A View from the Bridge

"A View from the Bridge" is a play by Arthur Miller originally produced as a one-act verse drama on Broadway in 1955. Miller's interest in writing about the world of the New York docks originated with an unproduced screenplay that he developed with Elia Kazan in the early 1950s, entitled The Hook, dealing with corruption on the Brooklyn docks. Miller has been quoted as saying that he heard the basic account that developed into the plot of A View from the Bridge from a longshoreman, who related it to him as a true story. Although the 1955 one-act production was not successful, it was revised in 1956 to become a more traditional prose play in two acts, and it is through this version that audiences are most familiar with the work today.

The play was made into a film in 1962 (below), and adapted into an opera in 1999 by the composer William Bolcom, who incorporated material from both versions of the play.

Plot summary

The main character in the story is Eddie Carbone, an Italian American longshoreman, who lives with his wife Beatrice and orphaned niece Catherine. His feelings for Catherine, however, develop from protective and paternal into something more than filial as the play develops. These feelings are brought into perspective by the arrival from Italy of Beatrice's two cousins, Marco and Rodolpho. They have entered the country illegally, hoping to leave behind hunger and unemployment for a better life in America, and to help build a better life for those they've left behind. Rodolpho is young, good-looking, blond, and single -- he sings, dances and is charming; Catherine instantly falls for him.

Predictably Eddie sets about pointing out all of Rodolpho's flaws and persistently complains that Rodolpho is "not right". He uses Rodolpho's effeminate qualities, such as dress-making, cooking and singing, to back up his argument.

When Catherine decides to marry Rodolpho, Eddie is driven to inform the Immigration Bureau of the presence of the two illegal immigrants. He takes this action regardless of his earlier assertion that "It's an honour" to give the men refuge. His betrayal of the two men causes Eddie to lose the respect of his neighbours, his friends and his family.

In the final scene of the play the sense of crisis climaxes with a fight between Eddie and Marco. Eddie brandishes a knife and attacks Marco, but the stronger Marco turns the blade onto Eddie, killing him. This could be seen symbolically as a projection of Eddie's self-destructive tendencies, as his sense of self-worth and his honourable character finally reach the bottom of their downward spiral.

In the final pages of the play, Miller uses stage directions more often to convey the sense of crisis and drama. Miller uses stage directions when it would be difficult to interpret what emotions should be shown.Fact|date=December 2007 An example of this is when Eddie concedes to let Catherine work. The stage directions indicate that he relents with "a sense of her childhood, her babyhood and the years". Miller also uses his stage directions as a means of making clear to the production company his intended symbolism.

etting

The play is set in New York, in the Red Hook neighborhood in the borough of Brooklyn. Red Hook is a homogeneous community of Italian immigrants. Most of the people in Red Hook originate from Sicily and the Sicilian code of honour is a running motif in the play. Italy represents homeland, origin and culture to the citizens of Red Hook. But Italy represents different things to the main characters in the play. For example, Catherine associates Italy with mystery, romance and beauty. Rodolpho, on the other hand, is actually from Italy, and thinks it is a place with little opportunity, that he feels justified in escaping from. All of the characters appreciate the benefits of living in the U.S., but still strongly hold to Italian traditions. Italy is the basis of the cultural traditions in Red Hook, and it serves as a touchstone to unite the community, with their own laws and customs.

The set of the play is simple, merely a "skeleton."

Political context

Miller's plays tend to be contemporary commentaries upon the major political issues of his time, told in allegory or metaphor. "A View from the Bridge" is a direct response to the divisions that the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) created in American society, including between the old friends, Miller and Elia Kazan.

The threat of Communism in the post-World War II era (that is, during the early Cold War years) created an environment where US congressional committees were empowered to seek out Communists operating in the community. The HUAC, for example, encouraged members of the entertainment industry to turn over colleagues whom they suspected of being Communists. The penalty for being labelled a Communist was to be 'blacklisted'—meaning that one was effectively barred from working in the US movie industry again.

"Naming names" to the HUAC was seen by some as a deep betrayal, and by others as one's natural duty as a citizen. Miller was of the former opinion and refused to name names. His one-time friend, Kazan, took the opposite course. Each of them sought to justify his position through his dramatic work.

In 1953, Miller's play The Crucible put before the public a drama, based on the Salem witch-trials, that by analogy criticised the work of HUAC and those who collaborated with it.

The 1954 movie On the Waterfront by Elia Kazan tells a story that has certain parallels to Miller's "A View from the Bridge" -- both are set in dockland, and each features a lonely protagonist who gives testimony against someone once close to him. On the Waterfront is believed to be Kazan's response to criticism (by Miller among others) of his actions in naming names before the HUAC. The film's protagonist (Terry Malloy) agrees to testify against a corrupt union boss for whom he has worked closely. Malloy is portrayed by Kazan as a hero who does his duty for the greater good. Kazan is thus defending his honour through this character.

Miller, by contrast, was outraged by Kazan's action, seeing it as a dishonourable act by his former collaborator. Miller, suspected of being a communist sympathiser, refused to name names, and risked imprisonment for his ideals. Thus, in Miller's 1955/56 play, A View from the Bridge, Eddie Carbone is degraded from a respectable man to a shameful animal because his wild mistrust and sexual jealousy of Rodolpho lead to his turning in Rodolpho and Marco to the Immigration Bureau. Carbone here is clearly representing the actions of Kazan in allegedly turning friends in to the HUAC, and Miller is giving his opinion on what he considers a shameful betrayal.

ources of suspicion in the play

With this play, Miller hoped to explore the origins of suspicion in the human heart. It is, in a way, a meditation upon how the 'witch-hunts' of McCarthyism could have been supported by men who would normally think of themselves as honourable.

exual betrayal

Suspicion often arises from a fear that one will be betrayed, or the feeling that one has been betrayed without one's knowledge. Betrayal, then, is a major causal factor in suspicion, and central to the concept of betrayal in human relations is sexual betrayal.

A number of times we see insinuations of sexual infidelity. Marco's wife back home in Italy, for example, has the cloud of suspicion cast upon her by association, and in an almost off-hand way.

EDDIE: I betcha there's plenty surprises sometimes when those guys get back there, heh?
MARCO: Surprises?
EDDIE ("laughing"): I mean, you know - they count the kids and there's a couple extra than when they left? [Arthur Miller, A View from the Bridge, 1955, pp.52 in the pinguins classics]

By contrast, Eddie establishes his 'ownership' of Catherine, in much the same way an elephant seal protects his 'harem' - by bluster:

EDDIE: ("rises, paces up and down"): It ain't so free here either, Rodolpho, like you think. I seen greenhorns sometimes get in trouble that way - they think just because a girl don't go around with a shawl over her head that she ain't strict, y'know? Girl don't have to wear black dress to be strict. Know what I mean? [Arthur Miller, A View from the Bridge, 1955, pp.52 in the pinguins classics]

The chief sexual betrayal, though, is clearly the courtship of Catherine by Rodolpho. Eddie, who has grown an unwholesome affection for his adopted 'daughter', resents being replaced in her affections by someone he sees as an unworthy interloper, and he suspects Rodolpho's motivations as well: he feels that Rodolpho is using Catherine to gain citizenship.

When Eddie returns home to find Rodolpho emerging from Catherine's bedroom, she having just emerged before him, straightening her dress, he suspects they have been engaged in intimacies, loses his temper, and orders Rodolpho out of his house.

This culminates in Catherine's 'declaration of independence' - she is so fearful of Eddie now that she feels she has to escape him.

CATHERINE: ("trembling with fright"): I think I have to get out of here, Eddie.
EDDIE: No, you ain't goin' nowhere's, he's the one.
CATHERINE: I think I can't stay here no more. [Arthur Miller, A View from the Bridge, 1955, pp.64 in the pinguins classics]

At this point, Eddie explodes. The violence that erupts is a realisation of implied violence in the scene in the previous Act where his barely-contained suspicions of Rodolpho's homosexuality were exposed in accusation after accusation:

EDDIE: ("to" BEATRICE): He's lucky, believe me. ("Slight pause. He looks away, then back to Beatrice.") That's why the water-front is no place for him. ("They stop dancing. RODOLPHO turns off phonograph.") I mean like me - I can't cook, I can't sing, I can't make dresses, so I'm on the waterfront. But if I could cook, if I could sing, if I could make dresses, I wouldn't be on the water-front. ("He has been unconsciously twisting the newspaper into a tight roll. They are all regarding him now; he senses he is exposing the issue and he is driven on.") I would be someplace else. I would be like in a dress store... [Arthur Miller, A View from the Bridge, 1955, pp.55 in the pinguins classics]

He then challenges Rodolpho to attend a boxing match, assuming this will expose him, as he believes no effeminate person would be interested in the manly sport of boxing. He uses this topic as a pretext to punch Rodolpho, while 'teaching him a lesson', ostensibly a lesson about boxing, but actually about who is the alpha male. This symbolic beating will turn into a true beating in the next Act.

It has been asserted by some commentators that there are homo-erotic tensions between Eddie and Rodolpho. This stems from when Eddie kisses Rodolpho. He claims to have done this to prove that Rodolpho is homosexual, or “not right” as he puts it: "He didn't have the right kind of fight, I know it...". He did this to prove that Rodolpho could have no sexual desires for Catherine and was only marrying her to live in America.

It is possible, however, the kiss is intended to mock Rodolpho, not to express any latent sexual feelings for him. Taken in the context of the belittlement that Eddie is dealing out to Rodolpho, the kiss may mean nothing other than a slight on his masculinity, and therefore on his right to claim Catherine.

Such is his contempt for Rodolpho's (he believes) feigned sexual conquest of Catherine, that Eddie reduces the dispute to simple "bestial dominance" - he, Eddie, is the bigger animal, and he therefore deserves the prized female.

This need for "bestial dominance" is clearly desperation, and lacks the nobility of the show of strength by Marco, who raises a chair in a show of strength to put Eddie in his place. The desperation arises not only from the sexual betrayal that he feels he has suffered, but also from the fact that Eddie sees himself as the patriarch, and yearns for control of every situation and everyone around him. Note that all the conflicts in the play escalate whenever Eddie loses control. This hypothesis is further supported in the final pages when Marco repeatedly calls Eddie an “animal”.

There are several suspicions which at first the characters suppress, but then, during the course of the play, were forced into revealing. An example of this is that Beatrice’s loyalty is divided between Eddie and Catherine. Beatrice desperately wants to be closer to Eddie because she has sensed a rift forming between them, and the only way she feels she can break this is if Catherine matures and leaves. She tries to bring this about herself, by telling Catherine that she needs to act more like a woman and to stop acting like a child around Eddie. She also defends her getting married to Rodolpho in order to get her away from the house. She may be pursuing this course of action because she is jealous of Catherine becoming so (inappropriately) close to Eddie, and she is blaming Catherine for all of the marital problems she and Eddie are experiencing.

Cast of characters

* Eddie Carbone- The hardworking, blue collar lead of the play. Eddie is an Italian-American longshoreman (dockyard worker) who provides food on the table for his family, a roof over their heads, and an education for his orphaned niece, Catherine, whom he and his wife have raised. But underneath Eddie's average guy personality is a conflicted man, whose love for his niece may be deeper than just paternal, implying a possible incestuous desire. He calls the Immigration Bureau to inform on Rodolpho and Marco, which produces dire consequences. Killed by his own knife at Marco's hands when trying to attack him, he dies in Beatrice's arms at the end of the play.
* Catherine Carbone - The sweet, naive young girl and female lead of the play. Catherine is a stenographer fresh out of high school and relatively new to the world. She develops an attraction to her aunt's cousin, Rodolpho, which is the complication that sets in action the story of the play. Her late mother, Nancy, was the sister of Beatrice.
* Beatrice Carbone - Eddie's spouse and aunt of Catherine. Beatrice's character throughout remains a strong and constant figure, loyal to her husband right to the end, despite also being a caring substitute mother to Catherine. She is subtly wise and tactful, softly guiding Catherine through the play and supporting her, despite being aware her husband is in love with her. She is perhaps modern for her times, bold, as she is not afraid to confront Eddie about their dysfunctional sexual relationship.
* Rodolpho - Beatrice's cousin from Italy. He appears to fall in love with Catherine. He tries unsuccessfully to prevent the fight between Eddie and Marco by making a truce. Rodolpho is seen by Eddie as having too many 'effeminate' talents, and of seeking to marry Catherine only for the purpose of gaining US citizenship. Eddie's outrage that Catherine could love and want to marry somebody like Rodolpho drives on the play from the second Act.
* Marco - Rodolpho's older brother and a man of few words. Like Rodolpho, he came to America illegally, but not to be a citizen. His plan was to make money to support his family back home in Italy, which was still suffering post-war Europe's crippled economy. He is very grateful to be given a chance to prosper in America. Following his betrayal by Eddie, he kills Eddie (arguably in self defense) in a fight over the breaking of an unspoken law about always being loyal to one's family.
*Alfieri - The narrator of the play and a family friend of the Carbones. Alfieri is the wise attorney who dispenses legal advice to Eddie. Essentially, Alfieri is the proxy, the representative of the Red Hook neighborhood, completely familiar with its turf and its inhabitants. He tries to warn Eddie about turning on his family. His function in the play can be compared to that of the Chorus in Greek theatre.
*Louis and Mike - Co-workers and friends of Eddie. They can't resist mocking Eddie for taking in his cousins, "He's a.. always making remarks ya' know!?" who seem to overshadow Eddie. During the final moments of the play, they try to prevent Eddie from attacking Marco with a knife.
*Immigration Officer 1 - A stern Manhattan immigration officer who takes Rodolpho and Marco away, after Eddie's anonymous phone call.
*Immigration Officer 2 - The second officer working with the first officer, who helps him round up the illegal immigrants.
*Mr. Lipari - A neighbour and local butcher hiding an illegal immigrant family member away.
*Mrs. Lipari - Mr. Lipari's wife and relative of the illegal immigrant they are assisting in safe passage from Italy.

Original cast (London)

The play was first performed at the Comedy Theatre, London, on October 11 1956.

*Eddie - Anthony Quayle
*Catherine - Mary Ure
*Beatrice - Megs Jenkins
*Rodolpho - Brian Bedford
*Marco - Ian Bannen
*Tony - Ralph Nossek
*Louis - Richard Harris
*Mike - Norman Mitchell
*First Immigration Officer - John Stone
*Second Immigration Officer - Colin Rix
*Mr Lipari - Mervyn Blake
*Mrs Lipari - Catherine Willmer
*'Submarine' - Peter Jones
*Alfieri - Michael Gwynn

Theatre

"A View from the Bridge" opened on Broadway as a one-act play on September 29 1955, at the Coronet Theatre (now named the Eugene O'Neill Theatre) and ran for 149 performances. Directed by Martin Ritt, the cast included Van Heflin (Eddie) and Eileen Heckart (Beatrice).

Dustin Hoffman acted as assistant director and stage manager for a successful 1965 production of the play at the Sheridan Square Playhouse in Boston. The play's director, Ulu Grosbard, suggested to Arthur Miller that Hoffman would one day make a great Willie Loman. Miller was not impressed, and later wrote that "My estimate of Grosbard all but collapsed as, observing Dustin Hoffman’s awkwardness and his big nose that never seemed to get unstuffy, I wondered how the poor fellow imagined himself a candidate for any kind of acting career". [ [http://www.tiscali.co.uk/entertainment/film/biographies/dustin-hoffman-biog/9] ]

The play was revived on Broadway twice:

:*February 3, 1983 at the Ambassador Theatre, with Tony Lo Bianco as Eddie and directed by Arvin Brown, the production ran for 149 performances.

:*December 14, 1997 at the Criterion Center Stage Right and transferring to the Neil Simon Theatre, the production ran for 239 performances. Directed by Michael Mayer, the cast included Anthony LaPaglia and Allison Janney. The production won the Tony Award for: Best Revival of a Play; Best Actor in Play (LaPaglia); and the Drama Desk Award for: Outstanding Revival of a Play; Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play (Janney); Outstanding Direction of a Play (Mayer).

Film

Italian film director Luchino Visconti directed a stage version of the play in Italy in 1958. The plot of his film "Rocco and his brothers" ("Rocco e i suoi fratelli"), made in 1960, has many affinities with "A View from the Bridge" [see Rohdie, Sam "Rocco and His Brothers - Rocco e i suoi fratelli" British Film Institute Publications, 1992.]

A film based on "A View from the Bridge" titled "Vu du pont" was released in February 1961. Directed by Sidney Lumet, it starred Raf Vallone and Maureen Stapleton as Eddie and Beatrice, with Carol Lawrence as Catherine.

In 2006, a new film version of "A View From the Bridge" was announced. It is to be directed by Barry Levinson, with Anthony LaPaglia as Eddie, Scarlett Johansson as Catherine, and Frances McDormand as Beatrice. [ [http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117918047.html?categoryid=13&cs=1 Cast for the 2006 adaptation of 'A View From The Bridge'] ]

Opera

In 1999, an opera of "A View from the Bridge" with music by William Bolcom and a libretto by Arthur Miller premiered at Lyric Opera of Chicago. The work was performed subsequently at the Metropolitan Opera in 2002.

References

External links

*
*

* [http://www.eriding.net/amoore/gcse/viewfromthebridge.htm Educator's guide to teaching the play]
* [http://www.sparknotes.com/drama/viewbridge/context.html Sparknotes on the play]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/english_literature/dramaviewbridge/index.shtml BBC GCSE Study guide to the play]
* [http://www.aresearchguide.com/a-view-from-the-bridge.html Understanding A View From The Bridge]


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