINDA Oliver always thought the highest of him—
WILLY Will you let me talk?
BIFF Don’t yell at her, Pop, will ya?
WILLY (angrily) I was talking, wasn’t I!
BIFF I don’t like you yelling at her all the time, and I’m tellin’ you, that’s all.
WILLY What’re you, takin’ over this house?
WILLY (turning on her) Don’t take his side all the time, goddammit!
BIFF (furiously) Stop yelling at her!
WILLY (suddenly pulling on his cheek, beaten down, guilt ridden) Give my best to Bill Oliver—he may remember me. (He exits through the livingroom doorway.)
LINDA (her voice subdued) What’d you have to start that for? (Biff turns away.) You see how sweet he was as soon as you talked hopefully? (She goes over to Biff.) Come up and say good night to him. Don’t let him go to bed that way.
HAPPY Come on, Biff, let’s buck him up.
LINDA Please, dear. Just say good night. It takes so little to make him happy. Come. (She goes through the livingroom doorway, calling upstairs from within the livingroom.) Your pajamas are hanging in the bathroom. Willy!
HAPPY (looking toward where Linda went out) What a woman! They broke the mold when they made her. You know that, Biff?
BIFF He’s off salary. My God, working on commission!
HAPPY Well, let’s face it: he’s no hot-shot selling man. Except that sometimes, you have to admit, he’s a sweet personality.
BIFF (deciding) Lend me ten bucks, will ya? I want to buy some new ties.
HAPPY I’ll take you to a place I know. Beautiful stuff. Wear one of my striped shirts tomorrow.
BIFF She got gray. Mom got awful old. Gee, I’m gonna go in to Oliver tomorrow and knock him for a—
HAPPY Come on up. Tell that to Dad. Let’s give him a whirl. Come on.
BIFF (steamed up) You know, with ten thousand bucks, boy!
HAPPY (as they go into the livingroom) That’s the talk, Biff, that’s the first time I’ve heard the old confident out of you! (From within the livingroom, fading off.) You’re gonna live with me, kid, and any babe you want you just say the word … (The last lines are hardly heard. They are mounting the stairs to their parents’ bedroom.)
LINDA (entering her bedroom and addressing Willy, who is in the bathroom. She is straightening the bed for him) Can you do anything about the shower? It drips.
WILLY (from the bathroom) All of a sudden everything falls to pieces! Goddam plumbing, oughta be sued, those people. I hardly finished putting it in and the thing … (His words rumble off.)
LINDA I’m just wondering if Oliver will remember him. You think he might?
WILLY (coming out of the bathroom in his pajamas) Remember him? What’s the matter with you, you crazy? If he’d’ve stayed with Oliver he’d be on top by now! Wait’ll Oliver gets a look at him. You don’t know the average caliber any more. The average young man today—(he is getting into bed)—is got a caliber of zero. Greatest thing in the world for him was to bum around.
Biff and Happy enter the bedroom. Slight pause.
WILLY (stops short, looking at Biff) Glad to hear it, boy.
HAPPY He wanted to say good night to you, sport.
WILLY (to Biff) Yeah. Knock him dead, boy. What’d you want to tell me?
BIFF Just take it easy, Pop. Good night. (He turns to go.)
WILLY (unable to resist) And if anything falls off the desk while you’re talking to him—like a package or something—don’t you pick it up. They have office boys for that.
LINDA I’ll make a big breakfast—
WILLY Will you let me finish? (To Biff.) Tell him you were in the business in the West. Not farm work.
BIFF All right, Dad.
LINDA I think everything—
WILLY (going right through her speech) And don’t undersell yourself. No less thatn fifteen thousand dollars.
BIFF (unable to bear him) Okay. Good night, Mom. (He starts moving.)
WILLY Because you got a greatness in you, Biff, remember that. You got all kinds a greatness … (He lies back, exhausted. Biff walks out.)
LINDA (calling after Biff) Sleep well, darling!
HAPPY I’m gonna get married, Mom. I wanted to tell you.
LINDA Go to sleep, dear.
HAPPY (going) I just wanted to tell you.
WILLY Keep up the good work. (Happy exits.) God … remember that Ebbets Field game? The championship of the city?
LINDA Just rest. Should I sing to you?
WILLY Yeah. Sing to me. (Linda hums a soft lullaby.) When that team came out—he was the tallest, remember?
LINDA Oh, yes. And in gold.
Biff enters the darkened kitchen, takes a cigarette, and leaves the house. He comes downstage into a golden pool of light. He smokes, staring at he night.
WILLY Like a young god. Hercules—something like that. And the sun, the sun all around him. Remember how he waved to me? Right up from the field, with the representatives of three colleges standing by? And the buyers I brought, and the cheers when he came out—Loman, Loman, Loman! God Almighty, he’ll be great yet. A star like that, magnificent, can never really fade away!
The light on Willy is fading. The gas heater begins to glow through the kitchen wall, near the stairs, a blue flame beneath red coils.
LINDA (timidly) Willy, dear, what has he got against you?
WILLY I’m so tired. Don’t talk any more.
Biff slowly returns to the kitchen. He stops, stares toward the heater.
LINDA Will you ask Howard to let you work in New York?
WILLY First thing in the morning. Everything’ll be all right.
Biff reaches behind the heater and draws out a length of rubber tubing. He is horrified and turns his head toward Willy’s room, still dimly lit, from which the strains of Linda’s desperate but monotonous humming rise.
WILLY (staring through the window into the moonlight) Gee, look at the moon moving between the buildings!
Biff wraps the tubing around his hand and quickly goes up the stairs. Curtain.
Music is heard, gay and bright. The curtain rises as the music fades away. Willy, in shirt sleeves, is sitting at the kitchen table, sipping coffee, his hat in his lap. Linda is filling his cup when she can.
HOWARD Oh, yeah, yeah. I remember. Well, I couldn’t think of anything for you, Willy.
WILLY I tell ya, Howard. The kids are all grown up, y’know. I don’t need much any more. If I could tak home—well, sixty-five dollars a week, I could swing it.
HOWARD Yeah, but Willy, see I—
WILLY I tell ya why, Howard. Speaking frankly and between the two of us, y’know—I’m just a little tired.
HOWARD Oh, I could understand that, Willy. But you’re a road man, Willy, and we do a road business. We’ve only got a half-dozen salesmen on the floor here.
WILLY God knows, Howard, I never asked a favor of any man. But I was with the firm when your father used to carry you in here in his arms.
HOWARD I know that, Willy, but—
WILLY Your father came to me the day you were born and asked me what I thought of the name of Howard, may he rest in peace.
HOWARD I appreciate that, Willy, but there just is no spot here for you. If I had a spot I’d slam you right in, but I just don’t have a single, solitary spot.
He looks for his lighter. Willy has picked it up and gives it to him. Pause.
WILLY (with increasing anger) Howard, all I need to set my table is fifty dollars a week.
HOWARD But where am I going to put you, kid?
WILLY Look, it isn’t a question of whether I can sell merchandise, is it?
HOWARD No, but it’s a business, kid, and everybody’s gotta pull his own weight.
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 these 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 his 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 man 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 salesman 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 any more.
HOWARD (moving away, to the right) That’s just the thing, Willy.
WILLY If I had forty dollars a week—that’s all I’d need. Forty dollars, Howard.
HOWARD Kid, I can’t take blood from a stone, I—
WILLY (desperation is on him now) Howard, the year Al Smith was nominated, your father came to me and—
HOWARD (starting to go off) I’ve got to see some people, kid.
WILLY (stopping him) I’m talking about your father! There were promises made across this desk! You mustn’t tell me you’ve got people to see—I put thirty-four years into this firm, Howard, and now I can’t pay my insurance! You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away—a man is not a piece of fruit! (After a pause.) Now pay attention. Your father—in 1928 I had a big year. I averaged a hundred and seventy dollars a week in commissions.