Dramatic Tension in 'A View from the Bridge' by Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller the American playwright wrote ‘A View from the Bridge’ in 1955. The play is set in the late 1940’s after the economic depression in 1930 when people were poorly paid and exploited by their bosses. The play is based on the lives and communities of dock workers and longshoremen who worked on New York’s Brooklyn habour where Miller himself had previously worked.

The play revolves around Eddie Carbone who is seen as the tragic hero throughout the play and his unadorned Italian family who’s lives are made quickly complicated when his wife’s two Italian cousins who illegally immigrate to their home in order to earn money (Marco and Rodolfo).

The Carbone family consists of : Eddie a straightforward and uncomplicated longshoreman; his wife Beatrice who is down-to-earth; and their niece Catherine who they care for. The play is a bloody tragedy that is developed by Miller using dramatic techniques which climaxes with the pitiful death of Eddie after he betrays the Italian relatives.

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The two Italian brothers are very different from one another but one similarity that they share is the respect they have for each other. They believe in the ancient ” Italian Mafia Code”, if you belong to the Mafia then you cannot betray members of your own family. The betrayal done by a family member results in their own death and there is no other solution. When the two brothers immigrate to America, the mafia rules that they follow don’t fit into the American laws that the 1940’s Americans do.

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The different beliefs of what is morally right cause controversy in the play between different characters and this results in dramatic tension being built. The play is a bloody tragedy because the Marco has to kill Eddie because it’s what he believes has to be done. This is the point in the play that all the dramatic tension drives towards. At the beginning Miller uses detailed and specific stage directions to create a strong idea in the audiences mind of the simple, happy atmosphere needed to create this scene, an example of his stage directions is: ‘It’s a workers flat, clean, sparse and homely’.

This gives the audience a clear image of the home, it is a content place. You can tell this by the way Miller uses the word ‘homely’, I interpret this as meaning it’s nice environment to be in. Miller also tells me as a member of the audience that the family is not wealthy and is a uncomplicated ordinary family, he does this by making the starting scene of the play ‘sparse’ and ‘clean’. Miller opens act one also with the character Alfieri who is a wealthy and trusting lawyer takes the role of a Greek chorus figure narrating throughout the play directly to the audience.

He predicts the ‘bloody’ end to the tragedy, this starts of the dramatic irony that causes the dramatic tension building at the start of the play. I think this happens because Alfieri allows the audience to know that something tragic will definitely happen to Eddie Carbone. As well as being the narrator Alfieri helps the dramatic tension by filling in the gaps of the plot and drives the storyline along. An example of a powerful quote he uses is: ‘and sat there powerless as I watched it run its bloody course’.

Miller uses the character Alfieri to show the audience a ‘A View from the bridge’ or an outsider’s view suggested by the title of the play which reads as ‘A View From The Bridge’. Throughout the play Alfieri interprets what the characters say and how they are feeling then feeds back his interpretations to the audience. When individual characters consult Alfieri during the play he tends to leave them feeling confused, they also have a tendency to feel unsure about what they should do and they are unaware of their own feelings.

In my opinion I think that this therefore adds to the dramatic tension that Miller succeeds in creating during the play. Miller creates a scene of mixed tension in the first part of act one which features an intimate triangle of three characters living in a claustrophobic environment. The intimate triangle of characters consists of Eddie, Catherine, and Beatrice who are close to one another and share secrets and personal feelings. The first scene reveals to the audience tension between the family.

Catherine – having always been the baby of the family, is starting to lead her own life and is eager about getting a job. Eddie – being the man of the family, does not like the fact that Catherine and Beatrice have gone behind his back and not discussed with him Catherine’s employment. Eddie shows the audience that he would much prefer he to keep Catherine at home, he shows this by saying: ‘no-no, you gonna finish school. What kinda job, what do you mean? All of a sudden’ ‘I don’t like the neighborhood over there.

‘ Eddies is an extremely controlling character especially over Catherine, and he appears to force decisions upon the family with an “iron fist”. It shows me as the audience the concern that Eddie has over his niece, this is because he doesn’t want Catherine to get hurt. I think that Eddie’s protective behaviour towards Catherine unveils to the audience that he has stronger and more personal feelings for Catherine that he is struggling with in his attempt to control them. Miller adds more tension to the atmosphere of the play by making Eddies character aggressive towards the other characters.

An example of this is when Beatrice becomes involved in an argument that is only between Eddie and Catherine. When Beatrice chooses to become involved with their disagreement she then decides to support Catherine’s view over Eddie’s. Beatrice becomes quite patronising to Eddie by saying: “I don’t understand you; she’s seventeen years old, you gonna keep her in the house all her life? “. Eddie’s response to this shows that he is panicking, his retaliating quote shows his aggression by questioning Beatrice and he says: “What kinda remark is that?

“In my opinion Eddie is panicking because he is worried that Beatrice is hinting at the secret feelings he has towards Catherine. The tension between the three characters is eventually broken when the family who are predominantly Catholic, sit down to eat their tea and pray before they eat. Instantly the audience sees the tension change again when Eddie then announces the arrival of Beatrice’s cousins Rodolfo and Marco. Miller mounts up the tension in the anticipation of the arrival, the family are excited and anxious about their new arrivals.

The cousins arrive in a scene of mixed emotions but are welcomed into the Carbone household. From the stage directions (‘enter Marco and Rodolfo, removing their caps. ‘) the audience can see that Marco and Rodolfo are polite men who are unsure of whether things will work out for them under Eddie Carbone’s roof. The good spirits of Eddie are short lived when he realises that Catherine finds Rodolfo attractive. The audience know that he doesn’t want her to get hurt or leave him behind thus creating more tension.

After the arrival of Marco and Rodolfo viewers of the play begin to imagine how life will be in the small house will be with all five characters living together under each other’s feet. The prediction that the audience make at this point into the story is that Eddie will get along with Marco as he has yet to offend him, but will have issues with Rodolfo if his “little girl” gets involved with him. In the second part of Act 1 the following events happen; Eddie and Beatrice’s relationship is under serious strain when they stop having sex and Beatrice finds herself asking Eddie “when she is gonna be a women again”.

Meanwhile Eddie becomes infatuated with Catherine and her relationship with Rodolfo, Beatrice becomes aware of this and says to Eddie: ‘ It’s almost three months you don’t feel good; they’re only here a couple of weeks. ‘ Tension is now climaxing between Catherine and Eddie when he tells her that Rodolfo is only with her for her passport and a safe passage into the country, there is evidence of this when Eddie says to Catherine: “Katie, he’s only bowin’ to his passport”.

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Dramatic Tension in 'A View from the Bridge' by Arthur Miller. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/dramatic-tension-in-a-view-from-the-bridge-by-arthur-miller-essay

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