A View From The Bridge was written by Play Wright Arthur Miller. It is set in the 1950’s in Brooklyn, New York and based around a working class Italian American community, and details the happenings when a longshoreman’s family harbours two Sicilian cousins who have illegally entered the United States. After WW2 many European countries were left completely devastated, Italy was one of these countries. After the war there was a lack of jobs, food and money so many Italians emigrated to prosperous countries like America.
However asylum was hard to get so many illegally emigrated. Once in America most immigrants lived in the slums, working poorly paid and inconsistent jobs. Both of Arthur Miller’s parents emigrated to the United States and after the Wall Street Crash he spent the rest of his youth living in poverty and working as a warehouseman. This I believe influenced the writing of A View From The Bridge. The central characters in the play are Eddie Carbone a longshoreman, his wife Beatrice, their niece Catherine and Beatrice’s two Sicilian cousins Marco and Rodolpho.
In the play crisis develops when Catherine and illegal immigrant Rodolpho fall in love and Eddie finds himself unable to cope with an inner-violent reaction he doesn’t understand. Eddie believes he is a good man, a father, a husband and a provider. However he is unable to control his jealousy resulting in him breaking the unspoken ‘code of honour’ and reporting them to the immigration bureau and then facing the wrath of Marco.
This was the first time I had encountered A View From The Bridge and in order to understand it’s context and the background of the characters more I research on the internet Italian immigration to America and the culture of Italian Americans. I found that the role of husband and wife were very different to the role today. The husband for example was expected to provide financial support for the family, as Eddie does with his job on the docks. The wife however is expected to serve and obey her husband and provide emotional support for the family.
I also found that the Italian culture and religion (Catholicism) meant they had strict rules on sexual behaviour and strong moral about what was right and wrong. I also discovered that honour was a very important part of the Italian and Mediterranean culture and that brotherhood and community were very important and to be treasured and protected. The issue of immigration that this play contains is relevant to today’s society as we see headlines in papers and news stories telling us about the problems of illegal immigration, the difficulty of achieving asylum and the discrimination asylum seekers face once in Britain.
We began to study the play by reading Alfieri’s speech at the very beginning of the first scene. After reading this scene, as a group we discussed the different issues and themes he raised in the speech: – These are all themes we believed might occur in the play. We also discussed how by opening the play with Alfieri as the narrator might cause the audience to share Alfieri’s perspectives of the events that occur and his view of the characters. For example the way in which Alfieri introduces Eddie suggests that he identifies Eddie as the hero and victim of this tragedy.
Another scene we read was the 1st scene of act one. Within this scene we are introduced to 3 of the main characters, Eddie, Catherine and Beatrice. In order to help us understand the characters more we did a brainstorm of our first responses to them. To develop our responses, we looked at both the text and stage directions to find what information they gave us about the characters. For example from the way in which Catherine runs her hands over her skirt and walks ‘wavy’ for Eddie at the beginning of the scene show that she is very manipulative and scheming.
Within this scene we also looked further into the status of the characters and the differences between male and female roles. For example this scene, although it may not be about him, revolves around Eddie sitting in his rocker shows that Eddie has the highest status in this family. The fact that Beatrice and Catherine have to get his permission for everything also proves this. From this scene you also get the idea that Eddie has quite a high status within his community, however within society he has no status to speak of, he is the ‘trash’ of America.
In order to develop the characters even further I wrote a Catherine’s diary entry for how I believe she may have been feeling after this scene; ‘I’m so happy I could probably burst. This morning I was called into the principals office and he told me there was a company who needed a stenographer and because of me being the best in the class he was offering me the job. Who would have thought it, out of the whole class I was picked. But the good new didn’t stop there as the job pays 50 dollars a week, I can’t even begin to imagine what I would do with all that money.
After school had finished I ran straight home to tell Bea, it was then that a cloud passed over my happiness, it was then I remembered I would have to tell Eddie. If Eddie said no that would be the final work. So, I put on my new skirt, done my hair and got ready to plead with him. At first he made up all the usual excuses like he didn’t like the area and that I needed to stay at school to get my qualification. But my dear Eddie is not a mean man and eventually he came round. He can be so considerate and sweet at times’.
A further scene we studied was the end of Act One, this scene contains the 5 main characters. With this scene we focused mainly on the stage directions, through the stage directions and subtext of this scene lots more information about the relationship between the characters is given. This is also the scene where the whole of act one climaxes, however not through text but through body language of the characters and the stage directions. In order to focus on these two aspects we had to do a still image of the last moment of tension in this scene.
After we did some forum theatre where we looked at other groups still image and gave our own opinions on how we would change characters position on in order to create more tension. We also studied a number of other scenes from A View From The Bridge. These included the scene in which Bea and Eddie wait for Catherine after her first date with Rodolfo. During the studying of this scene we were introduced to the idea of blocking the scene in order to track the different emotions characters feel during different parts of a scene.