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What a boring title for a play, and mentioning that why would anyone want to spend their time reading a play? Well simply because this is fantastic. Miller is one of the great literary minds of our time and his works are profound and thought provoking. This is no exception. Personally I feel it is one of his greatest works and offers a great story with moral implications. Accessible to everyone this should not be missed, trust me! This is coming from someone who is not a great lover of reading.Background…
There are 6 main characters in this play, although there are others, they only add to the community and contribute very little to the play. Each character is very different and has a strong personality, which comes through via their words and actions.
This is the narrator of the play, yet he also has a role as the lawyer to the family. He provides what can essentially be termed as the view from the bridge, that is the outside view. He has one of the most important role on the play in my view as he brings everything together and helps us understand what is going on. He is not emotional attached with the events and so offers an unbiased recollection of the happenings of the small Italian family.
The long-suffering wife of Eddie, who is not as dim as we may first think. She knows what is going on between her husband and Catherine, yet loyalty prevents her from acting upon it. She is very wise and an extremely likeable character, who we can’t help but feel a little sorry for.
Rodolpho’s brother and the quieter and older of the two. He has a family at home in Italy and wants to make as mush money as possible to support them. A strong man with a deep sense of family loyalty and look after his brother.
The play is about Eddie, an Italian immigrant and longshoreman living in Brooklyn (hence the bridge thing). Eddie lives with his wife and nice, and the play starts with them waiting the arrival of Beatrice’s two cousins, Marco and Rodolpho. They are illegal immigrants looking for work in order to fund their families at home in Italy. Rodolpho and Catherine seem to like each other, which upset’s Eddie, as he as a somewhat unhealthily set of feelings for his young niece. This ultimately leads to the downfall of Eddie.
NOTE this will gave away a little of the play, and me being me probably be a bit in depth and too long for this time of day so skip if you don't want most of the story to unfold on ciao...- Act 1.
We are introduced to Eddie and his family, that being his wife and nice. They are happy enough family although there is an underlining feeling that there is more between Eddie and Catherine than just a father type of relationship. Eddie comes across as a little too protective and there seems to be some unhealthy feelings between the two, if you can’t guess what I mean a little bit of sexual tension. There are also signs of a bit of tension between the husband and wife.
Beatrice then explains that her two cousins are coming to stay for a wile, as they need a job to earn money. However Eddie is suspicious, I suppose it’s a territory thing, not wanting two males to invade the place where he is the dominant figure and has two woman at his beckon call. Note Eddie’s tale about Vinny Bolzano as well, this is, in reflection a reference to Eddies own fate.Episode 2…
There is an instant attraction between Rodolpho and Catherine, which Eddie picks up on, and doesn’t like at all. Eddie seems to ignore Rodolpho and simply prefers to talk to Marco, this is a sign that there is an automatic tension between him and Rodolpho.Episode 3…
Catherine and Rodolpho have been on a date, and Eddie is not happy, well he can see Catherine slipping away from him. He speaks to her afterwards and tries to convince her that Rodolpho only wants her to become a legal citizen of the USA, Catherine has a loyalty to Eddie and so listens to him.Beatrice and Catherine then have a scene alone, in which Beatrice is sorting out Catherine’s hair. However she is open with Catherine and displays her feelings, she wants to break the bond between Eddie and Catherine and for her to become independent of him. Beatrice then explains how the two behave together and it does come across as a little improper. Like Catherine going in the bathroom with Eddie and walking around in a nightie etc. Beatrice is not so much jealous, or blames Catherine, but it a little older and wiser and knows how men work, i.e. that this will get any man’s blood pumping. Here we can see how the situation effects Beatrice and the pain she feels as a result, yet hides.
This is in Eddie’s lawyer’s office, where he is looking for the law to help him with his situation, i.e. how he can split up Catherine and Rodolpho. Alfieri suggests that he ‘shop’ Rodolpho to the immigration, other wise there is no other way that the law can intervene. But Eddie is not ready to go this far, yet! Alfieri also hints at the feelings Eddie has for Catherine, although Eddie is shocked by the implications. As they say the truth hurts.
Eddie is upset and feels a little stupid, so he has a go at the illegal immigrants, he warns them of the dangers they face, i.e. with the authorities. Events lead up to a boxing lesson in which Marco ends up doing a trick with a chair, to illustrate his strength and warn Eddie. (such a male thing to do)- Act 2.
Alfieri warns us that Eddie is drunk, and so since we are told we must presume this is a key aspect of this scene.
However the mood soon shifts to violence and shock, with a drunken Eddie coming into the mood and disturbing it. There are feelings of homosexuality and incest as Eddie kisses Catherine and Rodolpho. This may not be that bad to us, who have seen some things in movies, but you must imagine the response of the audience at the time!Alcohol is the initial reason we give for his actions, but as we all know alcohol only gives you the confidence to act out your true feelings and do what you truely want to. Eddie may feel he has one, but he hasn’t, he has only succeeded in isolating himself and pushing Catherine away from him.
This is a very short part of the play where Alfieri and Eddie have another meeting but Eddie will not listen to the lawyer. We see the desperation that Eddie has and know what he is going to do, Eddie ultimately informs the law about the illegal immigrants Marco and Rodolpho, he betrays his family, friends and wife for his love of Catherine.
Again another short, yet significant, part of the play. Marco talks to Alfieri, and the lawyer explains to Marco that he should not harm Eddie when released on bail. Marco agrees not to touch Eddie and will be shipped out of America in a few weeks time. However Rodolpho will marry Catherine now and be able to stay in the country. This makes Eddies betrayal a little ironic.
Rodolpho wishes to make peace with Eddie, I get the sense this is for the sake of his future wife and not Eddie, but Eddie is as stubborn as ever and refuses the offer, he chooses to insult Rodolpho instead. Eddie says that Marco took away his good name and the respect of his peers by publicly accusing him, ad so only wants to avenge these actions.Beatrice however is a wise woman and knows that Eddie is really only interested in Catherine, so she takes pleasure in pointing out that she is unattainable. This winds him up and leads to the final scene, a collision between Eddie and Marco. The two argue and Eddie brings out a knife, but Marco over powers him and Eddie is the one who is stabbed, but by his own hand. As he dies Beatrice and Catherine stay with him, the two women he loves and has ultimately died due to his love for one of them, comfort him to the end.
Eddie has no one to blame but himself for his downfall.
This plays a key part in the play, since the characters are Italian-Americans Miller uses ‘bad’ English and a lot of slang. Only one character speaks with poise and sophistication – Alfieri. The language of the play aids our understanding and allows the reader/viewer to be drawn into it more. I always find I am a little put off if there are too many big words. The language makes it more real and allows us to sympathies more with the characters and their situations. Very easy to read and listen to as well.
Something which can be enjoyed by all and I think everyone should read it, or see the play once in their life, it is a brilliant tragedy set against the back drop of Brooklyn. You may have to adjust your mind a little to understand the reactions of the desired audience, as we are not as easily shocked now a days. Brilliant stuff though. My copy is a little battered now but it doesn’t cost a lot, a life time investment, just don’t get a paperback, it will get old quickly!Don’t miss out on this one.
If you enjoyed this play I would suggest ‘All my Sons’ another fantastic offering by Miller, with a similar theme of downfall and self-destruction.
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