Arthur Miller

A View from the Bridge

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A View from the Bridge Summary

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Told in two acts, Arthur Miller’s play A View from the Bridge (1955) tells the story of Eddie Carbone, an Italian American Longshoreman whose household is upended by the arrival of his wife’s cousins from Italy. Their arrival sets in motion a chain of events that leads, unexpectedly, to Eddie’s dramatic undoing. A View from the Bridge is one of the most acclaimed of American plays, by one of America’s most acclaimed playwrights. Though initially unsuccessful, it has risen to become part of the American dramatic canon. The amount of scholarship that has been written on the play is extensive.

Act 1: The play opens as lawyer Alfieri addresses the audience; he begins to narrate the story of Eddie Carbone. Eddie lives with his wife, Beatrice, and her orphaned niece, Catherine, whom they have taken in. Eddie’s pronounced concern for Catherine’s propriety masks a sexual infatuation with Catherine that will become pivotal over the course of the play. He demonstrates these feelings early: as he arrives home from his work at the docks, accompanied by two fellow longshoremen, Catherine leans out the window and greets the men. Eddie later takes her to task for being flirtatious. Over dinner, Eddie tells Beatrice that her Cousins Rodolpho and Marco will be arriving the next morning from Italy; they will work illegally in America, sending money back home to Italy, and while they do so, will stay with Eddie, Beatrice, and Catherine.

Rudolpho and Marco arrive the next day, thanking the Carbones heartily for their hospitality. Quiet and hardworking, Marco mentions that he has a wife and three children at home that he will be sending money to. His younger brother, Rodolpho, however, seems like a bit of a loose cannon. He has no family to support and wants to stay in America indefinitely as a musician. He sings a jazz song for the family’s entertainment that night.

Over the ensuing weeks, Eddie notices that Rodolpho is spending more and more time with Catherine, and begins to feel jealous. He convinces himself that Rodolpho is, in fact, homosexual, and only pursuing Catherine because he wants to marry her to become a legal citizen. Eddie confronts Catherine about Rodolpho, and she, upset, turns to Beatrice for advice. Suspecting Eddie’s hidden feelings for Catherine, Beatrice advises her to marry Rodolpho after all. By marrying Catherine off, she hopes she can get the young couple to move out.

Eddie seeks out the advice of Alfieri; he wants to know how he can get the brothers deported, but Alfieri tells him his only recourse is to report them to immigration services. Unsatisfied with this answer, Eddie soon finds an opportunity to vent his anger, injuring Rodolpho under the pretense of an accident. This angers Marco, who doesn’t believe the injury was accidental, and he threatens Eddie.

Act 2: Some months have passed since the events of act one. Rodolpho and Catherine, alone in the house, have sex. They have decided to marry. As they exit the bedroom, Eddie stumbles in drunk and guesses what they have been up to. Unable to control his feelings anymore, he first passionately kisses Catherine; then, after pushing him to the floor, kisses Rodolpho to “prove” his homosexuality. A tussle ensues, and Eddie orders Rodolpho out of the house.

Eddie visits Alfieri again seeking legal advice, offering the kiss as proof of Rodolpho’s homosexuality, and arguing that he is only marrying Catherine for citizenship. Again, Alfieri tells Eddie that he cannot help him. Desperate, Eddie calls immigration services and reports Rodolpho and Marco. When officers later appear and apprehend the brothers, Eddie pretends to be as surprised as anyone else by the affair, but his act doesn’t fool anyone. Marco spits in his face and publicly denounces him for killing his children back in Italy.

Marco and Rodolpho are released from prison, however, after Alfieri posts their bail. He explains the brothers’ differing situations: Rodolpho, once he marries Catherine, will be free to stay in America; Marco, however, must go back to Italy. Incensed, Marco confronts Eddie on the day of his brother’s marriage to Catherine. Eddie attacks him with a knife, but Marco turns it back upon him. Stabbed by his own knife, Eddie dies in the arms of his long-suffering wife, Beatrice. Alfieri, narrating the ending of the play to the audience, admits his ambivalence over Eddie’s death.

Miller’s play has often been compared to Greek tragedy, with the character of Alfieri playing the role of the chorus; his character helps usher the audience through the experience, illuminating the significance of the action. Alfieri, however, ends up taking part in the play – indeed, his role is pivotal. As a successful American lawyer who was born and raised in Italy, he is the “bridge” of the play’s title, albeit one that only uneasily unites Italian and American cultures. Miller’s play, as a reinvention of Greek tragedy, is also notable for forgoing the lofty noble classes that were most often the subject of such plays historically. Instead, it focuses on the lives of a working-class immigrant community whose struggles are elevated to universal significance.