Arthur Miller was born on October 17, 1915 in New York City. His father made women's clothing and ran a shop selling it, but he was forced to close it during the Great Depression. His mother was a housewife and his sister went on to become an actress under the name Joan Copeland.
During the 1920s, Arthur went to school at PS 24 in New York's Harlem district. He later studied at the Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, where he was a mediocre student, but talented athlete. After graduating from high school, he applied to the University of Michigan, but was rejected on his first attempt. He spent the next year saving most of his money for a college fund and reapplied in 1934. This time he was accepted.
At the University of Michigan, Miller chose to study journalism, but later switched to English. His primary interests centered around the drama of Ancient Greece as well as the works of Henrik Ibsen, a Norwegian playwright. In 1936, he wrote his first play, "No Villain", for a writing contest and won the Avery Hopwood Award for it. In 1938, he graduated with a bachelor's degree and began working on writing more plays.
In 1940, he married a woman named Mary Slattery, whom he had met and fallen in love with during college. They went on to have two children, Jane and Robert. When the United States became involved in World War 2 in 1941, Arthur was exempt from serving due to a kneecap injury that he had sustained during high school football.
In 1947, he wrote the play "All My Sons". The play followed a factory owner who sells faulty parts during World War 2 out of protest of the fighting. The play won two Tony Awards as well as the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. In 1949, Miller wrote the play that is largely regarded as his best, "Death of a Salesman". The play follows an aging salesman named Willy Loman, who has great dreams, but fails to accomplish them. The play won a Pulitzer Prize, three Tony Awards, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, becoming the first play to do so.
In 1950, when the McCarthy Hearings began, Miller was horrified and began working on plays that commented on the situation. His first was 1953's "The Crucible", which was about the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. The play drew strong correlations between McCarthyism and the Salem Witch Trials and became very popular. In 1955, he wrote another play, "A View From the Bridge", which many considered to also be a commentary on McCarthyism.
In 1956, Miller divorced his wife Mary after sixteen years of marriage. That same year, he was brought before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, but refused to cooperate and was charged with contempt of Congress. On June 29, 1956, he married actress Marilyn Monroe, whom he converted to Judaism.
On May 31, 1957, Miller was found guilty of contempt of Congress after he refused to reveal the names of fellow members of a literary circle suspected of communist affiliation. On August 7, 1958, the United States Court of Appeals reversed the conviction.
On January 24, 1961, Marilyn Monroe divorced Miller and he went on to marry Inge Morath on February 17, 1962. The pair had two children, Daniel and Rebecca, and their marriage survived for forty years until she died. On February 10, 2005, Arthur Miller died of natural causes.