Before the Empty Bench: The Equivocal Motif of “Trial” in Arthur Miller’s Works

  • Rupendra Guha Majumdar
Part of the American Literature Readings in the 21st Century book series (ALTC)


One of Arthur Miller’s primary stage motifs, the trial, embodies the trauma of the protagonist’s struggle to regain his personal dignity before the “empty bench” of an impersonal and often invisible law. Miller, sharing a modern literary tradition which features Ibsen, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Sartre, Camus, and also relating to instances of contemporary political trials in the western world, registers the existential and absurd process of the motif as the framework to resolve the crucial conflicts of his times in America and beyond. Miller’s characters are often caught in a tortured ambivalence where they simultaneously judge, defend, punish and condemn themselves, accountable to a painful past, in a serious attempt to recreate the values of the present and the future. This essay examines Miller’s involvement, at subjective and objective levels, with the concept of the trial in modern American drama.


Arthur Miller Hannah Arendt Jean Paul Sartre Søren Kierkegaard Anti-Semitism Trials Conscience Morality Ethics Existentialism 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rupendra Guha Majumdar
    • 1
  1. 1.University of DelhiNew DelhiIndia

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