Explain how act one of A View from the Bridge is effective in terms of dramatic quality and how an audience might respond to the play.
This essay is about act 1 of A View from the Bridge which was written by Arthur Miller. A View From The Bridge is a play, so I will be focussing on the dramatic input it had on the audience. People in the 1950’s, when the play was first performed, would react differently to an audience would now.
People in the 1950’s lived under a very strict moral code, people were expected to live like a stereotypical American citizen would have. The code was much stricter than the one that exists today. This is shown by “In your town you wouldn’t just drag off some girl without permission… it ain’t that much different here.”
In Italy there was no employment, which meant there was no money to spend even on basic needs like food and water, Marco explains how his 3 children “eat the sunshine” and because of this many Italians immigrated to America, so that they could live the ‘American Dream’, where people were able to find employment.
Women were made to live under moral values and were expected to be homemakers. Beatrice is a very good example of this, ‘I was gonna wash the walls’, men, on the other hand were expected to be the providers, to get money and keep the family stable. They were expected to behave like men, “Come on Rodolfo, I’ll show you a couple of passes… now watch out here I come, Danish!” Working class men had specific views on sexuality; this is a reason why Eddie and Rodolfo are constantly fighting. Eddie suspects Rodolfo as being a homosexual, because Rodolfo makes dresses, sings and dances, which is not a way a man should be behaving, and because of this behaviour, he calls Rodolfo “A weird” and tells Alfeiri, “the guy ain’t right,” Eddie also worries how the other men view him, “they’re calling him a canary.” The contrast to how they view the more conventional Marco, “A regular slave” creates a lot of tension and makes Eddie very anxious.
Eddie is the main character of the play, and it is his tragedy that we watch unfold. Eddie works on the docks because he is a longshoreman. He is presented as an ordinary, hardworking provider. “He was as good as a man as he had to be in a life that was hard and even… he brought home his pay and he lived.” However Alfieri then goes on to say “Eddie Carbone had never expected to have a destiny. A man works, raises his family, goes bowling, eats, gets old and then dies.” This tells the audience that Eddie is more than meets the eye. Eddie is an Italian-American who is lacking in education, which is portrayed in his speech, “I’ll treat yiz”, “you gotta sit down sometimes”. His grammar is often inaccurate “whyn’t you run down.”
Eddie is important to the play because he shows what happens when you betray your family and how it affects him emotionally and physically. If Eddie didn’t exist the family could not survive, as he holds the family together, however Eddie could not survive with his family, which is why the play is so tragic. Eddie relates to the other characters by being something they each need, for Instance he sees himself as a man, a husband, an uncle and a member of a close-knit Italian community.
However the audience sees a strong silent type in Eddie, they can see what is going on in Eddies head, they can see he is trying to protect Catherine from other people and himself, “I guess I just never figured on one thing… that you would ever grow up.” The audience can see Eddie try and rationalise his feelings for Catherine and can see how jealous Eddie is when Catherine is going out with Rodolfo, “He takes and puts his filthy hands on her like a goddam thief!” Eddie’s feelings for Catherine also impacts on the relationship he has with Beatrice, “when am I going to be a wife again?”
Eddie makes act one dramatic with all the intensity of everything that is going on around him, eg his feelings for Catherine, relationship problems with Beatrice and the hatred of Rodolfo, which leads to Eddie making negative comments, which makes Catherine and Beatrice anxious, as they can see his anger building up. He also starts to criticise Catherine, for example “what the high heels for Garbo?”. Even though Marco has spoken very little, it is made clear that he is angry at Eddie for disrespecting his brother, so Marco challenges Eddie in lifting a chair above his head, which Marco does successfully but Eddie is unable to do, this gesture warns Eddie, its as if he is saying, if you mess with Rodolfo you mess with me. It also shows how strong Marco is compared to Eddie, which is important as it relates to the end scene.
Catherine and Beatrice are important to the play because they are Eddies family, if they weren’t, Beatrice would not have been able to build up so much tension about not being a wife, and neither would Catherine’s falling in love with Rodolfo. This tells us that all the characters contributed something to cause Eddie’s death. Both Beatrice and Catherine are very likeable characters; Catherine acts like a little girl, even though she is 17. She treats Eddie like her father and she is very optimistic in every situation. Beatrice is a much more stable and mature character. She can see what to do in every situation. Being an Italian-American, means that her grammar is often inaccurate. Beatrice is very much based at home and her speech is usually connected with the world, “I don’t even have nothing to eat for them”, “what’re you got”.
Whereas Catherine, has had more education than Beatrice, but has still grown up in the Italian-American community, which means she still uses a lot of slang and is lively in her speech, “I’m the best student, he says, and if I want, I should take the job”, “oh sure, I’m crazy for paper doll”. However, Beatrice and Catherine are different, “oh Beatrice what should I do?” where young Catherine is uncertain, Beatrice is mature and has a clear view of matters. The audience would feel sorry for them because they are trying to have normal lives, but Eddie brought so much tension, that it affects the whole family. Catherine doesn’t understand why Eddie was so upset with Rodolfo, “why don’t you like him Eddie?”
Beatrice is troubled because she notices that Eddie has feelings for Catherine, but really wants to be Eddie’s wife. “You want something else Eddie! But you can never have her!” The audience feels sorry for Beatrice after learning that she knows about Eddie’s feelings. Catherine and Beatrice cause a lot of tension, with Catherine desperately wanting to see Rodolfo, but Eddie is reluctant to let her, and Catherine wanting to get a job and to go out more. Beatrice is concerned about her relationship, and the way Catherine acts around Eddie, which leads her to say that she needs to grow up now that she is older.
Also Eddie’s reaction to Catherine “now don’t aggravate me, Katie, you are walking wavy” these are the first signs of trouble. Furthermore, Eddie is not entirely happy with Beatrice’s cousins coming to stay with them. “I’ll end up on the floor with you, and they’ll be in our bed”, Eddie expects the cousins to be grateful. Eddie then gets even angrier when Rodolfo flirts with Catherine, which is shown to the audience by stage direction – he has been unconsciously twisting the newspaper into a tight roll.
Marco and Rodolfo are brothers who come from Italy. Their life in Italy was terrible; Rodolfo had no other family or any money, he was unemployed and could not get a job. Marco has a wife and 3 children. He also had no money because of unemployment, and therefore, both brothers immigrated to America, where they would stay with the Carbone’s. Marco and Rodolfo became longshoremen, and received reasonable pay, of which Marco sent most of it to his family in Italy, and continued to live in America.
Rodolfo’s second language is English; this becomes more obvious when he gets flustered or excited. He is enthusiastic and lively in his speech, which reflects his character. “Me? Yes, forever… I want to go back to Italy when I am rich, and I will buy a motorcycle”, “Quickly and with a great noise”. Marco lacks education. English is his second language too, “No, but she understand everything”. He is described as “A square built peasant”. He is a man of few words, but when Marco is angry, his speech becomes disjointed. “I work to come here mister”, “that one!” he speaks very poor English, but still it shows Marco’s contempt for Eddie.
Marco is not like Rodolfo, he is not lively but very quiet, and does what he is told. He behaves like a ‘proper’ man. “He’s a regular slave”. Because of Rodolfo’s liking for singing and dressmaking, Eddie reacts harshly to him. For example, Eddie humiliates Rodolfo in front of Catherine, ‘Eddie pins his arms, laughing, and suddenly kisses him, “You see?” The audience would have also suspected Rodolfo of being a homosexual and would have despised him and discouraged his behaviour.
The conflict between Eddie, Marco and Rodolfo at the end of act one is made very dramatic for the audience. This is cleverly done by the characters and their stage directions, for instance, he transforms what might appear like a glare of warning, into a smile of triumph. This creates a lot of energy from all of the three men, which puts a lot of pressure on Eddie.
Alfieri is a lawyer. He is well educated and uses higher register than the other characters, “I confess that something perversely pure calls to me from his memory.” He is also ‘chatty’ when he addresses the audience: “you wouldn’t have known it, but something amusing has just happened.” He functions like a Greek chorus; he explains and sometimes warns the audience about the action, he might tell you what happens next. Moreover, he has a dramatic function as a narrator, a commentator and a character that interacts with others. Alfieri connects the play together. He also introduces the main themes, for example he suggests to the audience that the play they are going to watch is not going to be happy. “Watch its bloody course”. He makes the audience realise that the play is a tragedy and Eddie can not escape his destiny.
He also introduces the main comments to the audience, “settle for half”, “The law is not a friendly idea ” which means he is saying make sure you do anything for your family, which relates to what Eddie talks about when he is telling the story of Vinny Bolzano. He explains that Vinny had an uncle, who was staying with him. However his uncle was an illegal immigrant. So the boy phoned immigration and the uncle was taken back to his country. The boy was never seen again because he was so ashamed of what he had done. His friends and family would not speak to him again. Vinny Bolzano symbolises the loyalty amongst the Italian-American community and the consequence of breaking that trust. In a similar way: the Lipari’s, Louis and mike do the same thing.
They were close friends of Eddie in the beginning of the play, “see ya Louis”, who turn against Eddie once he betrays his family: ‘the crowd has turned to Eddie.’ ‘Louis barely turns then walks off, Eddie calls after Louis and Mike’. In the play he also advises Eddie not to phone immigration, and warns him of the consequences, “You won’t have a friend in the world Eddie!” This will make the audience think either; that the advice is not appropriate because he is a lawyer. He is connected to the law, and so should make sure Eddie goes by the law. Or the audience might agree with the advice, as they know how important it is that you do anything for your family. .. this scene makes the audience involved by making use their judgement. Lighting is used throughout to make Alfieri’s appearance more dramatic, ‘lights rise on Alfieri’, ‘lights fade on Alfieri’.
Arthur Miller uses dramatic irony. For example, when the Immigration Officers appear outside the Carbone’s apartment just as Catherine is arguing with Eddie over where Marco and Rodolfo are going to stay if Eddie throws them out of the building. We know their argument is pointless because the officers are about to pounce.
The effect of dramatic irony is to involve us in the action, to make us feel implicated, almost as if we are ourselves characters in the play. Miller is very explicit with his stage directions. He describes in detail how he wants the set to appear and exactly how characters are to say each line, i.e. ‘With deep alarm’. Miller also uses stage directions to hint that there is a sexual attraction between Eddie and Catherine “He looks at [Catherine] like a lost boy”. Furthermore, the actions towards Rodolfo show the audience that Catherine is slipping away from Eddie, “He’s a rat! He belongs in the sewer!”
The dramatic devices, techniques and stage craft make the play very dramatic. The skilful use of these, build up intensity between the characters, which in turn causes hatred and jealousy. It shows us today how fortunate we are compared to the lives back then; as women and men were not allowed to be different, and had to live by strict moral values.
This also shows us how bad some peoples lives were in the 1950’s and illustrates how bad life was in Italy. Today, the audience would act differently; this is because it is now acceptable to be unique and to be homosexual, nowadays people wouldn’t be so judgemental. I think the play is good because it so emotive. It highlights how bad life can be, and even when you are tempted not to, to still look after your family, and do everything you can for them, as betrayal, (a major theme in the play),has been proved to sometimes have fatal consequences.