In this lesson, we will learn about Arthur Miller’s cast of characters in ”A View From the Bridge” through the dialogue and quotes from the play. We will explore the gossip, hearsay, and stories the characters tell about each other.
Gossip, Hearsay, and Slander
Of the many rules for writing dialogue, playwright Arthur Miller follows one religiously: characters shouldn’t talk about themselves. In the domestic drama, A View from the Bridge, Miller crafts a dynamic web of family, love, and justice. In two acts, we learn more about the characters from how others treat them. Its mixture of gossip, hearsay, slander, testimonials, and direct narration amount to a complete portrait of Miller’s repertoire.
All in the Family
The playwright goes out of his way to make the audience empathize with Eddie as flawed, tragic hero.
Eddie is ”a husky, slightly overweight longshoreman.” He’s emotionally repressed and inarticulate. He abuses his power as the man of the house, insistent on getting his own way. He is proud of his American citizenship, his Italian heritage, and his working class identity. He values respect for elders and the camaraderie that comes with the close-knit community in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
When his sister passed away, Eddie took his niece, Catherine, under his wing. He likes to call her Katie. Eddie takes the role of surrogate father a little too seriously, though. His need to protect Catherine leads to much tension in the household. He objects to her decision to leave school in order to take a job as a stenographer (a secretary skilled in shorthand transcription). ”Work is the best practice anyway,” argues Catherine, trying to convince Eddie to allow her to skip a year of school.
The central tension erupts in A View from the Bridge when Beatrice’s Italian cousins, Marco and Rodolpho, arrive. They enter the country illegally by stowing away on a freighter, paying off officials and falsifying their paperwork. Beatrice assures her cousins that they can stay for as long as they want (to Eddie’s disdain). They’re already off to a bad start. But things get worse when Catherine takes a shine to Rodolpho.Miller describes Marco as ”a square-built peasant of thirty-two, suspicious, tender, and quiet-voiced.
” Marco’s wife and three children are still back home in Sicily. Rodolpho jokes, ”He trusts his wife.” Back in Sicily, Marco and Rodolpho worked as stone masons, taxi drivers, and field workers during the harvest period. But in America, they hope to get work on the docks and save up some money for when they return to their homeland. Eddie estimates that they can earn 30-40 dollars a week working on the docks.In contrast to Marco, the realist, Rodolpho is a dreamer. He is immediately likable and fun.
He regales the family with his jazz rendition of ‘Paper Doll.’ Unlike Marco, Rodolpho doesn’t have any expectations about what the future will bring.Eddie is already suspicious of illegal immigrants. ”He gives me the heeby-jeebies,” says Eddie of Rodolpho. When Catherine falls head over heels for Rodolpho, Eddie is suspicious that Rodolpho only wants to marry Catherine in order to get a green card. That would cut the red tape and make Rodolpho a U.
The curtains rise on two longshoremen, Louis and Mike, playing a game of pitching pennies. Without a word spoken, their presence, along with the sound of a distant foghorn, indicates the Brooklyn setting, close to the docks and harbor. Louis and Mike, like many other longshoremen, are sons of Italian immigrants. They’re American-born and proud of it.
Mostly, the work is labor intensive and grueling. But sometimes it pays off. When a Brazilian ship docks, the longshoremen enjoy the smell of coffee beans in the air.
Later, Eddie observes: ”That’s one time, boy, to be a longshoreman is a pleasure. I could work coffee ships twenty hours a day. You go down in the hold, y’know? It’s like flowers that smell. We’ll bust a bag tomorrow, I’ll bring you some.”
The next man we meet is the lawyer, Mr. Alfieri.
Miller describes a man in his fifties, ”portly, good-humored, and thoughtful.” Alfieri immigrated to America from Italy at the age of 25. ”I am inclined to notice the ruins in things.” Showing his old-world perspective, he comes to the role of narrator in the manner of the chorus in a Greek tragedy. In Ancient Greek Theater, a group of masked performers would introduce and conclude the acts of a play, commenting on the action and summarizing the moral lessons of the drama.In the manner of Greek tragedy, the play ends on a dark and somber note.
During a fight at the wedding, Marco stabs and kills Eddie. Alfieri (as Greek chorus) finally states the play’s moral:”Most of the time now we settle for half and I like it better. But the truth is holy..
.. And yet, it is better to settle for half, it must be!”
The cast of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge includes the community of Red Hook, Brooklyn: longshoremen, immigrants, and working-class families.The action centers on Eddie, the unlikable protagonist, his wife Beatrice, and their adopted niece, Catherine. Catherine is studying to be a stenographer, but plans are put on hold when she falls in love with Rodolpho, Beatrice’s cousin.
Eddie suspects that Rodolpho is wooing his niece in order to get a green card.The lawyer, Mr. Alfieri, acts as narrator in the manner of a Greek chorus. When Marco stabs and kills Eddie at the play’s conclusion, Alfieri moralizes the tale: it’s better to have half than nothing at all.