Death of a Salesman Plot Diagram | Five Act Structure
Lesson Plan Reference
Grade Level 9-12
Difficulty Level 2 (Reinforcing / Developing)
Type of Assignment Individual or Partner
Type of Activity: The Five Act Play (Dramatic Structure)Common Core Standards
- [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text
- [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/3] Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme
- [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/5] Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise
With Storyboard That, students can diagram a play’s five act structure to show the sequence of events. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of plot, but it reinforces major actions from the play and helps students develop greater understanding for literary structures. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the acts in order: Prologue, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement / Epilogue.
Example Death of a Salesman Five Act Structure
Act 1: Prologue
Set in New York City, in 1949, Willy, the protagonist, is a traveling salesman, his wife, Linda, is a stay at home mother, and his two sons, Happy and Biff, have grown up "yet to make something of themselves."
Act 2: Conflict
During many flashbacks the audience is introduced to Willy's early life. His dreams, disillusionment, infidelity, and disappointments with being mediocre. With his sons visiting and urging him to speak to his boss about his job, Willy gets up the nerve to ask for a transfer. Instead of being transferred to the New York office, he is fired.
Act 3: Climax
In an attempt help their father, Happy and Biff take Willy out to dinner. While at dinner, Willy becomes upset and leaves.
Act 4: Falling Action
Willy's delusions get the best of him, and he kills himself in a car crash to provide his family with the $20,000 of insurance money.
Act 5: Epilogue
At Willy’s funeral, Happy vows to prove that his father's life was not in vain and continues in the sales business. Biff realizes that his father's life and focus were on the wrong dream, and he goes back to the ranch, determined to find happiness in his work. Linda ends the play saying, "we are free".
(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)
Create a visual plot diagram of Death of a Salesman.
- Separate the play into the Prologue/Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.
- Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the acts.
- Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.
(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)