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How does Miller make this extract especially dramatic and how does this scene affect the rest of the play? In this extract we see a crucial change in all the principle characters of the first act. This is facilitated by Miller’s detailed use of stage direction, which he also used to ensure that this scene was acted correctly on stage. The scene is rife with tension and pathos. Its almost as if this scene were a trial of strength to put the three men is some sort of hierarchy.
Whereas before in the play Eddie hardly talked to Rodolpho (and if he did it was usually through Marco), here we see him directly confront Rodolpho. Eddie saw the opportunity to let some of his aggression out when the topic of boxing was brought up. So he hits Rodolpho whilst ‘teaching’ him to box. Up till this point Rodolpho had seemed to be innocently taking Eddie’s lead but I think that there was something about Rodolpho’s response after Eddie hit him that was quite hostile, ‘No, no, he didn’t hurt me’.
This was a response to Eddie’s question, so putting him in the third person seems to separate him from the scene, there seems to be a momentary status reversal between the two characters. All the other characters seem to take Rodolpho’s lead, as they are all aware of Eddie’s strange behaviour. Beatrice, initially supporting Eddie realised that the situation had gone a bit out of hand when Rodolpho was hit and pulls Eddie back into his chair, saying, ‘that’s enough Eddie’, fully aware that Eddie had far more grave intentions for Rodolpho than he let on.
Catherine had read the situation before it had begun and was clearly anxious for Rodolpho’s safety as the stage direction states, ‘[with beginning alarm]’. Then we see at the end of the passage how Marco also changes. He sees Eddie’s action as hostile and so he subtly reminds Eddie with the lifting of the chair that he is stronger than Eddie and that he would win a fight if Eddie attempts to show further aggression towards his brother.
So it would appear at the end of act one that Eddie has managed to isolate himself from his family and the two brothers. One has to feel a sense of Pathos for Eddie, as he is confused by his own feelings and unsure of how to act. Eddie’s insecurity has been prominent in this act and this scene seems to highlight it, almost as if the audience are being made aware of Eddie’s state at this point perhaps to explain his actions later in the play.