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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… A view for the bridge deals with the ‘American Dream’; this is that immigrants came from countries, such as Italy, in order to make a better life for themselves. Miller was concerned with this living through the Depression, which bankrupted his father, and he saw the effects on the ordinary people. The play can be described as a Greek tragedy set in America. The play is set in the 1950’s and so reflects the attitudes and feelings of the time, this is why it may be a little difficult for a modern day audience to relate to. We all know that America was seen as the land of opportunity for many people, be it to start a new life, escape their past or just for a change people believed America held he key. However this was not the case, as immigrants often lived in the most run down parts of town and found themselves out of work and with little money to live on or send to their families at home.
Characters… 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.
- Eddie… Eddie is a simple man, he is an Italian living in America, and he works on the docks to support his family. He has a lot of love for his family, but there are tensions between him and his wife. He is a proud man also and we get a sense that he has no control over his fate. Eddie can be seen as a representation of all men, in the sense that we all have different feelings and urges that whilst privately are ok are not accepted in society, or are frowned upon, not that I am saying we all feel a little incest but you get the drift.
- Alfieri… 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.
- Catherine… The young nice of Eddie, whom he and his wife treat like a daughter. She is only a young lass, aged 17, and has been kept wrapped up in cotton wool by Eddie. She is striving to live her own life, as Eddie is a little too protective of her. We sense that she has strong feelings towards Eddie and is flirtatious with him.
- Beatrice… 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… Beatrice’s young cousin who has come to America in search of the dream, to get money and he wants to own a motorbike. He is blonde and very flamboyant. He likes to sing and dance and is something of an entertainer.
- Marco… 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.
N.B. Both Marco and Rodolpho are in America illegally.
The story… 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.
That’s the story in a nutshell, simple really, but for those who want to know more I will give and ‘episode’ by ‘episode’ account. The book is split into two acts and 10 episodes, which I suppose are just like mini chapters if we were not dealing with a play.
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.
Episode 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.
Catherine wants to take a job as a secretary, but Eddie is unsure, he wants to keep her as his little girl and sees this as a sign she is growing up. Beatrice and Catherine attempt to persuade Eddie to allow her to take the job by buttering him up, for example Catherine gives him a cigar and also lights it for him.
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… Here we see the arrival of Beatrice’s cousins, Marco and Rodolpho. We get very strong character descriptions and are enlightened into their characters. This is done by their differences in what they talk about etc. Marco is fairly quite and talks of the poverty and problems at home, Rodolpho on the over hand is much more lively an energetic. He tells the family his tales of singing and dancing, which show his exhibitionist behaviour.
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… Well we now see the extent of the martial problems between Beatrice and Eddie. The two are fighting, and the subject – Rodolpho. Eddie is quick to attack him and relentless, picking at every little thing he can. We realise just how deep seated the problems between the two are when Beatrice asks when she will be a wife again, this is a key moment, and an enlightenment into the dynamics of the house. This hints at the nature of the relationship between Catherine and Eddie, even if it is not physical.
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.
Episode 4… 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.
Episode 5… This is the last in the first Act of the play and ends with a climax that would have anyone on the edge of their seat.
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.
Episode 6… Alfieri warns us that Eddie is drunk, and so since we are told we must presume this is a key aspect of this scene.
We see the first, and only scene, where Rodolpho and Catherine are together, and the most loving part of the play. This illustrates the relationship between the two and shows that love has grown. It is I feel one of the most tender and moving scenes in the play, as we have never seen the two alone together prior to this.
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.
Episode 7… 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.
Episode 8… Eddie and Beatrice argue once again, this time about the way Eddie is behaving. Marco and Rodolpho are then arrested and it is clear they think Eddie is to blame, and rightly so. Marco manages to get away from the grip of the people arresting him twice and does two things, spits in Eddie’s face (a sign of hatred and disrespect) and then makes a pubic accusation, claiming it was Eddie that betrayed them. We get the sense that the people in the neighborhood, Eddie’s friends and colleagues believe Marco and turn away from Eddie.
Episode 9… 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.
Episode 10… The final section of the play and where everything comes together, the tensions between the characters particularly. Beatrice is a woman split in two, she wants to be loyal to her husband but also attend the wedding of her nice, whom she has come to love as a daughter.
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.
Well that’s basically the play, I would recommend that you pay attention to the stage directions if reading this, as they do give a lot away and add to the whole drama of the scenes. I suppose you cannot understand a play without understanding the movements and actions of the characters.
The language… 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.
To conclude… This is a fantastic play that deals with the struggle of a man and his want to keep his family together. It is a very profound piece of drama and one of Miller’s finest. I like the play a lot for the fact that it can be taken on many levels and there is so much going on it will keep your mind active and ticking over. You can almost guess the plot of the play but that is half of the fun, to find out that a great mind like Miller thinks in the way we do. Full of drama and suspense this will appeal to everyone and keep you gripped. It is only a short play so it can be read in a few hours, which I have done on many occasions.
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.
There is just too much going on for this to be useful. As an essay on the play, this is faultless, but as a piece designed to help a consumer make an informed decision it's way over the top. Cheers.
little_cherry 20.07.2004 13:00
sounds really good .. id really like to read this hopefully i wil do soon...really good review x x
JoePoirot 05.07.2004 16:07
Very detailed review. Definite incestuous under/overtones to Eddie's relationship with his daughter. I saw Michael Gambon do this on stage some years back and it is still the best performance by an actor I have ever seen on stage.