In his essay ‘The Nature of Tragedy’ Arthur Miller wrote “Tragedy brings us not only sadness, sympathy, identification and even fear; it also, unlike pathos, brings us knowledge or enlightenment. ” He describes tragedy as being, “inseparable from a certain modest hope regarding the human animal. And it is the glimpse of this brighter possibility that raises sadness out of the pathetic toward the tragic. “? In ‘A View from the Bridge’, Miller’s protagonist, Eddie, gains neither knowledge nor enlightenment.
The audience, on the other hand, experiences not only the catharsis of watching the hero destroyed by a fatal and human flaw, but is also able to contrast what happened with what might have been – “a glimpse of this brighter possibility”. This is reinforced at the end of the play by the hope of a better future for Catherine and Rodolfo. The commentary by Alfieri and the realistic portrayal of the lives of the characters causes the audience to reflect on contemporary social and political issues. In this sense, the play is a modern tragedy.
In ‘A View from the Bridge’, Arthur Miller uses the conventions of Greek tragedy in a modern setting, he wrote the first one act version of the play in verse, as the Greeks did. The short sentences that evoke the language of people who have learnt English casually at work and on the street has a lyrical quality, and it is not surprising that a musical version of the play was created. Often the most important or dramatic words come first, even though this is not grammatically correct. This also reflects the form of the Ancient Greek language.
For example, “Eddie … A snappy new jacket he buys, records, a pointy pair new shoes and his brother’s kids are starvin’ over there with tuberculosis? ” (page 28). In contrast, Alfieri speaks in the long, fluent sentences of an educated lawyer. This communicates that, although he too was an immigrant from Italy, he has also become part of American society. Miller found the Greek concept of fate engaging. In this play, as in most Greek drama, the past continually reappears in the present, causing further complications for the characters.
For example, when Rodolfo sings “Paper Doll” for the first time he is only trying to please his hosts and to show off his talent, but Eddie instinctively senses that Catherine enjoys his singing and stops it. This shows how defensive Eddie is, and fearful of losing his position within the family. The second time we hear “Paper Doll” on the record player, Rodolfo dances with Catherine to demonstrate the strength of their relationship and to show Eddie that, although he won the pretend fight, it is Rodolfo who is the victor of Catherine’s love.
Every action has a consequence, and even if a person has followed the law of the land, but has acted in way that is morally wrong, that person will eventually come to justice. When Eddie Carbone betrays his wife Beatrice’s cousins due to his infatuation with Catherine, he pays with his life. This is an example of Miller using a Greek convention to create a modern tragedy. Miller was also strongly influenced by Ibsen, one of whose major themes is that the sins of the fathers are visited on their sons.
There is a second tragedy in the play because Marco risks his family by taking revenge on Eddie in order to maintain his honour and to uphold a higher moral law. Marco says “The law? All the law is not in a book… He degraded my brother. My blood. He robbed my children… There is no law for that? “(page 59). The audience can see that he will ‘visit’ his sins on his children and that fate will continue on, bringing doom to future generations. In the 16th Century a change in the social placing of the main character occurred.
No longer were the protagonists only men of great status and stature but simple men who suffered a great downfall. Miller wrote in ‘The Theatre Essays of Arthur Miller’ that to say that tragedy depended upon the noble status of the protagonist was nothing more than “a clinging to the outward forms of tragedy. “? Eddie is identified as the hero of the play when Alfieri introduces him in his first speech. The stage directions show he is an ordinary man “EDDIE has appeared and has been pitching coins with the men and is highlighted among them”.
Alfieri says, “This one’s name was Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman working on the docks from Brooklyn Bridge to the breakwater where the open sea begins” (page 4). At first, Eddie Carbone does appear to be almost noble. He receives great respect from his family and neighbourhood and seems to be a traditional, protective and kind husband. However, during the first act we learn that there is a darker reason for his intense protectiveness towards his niece, Catherine, which only his wife, Beatrice, fully recognises.