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To what extent can Miller's play 'A View From the Bridge' be considered a modern tragedy?

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Introduction

To what extent can Miller's play 'A View From the Bridge' be considered a modern tragedy? 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?" ...read more.

Middle

His anagnorsis becomes apparent in his last words, "My B.!", these two words appear like an apology to his wife, the moment where everything become clear to him. However, it would be an exaggeration to argue that he gains enlightenment or knowledge at the end and Alfieri tells us that his death was "useless" (page 64). Eddie's self destruction is best shown when he demands that Marco should give him back his name, "I want my name! ...Marco's got my name -..." (page 62), causing his own death by refusing to accept responsibility for what he has done. In the conventions of the tragic genre in Ancient Greece, comic relief was never used nor needed, but it was common in Renaissance tragedy. In 'A View from the Bridge', the character Rodolfo, whilst seeming to give the audience some comic relief from the tragedy, also maintains an irreplaceable role as the character who allows and helps Catherine to blossom into a mature young woman. Moments such as when he sings "Paper Doll" to the Carbone family have amusing aspects to them. When Rodolfo performs to the family, Catherine becomes enthralled, as does most of the audience. Eddie however is not at all captivated by the sound of this "punk's" voice. He stops Rodolfo singing, claiming that he will be caught by the immigration bureau. However, the audience will recognise that Eddie does not like Catherine being so engrossed in the sound of another man's voice. This is the deeper meaning behind Miller's use of the song for comic effect. It is comical not only because of the lyrics of the song, but because of Miller's choice of timing. It also suggests to the audience that to be caught by the immigration bureau will be Rodolfo's fate, so comedy is used to warn of future tragedy. In a production of the play by the Touring Consortium at the Cambridge Arts Theatre in December 2002, the actor playing Rodolfo used irony to reveal his na�ve character to the audience. ...read more.

Conclusion

He is not prepared to 'settle for half' and his fate is an unavoidable and 'useless' death. Is there such a thing as a modern tragedy? Miller says he was influenced by classical Greek theatre and the nineteenth-century Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Like Ibsen, Miller hopes that the spectator will be purified not of the tragic flaw of the hero but of the ills of society.? Unlike in a Greek tragedy, where fate decides the future of a hero, the author believes that Eddie and the other characters have the power to control their own destiny. Oedipus could not control his fate - even the decision to leave the country and be brought up as a shepherd did not prevent him committing the most terrible crimes of killing his father and sleeping with his mother. Oedipus is innocent and cannot avoid his fate. Eddie is guilty and has the free will to make different decisions. So does every person, and the audience is meant to understand this. This means that, even though Miller uses the conventions of Greek tragedy, this play is not in the same genre. It is only a modern tragedy in Miller's own definition that "Tragedy brings us not only sadness, sympathy, identification and even fear; it also, unlike pathos, brings us knowledge or enlightenment." He says "it is the glimpse of this brighter possibility that raises sadness out of the pathetic toward the tragic"?. Tragedy is not the only genre that can bring "knowledge, enlightenment and a glimpse of this brighter possibility". You can do that in a comedy, too, but when a hero cannot avoid his destiny and is destroyed by fate or the gods; that can only be a tragedy. ? Tradition and Innovation in Tragedy, edited by John Drakakis and Naomi Conn Liebler, Longman Critical Readers, 1998, page 141 ? as above ? as above ? as above 2 ...read more.

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