First came to me” which means that Eddie must go to visit him again and telling us that something exciting must happen later on because Eddie only really has need to visit a lawyer when something bad happens, therefore building up the tension even more. Alfieri opens the play with a speech, setting the scene (along with Miller’s stage directions) and giving us some background information about the play itself and his life. He tells us that he was born in Italy and lived there for twenty five years so he must have a sense of the Italian way of justice rather than law.
This means that he must make some very tough decisions as he is a lawyer. He says, “We’re [lawyers] only thought of in connection with disasters… ” Here he is actually telling us that because he is a character in this particular play then there will be a disaster at some point in the plot. He also says: “… who have I dealt with in my life… the petty troubles of the poor – and yet… every few years there is still a case, and as the parties tell me what the trouble is… the thought comes that… another lawyer… heard the same complaint and sat there as powerless as I, and watched it run its bloody course.
” This must be him telling us what the play is about because if it wasn’t then it would be completely irrelevant and there would have been no need to say it. Alfieri does actually say that one of these cases was about Eddie Carbone. The way that Alfieri says, “sat there as powerless as I” tells us that something bad happens which a lawyer cannot control, even with the law on his side, leading us to believe that the play is about justice rather than what is lawfully right. We already feel the tension this early in the play, although we haven’t even met the main characters yet.
It is Alfieri’s tone of voice and language that give us clues to the drama in the play. When Alfieri is visited by Eddie, he is torn between the ideas of law and justice, leaving him confused. He gives very short answers like “All right” and “Certainly” because he is not sure what is the right thing to do. Alfieri decides, in the end, to stick with the law and therefore advises Eddie that there is nothing he can do about the relationship between Catherine and Rodolfo, even if Rodolfo is just using her to become a citizen and even if he is homosexual.
Alfieri understands that Eddie has unnatural feelings for Catherine and he speaks in an almost patronizing way to him about them: “… there is too much love for the niece. Do you understand what I’m saying to you? ” He advises Eddie to get rid of these feelings now before anything drastic happens. Eddie is very upset to hear these words from Alfieri as he has being trying to deny them but now he has to face the facts. He is angry, but perhaps it would have been better to remain calm as he overreacts a little.
This adds to the dramatic tension because we, as the audience, already know how he feels, but with Beatrice and Alfieri starting to realise, Eddie must be nervous and also angry so we wonder where this will all end up if he can’t control his feelings and accepts Catherine’s love for Rodolfo. In the final part of Act 1, the tension in the room is at its maximum. Eddie seems eager to start an argument, letting us know that he has not taken Alfieri’s advice. He makes comments like, “… they count the kids and there’s a couple extra than when they left” about immigrants returning to their own country.
The way he twists the paper is him discreetly letting out his anger about Catherine and Rodolfo dancing. Miller finds it important to include details like this in the stage directions because we will know that there is tension in the room even if everyone is acting in a civilized way towards each other. We can see that Beatrice is tense and wants to get everyone calm in phrases like “Well then, be an uncle then” to Eddie about Catherine. Catherine realises that something is wrong but being young and innocent she doesn’t realise that it her uncle’s feelings for her that is the problem.
When she asks Rodolfo to dance we are told that she is ‘flushed with revolt’ because she is showing Eddie that she can now do what she wants. Rodolfo also realises there is some sort of problem because he is nervous. They both know that Eddie disapproves. Eddie tries to act unconcerned but he lowers his newspaper and watches them, showing that he is keeping his eye on both of them. We see this when Catherine asks him to dance and he says, “No, I – I’m tired” because Eddie is there. Marco is also edgy because when Eddie and Rodolfo are practising fighting and Eddie hits Rodolfo, Marco immediately rises.
Eddie’s attitude towards Rodolfo suddenly changes when they are fighting – he is encouraging him and complimenting him. This sudden change of heart tells us that it is all an act just so Eddie can show Marco that he should never have messed with Eddie because he would always have been beaten. When Rodolfo tells Eddie that it is a lot stricter where they come from Eddie replies, “It ain’t so free here, Rodolfo, like you think. ” Eddie is intending this as a warning to Rodolfo about dating Catherine, and because he adds “like you think”, he is making out like the relationship between Catherine and Rodolfo is wrong.
When Marco beats Eddie in the ‘chair raising’ challenge, it is almost like a come back to Eddie’s fight with Rodolfo. Marco has always seemed to be shy and has always done what Eddie tells him to do but he can see that Eddie’s fight was symbolic. As Marco is Italian and they always show loyalty to their family, Marco is sticking up for his brother and responding to Eddie’s threat with another. He is showing that although Eddie can beat Rodolfo, he would also have to beat Marco, but he cannot do that. The way that the chair is raised over his head is like the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of freedom.
Marco smiles, knowing that he has won his brother’s right to do what he wants and Eddie realises that he has been beaten. The ending to Act 1 is effective as during the play the tension has been very subtle and we have needed to look beyond the words and stage directions to see everyone’s feeling. But in the final scene it is very obvious that there is tension in the room. Everything in this Act has seemed to lead up to who will win in the end and the ending of Act 1 shows us that although Rodolfo cannot, his brother will accept the challenge on his behalf.
An audience would be rather alarmed at everyone’s sudden changes – Catherine’s rebellion, Beatrice’s gentleness gone, Rodolfo’s nervousness, Marco’s sudden strong character and Eddie’s realisation that he has been overpowered. Alfieri has increased the build up of tension throughout this Act by telling us beforehand his feelings about what is going to happen, making us on edge through the whole of the play. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Arthur Miller section.