With all these manly characteristics that Eddie strongly believes a man needs, if someone doesn’t conform to them it is surely to create conflict and tension between the characters. Rodolfo is young, blonde, a dress maker, cook, singer and dancer! To us in the modern world this can be normal for a young man but to Eddie he was anything but manly. Eddie was a little uncomfortable with this and speaks to a lawyer called Alfieri about the situation: “the guy ain’t right” and “the guy is no good”.
This immediately shows the audience Eddie’s feelings towards Rodolfo aren’t positive. Right from the beginning of the play Miller distinguishes the difference between men and women. Beatrice is in the kitchen cooking and Eddie is sat in his rocker, his ‘throne’. Later on in the play where Beatrice is stacking dishes and going in and out of the kitchen Rodolfo helps “(Beatrice enters. She and Rodolfo stack the remaining dishes.
)” Rodolfo stacking of the dishes exposes his femininity and goes against Eddie’s views on the role of a male in a household.
This creates tension not only on stage but for the audience as well. Eddie becomes hostile with Rodolfo and calls him many things such as, “Danish” “Canary” and “submarine. ” He uses these to portray a bad character in Rodolfo and to show that he isn’t right. Miller uses the irony of the word ‘Submarine’ as it can mean two things. Firstly that Rodolfo came on water and secondly that he is sneaky and deceptive and a threat.
The thing that angers Eddie the most is that Rodolfo loves Catherine and visa versa.
Eddie can’t understand why such a feminine man would want to marry a girl, especially his niece. Because of this Eddie tries to warn his niece by explaining “he marries you then he has a right to be an American Citezen”. This makes the audience aware of a possible reason for Rodolfo’s love for Catherine and is also backed up by a statement made by Marco “if you have no wife you have dreams” this leaves the audience wondering if Eddie is possibly correct about his views on Rodolfo as deceptive.
Alfieri may be a minor character to the play in terms of acting, he doesn’t perform in many scenes and have many lines, however what he does say is of great importance and therefore he is crucial to the play. Miller was heavily influenced by tradition of Greek tragedy. In Greek theatre there is a chorus. This chorus can be played by many people or even just one! The chorus acts as a narrator. They are the only people that know what is going to happen in the play. Similarly Alfieri has two parts in the play.
He is the lawyer that Eddie speaks to, yet he is the narrator of the play and knows exactly what’s going to happen, “you wouldn’t have known it but something amusing has just happened”. Alfieri, as a narrator and lawyer, doesn’t take sides. Alfieri knows the law from both America and Italy and is therefore able to give a point of view from both sides. In my opinion I think Alfieri is the ‘bridge’ the play is about as he has knowledge of both the Italian and American sides and doesn’t really say much but watches and comments on it. As I mentioned earlier Eddie speaks to Alfieri about Rodolfo saying “the guy ain’t right”.
Alfieri brings up the idea that Eddie might have too much love for Catherine which was resulting in the overprotectiveness towards her and the hostility and aggression towards both Marco and Rodolfo: “She can’t marry you can she Eddie” This demonstrates to the audience the love that Eddie has for Catherine and it refers back to a manliness characteristic of men liking women. Now small incidents which seemed innocent can be portrayed as sexual innuendoes for example at the beginning of the play Eddie takes pleasure in Catherine lighting his cigar, “here I’ll light it for you!
(She strikes a match and holds it to his cigar. He puffs, quietly. )” The use of proxemics help to discover a deeper feeling of love Eddie has towards Catherine. This also may be a result of why his relationship with his wife has been deteriorating, “it’s been 3 months now Eddie. ” After Eddie hears Alfieri’s statement of his unknowing love towards Catherine, Eddie becomes angry and aggressive, “(furiously) What are you talking about Marry me? I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about! (Pause)”.
The stage directions help to portray his anger and show how Eddie is in denial. As a man, having strength is of great importance, especially to Eddie whether it is physical or emotional. Yet the showings of these strengths are somewhat different. Eddie strongly believes that that a form of manliness is being able to show physical strength. Whereas a man should hide his emotional strength and resist public displays of emotion. These ideas of manliness cause a great deal of hostility and aggression at the beginning of Act 2.
Within this scene both ideas of strength become apparent. Rodolfo and Catherine go off stage, “(he is leading her towards the bedroom)”, showing a sexual relationship and Eddie enters slightly drunk. When he sees the pair together he is in shock and becomes angry and aggressive “(Eddie grabs her arm)…… (Catherine trembling with fright)” the verb ‘grabs’ emphasises the strength Eddie uses and is used in contrast with Catherine showing her emotions ‘trembling’. Miller here shows the difference between the man and woman.
As the scene progresses more emotions are revealed. Eddie, like Alfieri predicted, kissed Catherine on the mouth but Rodolfo retaliates saying “Don’t, get off her” showing he has more respect for women than Eddie which is in fact a quality of a man. But as the dialogue continues Eddie pressurises Rodolfo “Come on, Show me! What are you gunna be? Show me! ” emphasising his power over Rodolfo but Rodolfo becomes weak “(with tears of rage)” letting his manliness side down. This is antithesis as tears is feminine yet rage is a masculine feature.
The stage directions tell us that Eddie kisses Rodolfo causing confusion and a pivotal point within the play. Throughout the whole play Eddie has claimed all the features of manliness but it is here where he finally breaks down and can’t resist to display his mixed emotions “(Eddie stands there with tears rolling down his face as he laughs mockingly at Rodolfo)” Here we see that Eddie has mixed feelings and is struggling to control them all. Although he is wanting to cry he still cant resist in being openly hostile towards Rodolfo by laughing and trying to disguise his break down in manliness.
Although Rodolfo doesn’t conform to Eddie’s masculine ideas, Marco is a character that is conventionally masculine to Eddie’s idea of what it means to be a ‘real man’. But as two ‘real’ men they clash and all the qualities of manliness the pair has, result in aggression and hostility. This isn’t the only example of Marco being conventionally masculine according to Eddie. Marco also doesn’t show his emotions and is a breadwinner for his family, as he has come to America to seek wealth for them. This is why, at first, Eddie and Marco are able to get along. But this soon changes as the manly qualities are used against Eddie.
Firstly Marco is able to stand up for himself. Marco is now more aware of Eddie’s intentions towards Rodolfo. When Eddie is ‘telling off’ Rodolfo for coming home too late, he says to Rodolfo that he came to America to “fool around” and Eddie then brings Marco into the discussion by saying to him “But I understood, Marco, that you was both coming to make a living for your family” this is hostile statement leads to minor aggression, “I beg your pardon Eddie” This creates a huge dramatic impact as it’s the first time Marco has spoken against Eddie and shows the audience that Marco is becoming less tolerant of Eddie.
This minor incident is just the start of a build up of aggression between the two ‘real’ male characters. At the end of the boxing scene Marco has realised Eddie’s intentions and starts to build a climax for the end of Act 1. Throughout the scene tension is built through the characters. From Eddie trying to prove Rodolfo’s unmanliness as he can’t fight like a man to Rodolfo dancing with Catherine showing his unmanliness and disturbing Eddie the tension is dramatically built. The tension is broken when Marco, in a show of brute force and strength gains dominance over Eddie in a short highly dramatic moment.
Marco challenges Eddie to lift a chair from the bottom by one leg. Eddie attempts, “grasps the leg, raises the chair one inch, but it leans over to the floor”. Then “He tries again, and again fails”. After Marco has seen Eddie fail, he then attempts to lift the chair. At this point we know tension is brewing because Catherine and Rodolfo stop dancing as they watch supposedly in shock as Marco lifts the chair over Eddies head “like a weapon”. The tension slowly begins to disintegrate as Marco changes “a glare of warning” into “a smile of triumph”.
We now know Marco has the power because as he stares into Eddie’s eyes, Eddie’s grin disappears because he knows he has been beaten. This shows that even though Marco is conventionally masculine Eddie is still able to be hostile and aggressive. Maybe no one is good enough for Eddie, Rodolfo isn’t conventionally masculine and a tense atmosphere arises between those characters and also tension arises between Marco who does have the manliness qualities. Is anyone able to live up to Eddie’s manliness expectations? And more importantly does Eddie himself live up to these masculine qualities?