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The stage directions direct Eddie to say his line ‘sardonically’. Here, dramatic irony is used by Miller. Alfieri is trying to explain to Eddie that his feelings are wrong or mixed up. However Eddie thinks Alfieri doesn’t understand that he has to protect Catherine and belittles what Alfieri says with a sarcastic reply. The audience, on the other hand, know that Eddie is the one who doesn’t understand his own feelings, and that Alfieri is making perfect sense.
The incestuous undertones make it good theatre because they give it depth and engage the audience’s attention by forcing them to deduce information for themselves.
Another pivotal character is Eddie’s wife Beatrice. She is the character in the story most aware of Eddie’s feelings and helps us to understand his underlying motives by highlighting difficulties in their marriage. “BEATRICE: When am I gonna be a wife again… It’s almost three months you don’t feel good… What tell me am I doing something wrong? EDDIE [-pause.
He can’t speak then]: I can’t. I can’t talk about it. (Act 1 p36) This conversation has both literal and figurative meaning. On the surface, it is a conversation about Eddie’s lack of performance in the marital bed. However, the subtext is that, Beatrice is complaining that her husband is in love with someone else (Catherine) so is not being a proper husband in the emotional sense. Beatrice makes the audience further aware of this when she is talking to Catherine and says “… or maybe I’m jealous or somethin’, you know?
” (Act 1 p44) Here, Miller is using her to inform the audience of Eddie’s feelings, without having to use a direct address form Alfieri.
She is also used to diffuse tension and sway opinion towards Eddie before the final climax of the play. When Catherine attacks Eddie and refers to him as “This rat… who poisons decent people” and belongs “in the garbage”, Beatrice steps in to defend him by trying to spread the blame around and shoulder some of it herself: BEATRICE: “No… Then we all belong in the garbage. You and me too.
Don’t say that. Whatever happened we all done it, and don’t you ever forget it, Catherine. ” (Act 2 p81). This influences the audience because it gives them more viewpoints to consider, which automatically engages them further in the story, as they have to form an opinion of their own. She also senses the conflict looming when Rudolpho tells them “Marco is coming”. Trying to avoid the fierce confrontation she knows will take place “[Beatrice raises her hands in terror]”, between the two men, she asks Eddie to “go someplace”.
He refuses so she tries to reason with him and appeal to the ‘big man’ inside him, trying to make Marco seem “crazy” and irrational so Eddie will take the moral high ground and leave the house. Her efforts are in vain. Her frantic pleading with Eddie improves the scene because her desperation heightens the tension. Finally, there is Alfieri, Eddie’s lawyer friend. As a character he is not essential to the events in the story. However, his unique position as character and narrator make him vital to the audience’s understanding and enjoyment of the play. Miller does this by gaining the audiences approval of him early on in the play.
Before the dialogue begins, the stage directions say, “LOUIS and MIKE… nod to him as he passes” (Act 1 p11). This shows he is respected in his community. He also refers to himself and other lawyers as “we” and everybody else in the neighbourhood as “they”. This creates distance between himself and ordinary people and makes him seem objective and detached. He then goes on to say, “A lawyer means the law” (Act 1 p12). This makes the audience trust his word and his judgement because he is the voice of the law and the law is associated with justice, fairness and impartially.
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