39 pages 1 hour read

Arthur Miller

A View from the Bridge

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1955

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Summary and Study Guide


A View from the Bridge is a two-act play by American playwright Arthur Miller. Originally staged as a one-act on Broadway in 1955, Miller expanded the play to two acts and re-debuted the final version in London in 1956. Ten major revivals have been staged in New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, London, and Manchester since then. The play has received drama awards, including multiple Tonys, and has been adapted as feature films, TV movies, and operas. Arthur Miller, one of the most prominent 20th-century American playwrights, is best known for classics such as Death of a Salesman (1949) and The Crucible (1953). 

This guide uses the edition of the text found in the anthology Arthur Miller Plays published in 1988 by Methuen.

Content Warning: The source material features depictions of a man’s quasi-incestuous desire for his surrogate daughter. It also contains references to anti-immigrant sentiment.

Plot Summary

A View from the Bridge is a two-act play. Act I opens in the offices of Alfieri, a middle-aged lawyer. Alfieri describes the Italian American neighborhood of Red Hook in 1950s New York, where the play takes place. Alfieri says that most of the cases he deals with there are unexciting, but that occasionally he hears of a tragic one, like that of Eddie Carbone, a 40-year-old longshoreman, who works nearby. The action shifts to the living room of Eddie’s apartment, where he lives with his wife Beatrice, and her 17-year-old niece, Catherine. When Eddie comes home from work, Catherine reveals that she has been offered a job at a local company. They are also awaiting the arrival of Beatrice’s cousins from Italy who will be staying with them while they find work in the US. Later that evening, the two cousins, Marco and Rodolpho, arrive. They explain that they have come because there is no work in their hometown. Rodolpho also reveals that he is a singer. When Catherine asks if he knows jazz, he begins to sing the jazz classic “Paper Doll.” Catherine is enchanted by his singing, but Eddie interrupts Rodolpho halfway through on the pretext of not arousing suspicion from the neighbors with the noise.

Two weeks later, Eddie waits outside his apartment for Catherine and Rodolpho to return from the cinema. When they return, Eddie tells Catherine that Rodolpho only wants to marry her to gain US citizenship. Catherine responds by claiming that Rodolpho loves her. Inside the apartment, Beatrice and Catherine speak alone, Beatrice telling Catherine that she needs to make her own decisions independently of Eddie. In the next scene, Eddie goes to Alfieri’s offices, where Eddie tells Alfieri about Rodolpho. He complains that Rodolpho only wants to marry Catherine for a passport and that he is excessively feminine. Alfieri informs Eddie that he has no recourse in the law on this issue. Back in Eddie’s apartment afterward, Catherine puts on a record of “Paper Doll” and dances with Rodolpho in front of Eddie. Angered by this, Eddie insults Rodolpho, saying that he should not be working on the piers. To redeem the situation, Eddie offers to show Rodolpho how to box, but he ends up punching Rodolpho too hard, making him stagger. Marco asks Eddie if he can pick up a chair from the bottom with one hand, something Eddie then tries and fails to do before Marco lifts the chair over his head.

Act II begins on the day before Christmas Eve. Rodolpho and Catherine are alone in Eddie’s apartment. Shortly after, Eddie comes home and sees Catherine and Rodolpho emerge from the bedroom. Eddie tells Rodolpho to leave. He grabs Catherine and kisses her. When Rodolpho tries to stop him, Eddie restrains and kisses Rodolpho. Four days later, Eddie goes to Alfieri’s offices and tells him that Catherine wants to marry Rodolpho. Spurning Alfieri’s advice to let Catherine go, Eddie goes to a nearby phone booth and calls immigration services to report Marco and Rodolpho. Eddie then returns home to find that Beatrice has moved her cousins to an apartment upstairs with two other immigrants. Just as Eddie realizes that his actions have endangered another family, immigration officers storm into the apartment and seize the men upstairs. As Marco, Rodolpho and the other men are being dragged away, Marco accuses Eddie of informing on him. Several days later, in Eddie’s apartment, Rodolpho arrives and attempts a reconciliation with Eddie in the hopes that this will save Eddie from Marco. However, Eddie rejects this olive branch, and when Marco arrives he goes out into the street to fight him. Eddie tries to stab Marco with a knife, but Marco turns the weapon back on him. Eddie dies in Beatrice’s arms, with Alfieri giving a final speech saying that he will mourn Eddie more than his “sensible” clients.