abstract

The Archbishop’s Ceiling is a new kind of drama for Miller. His plays of the 1940s to 1960s focus on characters’ psychological interiority, their struggle to maintain their belief that the stories they have been telling themselves and others about who they are and how they fit into the world are true. These plays focus on ethics, on characters’ understanding of the personal values that constitute their selves, what Miller called “dignity.” In The Archbishop’s Ceiling, characters have abandoned the idea that they are constituted by this interiority; rather, their self is their public appearance, a kind of theater. To understand a person, we no longer can seek to see into inner psychological states and values; all we can do is try to understand the purpose of their overt action in the context of the broader public events that surround it. Ethics has collapsed into politics. The notion of a private interior self has been replaced by the self of public display. This is the move from modernism to postmodernism.

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