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How does Arthur Miller build up the tension which the audience experiences during Act One?

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Danny Tran 2 March 2003 How does Arthur Miller build up the tension which the audience experiences during Act One? The play is set in Red Hook which is predominantly a Sicilian -American town. The community is a close-knit one which is significant. Everybody in Red Hook knows everybody else so as a result the whole town know what is going on. When there are illegal immigrants the whole town will know. However, the code of the community prevents the authorities knowing anything but there are exceptions when Vinnie Bolzano and Eddie go to the authorities (and it is ironic how Eddie hated Vinnie for what he did). Times are changing and by the time of the late1950s, "rock 'n' roll" and a new cult called "teenagers" is on the horizon. Men are expected to work hard and women are supposed to stay at home and do their work their (notice Eddie the dockworker and Beatrice's worrying about the house and food). During World War II Miller spent two years working with Italians on the shipyards of Brooklyn and was therefore able to study their social background. He discovered that many were illegal immigrants and that they were very poorly paid. He saw that dockworkers waited on the waterfront for work. His observations are clear and are fundamental in the setting of this play. Tension is built up through a series of events which comes to a head at the end of Act One. Miller shows how he is a writer of such quality in the way that he is able to sustain tension all the way through Act One. The tense events that occur are due to the relationships between the characters. At the core is the Eddie who is the tragic protagonist. He is central to the play and is without doubt the leading character. The relationship he shares with Catherine has knock-on effects with his relationship towards other characters in the play. ...read more.


She finally breaks free in the final act when she once again lets go of her emotions and says what she feels. She finally makes her message clear to Eddie when she says, "Who the hell do you think you are?...You got no more right to tell people nothin'! We must ask ourselves what makes such a sweet and innocent girl be so defiant and rebellious? She feels that she is deeply in love with Rodolpho and this is definitely partly why she acts in such a way. She is also still relatively young and inexperience. She sees perhaps too much good in the world and this is evident in the text where Eddie is warning about her interaction with the men at the docks. The setting of the play is the late 1950s which was the beginning of "rock'n'roll" and the idea of the "teenager". Youths at this time were beginning to want more freedom and rebel. They were starting to want to look cool in front of everyone. Catherine is starting to sexually mature and at her rebellious age, we the audience and Eddie senses that this is a dangerous combination, especially when the problem includes Rodolpho who although grows up during the course of the play is still also young and prone to a lack of thought habitually. The relationship between these two characters gives the audience a lot of tension. Up to this point we have saw many of the faults of Eddie and his obsession with Catherine which is partly sexual. It is impossible to deny Eddie's incestuous sexual desire for Catherine but during the play, does Catherine contribute to this. Throughout the play Catherine is in physical contact with Eddie on numerous occasions and it is he who is touching Eddie. She touches his arm many times and he always smiles, any member of the audience sensing Eddie's incestuous feelings for Catherine will feel tension at these moments or at least discomfort. ...read more.


For Marco, actions speak louder than words and this is clearly present in the lifting of the chair. In Marco, Miller has managed to create a killer whom we see as good and honourable. The lifting of the chair is without the climax of Act One. It is positioned at the end of the Act before the interval and sets up the second act brilliantly. In Shakespeare, the staging directions are few and directors can choose to putintevals at different places. However, this play by Miller has many staging directions many of which are incredibly important. The interval must come right at the end of the raising of the chair - the climax of all emotions, not just tension. In Alfieri's opening speech he says, "Now we settle for half, and I like it better." This sentiment is repeated in his last speech it is well worth noting. The quote above is about just accepting what you have instead of wanting more. The tragedy could have been avoided if Eddie was content with what he had and not wanted Catherine. If only Eddie had accepted the terrible deeds that he had done and not demand an apology and "his name back". The quote is telling us to compromise and be pleased with what we have been lucky enough to have. In Act 1 the author sustains tension. As we progress the little household tensions slowly develop to become much greater ones which are all linked. More the little conversations which are frequent also help to sustain the tension. At the end of Act one the tensions come to a head and the final act is set up perfectly for the audience to enjoy after the interval. I think that Act One shows the great quality of this particular playwright. He knows when to be subtle and when not to and this enables him to control how and when we feel what we feel. I fell that the first Act is what makes this Act so good and also the well-written dramatic ending making this play very successful. ...read more.

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