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The play opens with the introduction of Alfieri. He is shown to have the role of a chorus: a bridging character between the audience and the characters. The chorus tends to exist almost outside the play, as they know the outcome of the play, and is rarely part of the main action; their purpose in a play is to address the audience and help them to interpret action and they are a common feature in tragedy. The significance of Alfieri is that he alludes to the title and is the one giving us the “View From the Bridge”. Alfieri is described as being a “portly lawyer in his fifties”.
Since he is a lawyer it is safe to assume that he is somewhat wealthy, as shown by the fact that he is portly, however it also hints towards the outcome of the play. As stated by Alfieri “to see a lawyer … is unlucky. We’re only thought of in connection with disasters” foreshadowing the future events of the play. This idea is furthered when Alfieri says that he was “powerless to stop it (Eddie’s tale)”. The word powerless implies that the events Alfieri is describing are fated to happen and are inevitable, another trope of tragedy.
Additionally Alfieri states that many people were “justly shot by unjust men” referring to the traditional Italian justice system which focussed heavily on honour and revenge. Unlike a conventional justice system this was ‘enforced’ by the community and the phrase Alfieri says is a comment on how people were being rightfully punished by others just as bad as them.
As Eddie enters the house he is greeted by Catherine and they begin to start a conversation about her new clothes. As the conversation progresses Eddie begins to show his dislike for Catherine’s new appearance by telling her she’s “walking wavy” and mentioning her high heels. The fact that Catherine is described as “walking wavy” shows that she is maturing as a woman, also shown by her possession of high heels, and Eddies discomfort at this can be chalked up to parental concern. However it could also be said that Eddie is uncomfortable with the idea of Catherine growing up, as shown by the fact that he makes her gradually younger in his head starting at “Catherine” and ending at “baby”, and that he is jealous towards the other men and that he is unsure how he feels about her.
The parental concern idea is added onto later on when Eddie says that he is “responsible for you (Catherine)” showing that he feels as though he is obligated to protect her and keep her from harm. Additionally when Catherine tells Eddie of her new job he tells her that it “ain’t what I wanted”. While this can once again be chalked up to Eddie’s parental concern for Catherine and his desire for her to finish school it seems as if the underlying message is that Eddie wants to control Catherine into doing things that he deems as acceptable rather than giving her the freedom to choose her own life. Eddie’s wish for Catherine to not pursue the job offer she had been given might be explained by the fact that he sees her as the “Madonna type”.
At the time the play was set to be the Madonna type was to be morally and sexually pure, in reference to the Virgin Mary. The fact that Eddie says that she is “the Madonna type” shows that he is idealising her to an extreme and is also idolising her; he sees her at an impossibly high standard which she has no hope of actually being. Now it could be seen once again as a sort of parental pride for their child to be the Madonna type or it could be interpreted at Eddie seeing her as pure for him, further hinting to the romantic undertones in their relationship.
From the moment Beatrice enters the stage it is clear what her role is and where her importance lies. She is seen entering “wiping her hands with a towel”, it is clear from this point on that Beatrice will have a very domestic role and that within the story she plays the part of a housewife. Additionally what is also made clear is that the relationship between Beatrice and Eddie is not quite perfect. When the news is broken to her that her cousins have arrived in the country Beatrice, quite understandable, is moved to tears.
Eddie responds to this by asking her “what you cryin’ about?” a very unsympathetic response. The question that Eddie poses might imply that on some level he is unable to understand Beatrice’s feelings and that there might be some dysfunction in their relationship. This is demonstrated when she asks Eddie if he’s “gonna keep her (Catherine) in the house all her life”. This remark from Beatrice shows that she sees the unfair way that Eddie is keeping Catherine in the house and brings to light Eddie’s controlling manner but it could also imply that Beatrice is feeling jealousy towards Catherine, as she is getting all the attention from Eddie, and wants her out of the house.
When Catherine returns later on she brings Eddie his cigar and proceeds to light it for him. In the period this play was set, to lighting a man’s cigar was seen as a romantic gesture done between two lovers. This gesture could be interpreted in a sexual manner is the cigar is seen as representing a phallic object. This whole scene serves to hammer in the fact that there is more to Eddie and Catherine’s relationship than there appears to be on the surface. Just after Catherine leaves Eddie asks Beatrice why she’s mad at him, she proceeds to say, “who’s mad? … I’m not mad … you’re the one is mad.” clearly implying that she is in fact mad. This shows the dysfunction in their relationship caused by Catherine, who is oblivious to the whole thing.
The fight was caused by the fact that Catherine went to retrieve Eddie’s cigars which is traditionally a wife’s role. Beatrice’s anger to this shows the jealousy she feels and her frustration due to the fact that Eddie and Catherine do not even realise what is going on. However Catherine might have some clue as to how she’s making Beatrice feel when she is described as speaking “almost guiltily” after light the cigar. While her guilt might be due to the fact that she hadn’t helped Beatrice clean up the dishes, guilt would be a rather strong emotion to feel for such a small act. What is more likely is that Catherine has realised that she had come in the way of an act that Beatrice should’ve done and is trying to atone for that by helping to clean the dishes.