‘A View from the Bridge’ is a two act play written by Arthur Asher Miller who was an American playwright. In its first staging on September 29th, 1955, the play had only one act and it was not successful. Miller then revised the play and made it into two acts. This play was then staged many stages. Arthur Miller has written many plays and one which is very famous is the Death of a Salesman. This play is set in America of 1950s in an Italian American neighbourhood. This Italian American neighbourhood was near the Brooklyn Bridge, thus getting its name A View from the Bridge.
About the Playwright
Arthur Asher Miller was born on October 17th 1915. He was a playwright, an essayist and a prominent figure in theatre circles in America in the twentieth century. Some his other popular plays are All My Sons, The Crucible, Death of a Salesman and A View from the Bridge. He also wrote screenplays of which ‘The Misfits’ that came out in 1961 was the most noted. He received various awards, the most prominent one being the “Pulitzer Prize for Drama”. He wrote a variety of dramatic styles and he believed that the play should have a delicate balance between the society and individual. He was known as a dramatist who wrote social plays highlighting the moral problems as well. His second marriage was with Marilyn Monroe which lasted for five years. He died on February 10th, 2005.
Alfieri is an Italian American lawyer who is the narrator of the story as he was the witness to what happened. The protagonist is Eddie who is married to Beatrice. Catherine, the niece of Beatrice is also staying with them. Eddie is very fond of Catherine which we realise is love to possess her, as the play progresses. He chides Catherine even when she waves to known people. Catherine is not averse to the affection shown by Eddie. Beatrice is aware of this and sometimes is a reason for a marital confrontation. Beatrice coerces Eddie to allow Catherine to work and Eddie finally agrees. Into this household arrive Marco and Rodolpho, cousins of Beatrice. They are illegal immigrants and are have to make money to send back to their families in Italy. Marco is married but Rodolpho is a young man who was not married. Catherine and Rodolpho fall in love and Eddie is completely jealous. Rodolpho also gets popular at his work place, the docks. This further embarrasses Eddie. Beatrice notices that Eddie is going beyond the limits and asks Catherine to marry Rodolpho. The first expression of his jealousy was by challenging Rodolpho for a friendly boxing match in the house which is stopped by Catherine and Beatrice.
The second act also has Alfieri narrating the story. Catherine and Rodolpho are left alone in the house and they have sex. Eddie catches them in the act and in a fury kisses Catherine passionately and then kisses Rodolpho also by pinning him on the floor. He tries to get the help of Alfieri but when it does not come forth he informs the Immigration Bureau. They arrest Marco and Rodolpho. Marco is furious and spits on Eddie’s face. Alfieri pays for their bail and arranges for Catherine’s marriage with Rodolpho. On the day of the marriage Marco comes to the house to take revenge on Eddie but Eddie lunges at him with a knife. Marco turns Eddie’s arms and kills him with his own knife. The play ends with Eddie dying in the arms of Beatrice.
Eddie Carbone is the protagonist in the play A View from the Bridge. He becomes one only because of his flaw and not because of his goodness. He was extremely self-centred, otherwise a good man with the right sense of duty to family and community. This is evident in the early part of the play where we see Beatrice and Catherine having very fond exchanges. He is well liked by others as well. The flaw in him comes out when outsiders come into the family and try to share his space with Catherine. He and his family realises that his love for Catherine is unlawful. This unlawful love is seen when he addresses about the way she dresses and walks. “I think it’s too short,” he talks of a dress. “Katie, you are walkin’ wavy! I don’t like the looks they’re givin’ you in the candy store.” But at this point of time not much importance given but it is an indication of how he actually feels. It is this one flaw that destroys him.
Alfieri is the next important person in the play but does not really have a role that changes the direction of the play. Without him, the play might be still the same but he is the narrator and the chorus and tells his story objectively. But he gives his comment about the happening. “He was as good a man as he had to be…he brought home his pay, and he lived..” He is an Italian-American who knows the American laws but is identified with this Italian background, so he helps the Italians. He represents the dock labourers and the wealthy in Manhattan. As lawyer he is a natural judge of character and realises when Eddie is straying from the path and even warns him. “You won’t have a friend in the world…Put it out of your mind.” However Alfieri does give his judgement for the story, he leaves it to the audience to decide if Eddie being killed was right or wrong.
Rodolpho is a person of contradictions. He is strong but not muscled. He seems to be a real man but at the same time girlish. Rodolpho could sing, cook and sew well. These were tasks generally done by women and he was a blonde too, so he might have got the tag gay. He was proud yet he did not hold anything against Eddie even when Eddie informed the Immigration Bureau about them. He wanted to become a proper American and is appalled when Catherine suggests moving to Italy. This makes us wonder whether he loved Catherine truly or if it was a ploy to stay back in America.
Beatrice is the wife of Eddie and the aunt of Catherine but acts like her mother. The character of Beatrice is not very well sketched but is mature and caring. She stands by Eddie in his decision to tell the Immigration Bureau about Marco and Rodolpho, not that she approved of it. She wanted Catherine to work. She was willing to take in her people from Italy.
Catherine, the niece of Beatrice is young, simple looking girl and a likeable character. She is a little complicated and uncertain. She is seventeen but exhibits social experience. She behaves like a daughter and a lover with Eddie. At the same time she is attracted to Rodolpho. She tells Rodolpho that she could sense Eddie’s moods. “I can tell a block away when he’s blue in his mind and just wants to talk to somebody…”
The setting of the play is not naturalistic. There is indication of a building but the props are close to being natural. The apartment, the street and the Alfieri’s office can be seen without any scene change. The area where the action happens is lighted up while other areas remain dark. Simple props like coins and pocket knife is used. A prominent prop used is the phone booth which symbolises Eddie’s idea getting stronger as the lights in the booth get brighter.
In 1956 Arthur Miller had been subjected to name people who were communist sympathisers in the art fraternity. But he did not do so. Eddie unlike Miller blows the whistle. So we can say ‘naming names’ is one of the themes of the play. ‘Conflict between American Law and community of the illegal immigrants’ is another theme. This again was taken from real life experience. When Eddie fails his community they are really enraged and hope he is punished.
“Homosexuality” is one of the strong motifs seen in the play. Eddie tries to prove in many ways that Rodolpho is a homosexual. Rodolpho has blonde hair, cooks, sings and evens sews a dress- all qualities of a woman. Eddie also tests Rodolpho’s masculinity by trying to teach him box and even gives him a blow. Rodolpho does not react but this is stopped before by Beatrice and Catherine. The second is blatant and that was to pin Rodolpho and kiss him. Critics say that all these actions of indicates that Eddie himself was a homosexual. “Community” is another powerful motif in the play. The bonding between the illegal immigrants is seen all through and when Eddie cheats on them, Beatrice his wife also disowns. She stands by him only because she is his wife. Whether Eddie deserved death as the punishment for this is left to the audience to decide.