A View From The Bridge involves the audience and their emotions.
Many hundreds of years ago, the ancient Greeks produced the first theatre. This theatre, at first, had no actors, and the numerous chorus figures told the whole story, which was usually a tragedy. Later, in the 6th century B.C., Thespis introduced the actor. The chorus figure was still in plays - he now commented on the action, divided it into scenes and linked these scenes together by covering any action that the audience didn't see during a time gap. He represents sanity, reason and compassion in modern plays. The choric figure usually talks more standard English, and this is true in this play, where Alfieri is much more articulate than most of the characters.
Arthur Miller has used this characteristic in Alfieri to divide each act into unofficial scenes, and inform the audience on any missed action. As David Thacker, a Director said, Alfieri is the "mechanism by which the play unfolds."
A View From The Bridge involves the audience and their emotions. Arthur Miller has used various methods to keep these emotions controlled. He has used calm scenes between those of high tension and emotion, but the main method is the chorus figure. The audience listen to Alfieri, for many reasons. They respect his opinion because he is a Lawyer, but they also like his character and can connect with his position in the play.
I believe that the chorus character in this play has the "View From A Bridge," and is looking over the play. I think he has so much pressure from being told all the other characters' secrets that he needs to talk to someone. I think this is why he talks to the audience.
He comments on the action in a previous scene and gives hints as to the action in the next, "He worked on the piers when there was work", "After they had eaten, the cousins came." In doing this, he exercises a key role of the chorus character - they can comment but not intervene, "I could have finished the whole story that afternoon."
This also gives the audience the feeling that Alfieri is simply re-telling the story, because he speaks in the past tense, except when he's talking to another actor in the play. Alfirei's character is as a Lawyer. The community in the play respect Alfieri, and view him as the authoritative figure in the play. As Alfieri reminds us in his introductory speech, Lawyers are only thought of in connection with disasters. I think that Arthur Miller meant for the play to be a Greek tragedy. The ancient theme is brought up in the introductory scene, "In some Caesar's year, in Calabria perhaps or on the cliff at Syracuse…" I find this interesting because it is linking to a theme that has been used throughout time.
Another theme that Arthur Miller uses Alfieri to portray, it that of repetition. In the introductory scene, Alfieri refers to the repetition of events throughout history when he says, "Another lawyer, quite differently dressed, heard the same complaint." Alfieri also repeats himself throughout the play, reinforcing this theme. In both his main scenes as a Lawyer he says how, "His eyes were like tunnels," referring to Eddie.
In most of Alfieri's scenes he develops the action, moving time forwards and setting the new time, place and situation, as he does in both of the next two scenes. In the first of the two scenes, the audience feel again like they know what is going to happen, especially when Alfieri says, "He was as good a man as he had to be." This also starts another repetition, as it is said again in the concluding scene.
In the second of these two scenes, Alfieri hints at what is to come in an abstract way. The cousins have arrived and the story of Vinnie Bolzano has been told, when Alfieri starts his next soliloquy with, "Who can ever know what will be discovered?" He ends it with, "There was a trouble that would not go away." This is reinforcing the idea that the chorus character can comment but not intervene with the action. I think Arthur Miller put Alfieri into the play as a Lawyer because as a Lawyer he can talk to the characters and give them advice. Without Alfieri in the play, the audience wouldn't be able to find out what the characters were thinking. This is especially true for Eddie, who is not very articulate, "But I'm telling' you, you're walkin'wavy." Whilst in the Lawyers office, Alfieri reveals what Eddie is thinking to the audience. After a Lawyer scene, the audience knows why Eddie believes he is doing what he is, and they may even sympathize with him. The only time Eddie shows his feelings is when he's inside Alfieri's office.
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It is during the first scene in Alfieri's office where the main themes of the play come to light. Love, and morality, and the way they combine.
As a chorus character he knows what is going to happen, but even so he tries to stop it, "She can't marry you, can she?" He also sees Eddie's feelings, and tries to relate them to the audience, "There is too much love for the niece"
The scene after this is where Eddie challenges the masculinity of Rodolpho. Without the Lawyer scene the audience wouldn't have known why exactly Eddie was challenging Rodolpho. After watching the Lawyer scene, the subtext becomes much clearer to the audience.
At the start of act 2, Alfieri has a short speech setting the time, place and situation. It is nearly Christmas, and the theme of Christmas is strongly linked with the events of the play - after the next lawyer scene, B is taking down the Christmas decorations. I think this represents the removal of everything Christmassy - the festive spirit where everyone is happy. The audience are now certain that Alfieri is re-telling the story, when he says "Catherine told me later." He also says that Eddie was drunk during the next scene, "A case of Scotch whisky slipped from a net while being unloaded," Which may explain his actions.
The next scene is the last scene where Alfieri is seen in his office with Eddie. It is just after the 3 kisses scene, and helps to calm the tension. Again, the audience can see what Eddie is feeling with the help of Alfieri, but this time Alfieri stresses that there is more than the law written on paper, "When the law is wrong, it's because it's unnatural, but in this case it is natural." He tries to dissuade Eddie from what he knows will happen. Alfieri knows about both moral law and of that in the book. He controls which one he uses. He does this again in a later scene, where he is trying to tell Marco that the only law is that in a book, and that he would be breaking that law if he harmed Eddie.
I think the phone box on stage is interesting. It is there from the start of the play, but it is only lit after the 2nd lawyer scene. Alfieri realises that Eddie is a desperate man. So desperate, he'll do anything. In the 1st lawyer scene Alfieri told Eddie that the only recourse in the law he had was the way in which the cousins entered the country. It is at this point that Eddie realises it is the only way he can stop the marriage. Alfieri knows that Eddie loves Catherine in a way he shouldn't, but Eddie won't admit it. He thinks that Rodolpho must be in the wrong, because all the other alternatives are too painful for him. It is at this point in the play that the phone box starts to glow. In the past, the phone box has represented the outside world. It is introduced slowly, with Alfieri trying to dissuade Eddie between each stage direction to make it brighter. The rate at which it is shown to the audience give them time to think about what it could mean. By the time they've worked it out, Eddie is walking out of the office for the last time, and the phone box is the only lit item on stage.
In the penultimate scene, Alfieri is in the police cell after Eddie has gone to the police. Alfieri tells Marco not to harm Eddie. I think this is because Alfieri likes Eddie, as he says in the conclusion, "I think I will love him more than all my sensible clients."
After Eddie's death, Alfieri is lit up so that the audience focus on him, and gives a final soliloquy, which calms the audience down after another scene of high tension. This is like a eulogy, as it looks back over Eddie's life. A eulogy is usually a series of memories from a persons life, rather like the play is a series of flashbacks. In the end, the conclusion is inevitable, and ends in tragedy.
In Greek tragedies, there was usually a chorus. This was a group of people who would inform the audience on the happenings in the play. Similar to a narrator, except a lot of people and not just one person. As Miller based his play on Greek tragedies, he used this idea of a chorus. However, Miller twisted the 'rules' of a chorus, by only having an individual to play the part. His name is Alfieri. Not only is Alfieri a chorus, but he is also a character involved in the drama. He is very different from the other characters in the play. This is because he is a lawyer, and "a lawyer means the law"
Arthur Miller intended his play to have an impact and a blatant storyline, and easy for the audience to understand. To do this effectively, he uses Alfieri as a narrator, it helps keep the play more focused, and is less complex for the audience to understand the issues that are going on. By using Alfieri, Miller makes the play a lot shorter. Instead of having to act out the history and past of the Italian Immigrants and how they behave, Miller uses Alfieri to describe it, which takes up less time. When a scene finishes, Alfieri would come on, and then when the next scene starts, it could be two weeks later. So in this way, all the acting that would have had to happen between those two weeks, would be described and not acted out.
"He came to me two days later.
Arthur Miller also lets Alfieri control his play, by telling the audience what is going to happen.
Throughout the play, he gives hints and clues on what might happen soon in the play. This makes the audience want to listen and pay more attention to him. In his opening monologue, Alfieri gives a clue that makes it very obvious to the audience to recognise what is going to happen at the end of the play. This big clue is when he says at the end of his monologue "… and watched it run its bloody course." This is indicating that a tragedy is going to occur, and that there is nothing Alfieri could do about it. Then as Eddie Carbone walks on, Alfieri says, "This ones name was Eddie Carbone". This now is indicating to the audience that a tragedy is going to happen, and that it is going to happen to Eddie Carbone. This is exactly what Arthur Miller wanted the audience to think, but the question is, how and when it is going to happen. By doing this, Miller keeps the audience guessing and waiting in anticipation for the actual event to happen. Miller invents Alfieri to be a middle class man, because the people that will come and watch the play will be middle/upper class. So in this way the audience can easily relate to Alfieri, therefore making it easier for them to listen to him, helping them to focus more clearly on the play and what is going on. Alfieri, being an intelligent, educated Italian, can convincingly explain to a non-Italian audience the Italian past.
The play is set in New York, and not in Manhattan, where you would expect a theatre production to be set, but on the other side of the bridge. This excluded side of New York, is called Red Hook "The slums facing the bay on the seaward side of Brooklyn Bridge".
The community that live in Red Hook are Italian Immigrants who are not rich, and are not well off, but make a small hard earned living by working on the docks as Longshoremen. So it is very significant that Alfieri is a lawyer, as he is a different class to the rest of the society in Red Hook. He is different to the others by his job, the way he dresses (as we see when he first comes onto the stage and takes off his hat, and the way he is dressed throughout the play in a suit), he is well educated, and he is professional at what he does. The greatest difference between him and his fellow Italians is that he has the opportunity to leave the "slums", and live on the other side of the bridge with the other middle/upper class people, in Manhattan. But he does not want to leave, as he also feels that he has a sense of loyalty and duty to the society, as he too was an Immigrant. " They tell me the people in this neighbourhood lack elegance, and glamour. After all, who have I dealt with in my life? Longshoremen and their wives, and fathers and grandfathers, compensation cases, evictions, family squabbles- the petty troubles of the poor". This shows the commitment of Alfieri, and also shows his past, that he is very wise, and that he is a well-trusted man.
The community treats him with respect, as he is someone they know they can talk to when they are in trouble or need help, as he too is Italian. He does not leave Red Hook because here, people look up to him. If he lived in Manhattan, people would look down at him because he is Italian. In Red Hook, there will be a lot of work for him as a lawyer.
Alfieri is a symbolic person for his society. This is because he is like a light at the end of the tunnel for the rest of the community, as he is an Immigrant but has worked his way up in society since he first came to Red Hook. So the other people in Red Hook can also try to better themselves, or at least their children can get better jobs. They can think, " If Alfieri can, I can".
Another thing that Alfieri does, to keep the audience keen to know what is going to happen next, is he starts another speech, and breaks up the scene at crucial parts in the play.
For example when Eddie kisses Catherine and then kisses Rodolpho, the audience are in utter shock and are amazed by what they have just witnessed. Then the spotlight goes onto Alfieri, who then talks to the audience again.
At this part in the drama, the audience are eager to see where Eddie will go, as he has just walked out of the house, but Alfieri interrupts with another soliloquy.
"On December twenty-seventh I saw him next. I normally go home well before six………I kept wanting to call the police…………..Nothing at all had really happened".
By Alfieri doing this may be quite annoying, because it keeps interrupting and, breaks up the play and does not let the drama flow properly. The audience could lose their patience with him doing this, and so they would not get the full impact of the play, as they would lose concentration with Alfieri. But the other side of the coin to this is that the audience will want to listen to Alfieri as he helps them to understand the drama and get the direct impact of the play. They would also want to listen to him as he always has something important, and relevant in order for the audience to fully understand the play.
The audience trust Alfieri as he is wise, and he has a personality and character with whom the audience can identify with. As Miller wants the idea of tragedy, to stand out the most from his play, it is good that he is not just a narrator, but also part of the drama, as it is then much more easier for the audience to actually believe what he is saying. As he knows the characters personally, and he's not just telling the story of a tragedy which is going to happen to the longshoreman.
It is good when Alfieri talks about meetings he has had with Eddie, because the audience have seen the drama in the play between the two characters, then when he stops being a character, and becomes a narrator again, the audience get to know what his thoughts are. An example of this is when Eddie goes to Alfieri in desperation to do something about Rodolpho going out with Catherine, because he believes he is only going out with her because he wants to get his papers. After the meeting, Alfieri turns to the audience and becomes a narrator again, and tells the audience
"…I could have finished the whole story that afternoon. It wasn't as though there was a mystery to unravel. I could see every step coming, step after step".
This is also another example of Alfieri giving hints that the climax of the play was drawing nearer, and the way he says, "step after step" makes the audience very eager, to see these steps. As he could have just said " I could see every step coming".
I think that the opening monologue from Alfieri is very important so that the rest of the play goes well.
In this opening speech, Alfieri tells the audience key things they should know about the characters, in order to understand the play. But even before Alfieri starts speaking, Arthur Miller makes him do something very clever. He makes him create a relationship with the audience. I think that this is a very clever thing to do because this way, the audience will listen to Alfieri more, as they know about his past, and what he does, and they can feel like they know him, and that they too are part of the drama.
When Alfieri first comes on two pitchers nod to him, as he walks past them. He comes on from the side so the whole audience can see him walk on. This shows the audience that he is an important character in the drama. At this point, the audience do not know whether he is a character in the play or what role he is. So they wait for something to happen. Then he slowly walks to his desk and takes off his hat and runs his fingers through his hair. This shows the audience that he is relaxed. The audience can see that his character is in his fifties and fairly fat, and quite wealthy. He then turns to the audience and grins at them. This directly engages them, and they cannot pretend they have not seen him do this, so they look back at him. His first line is:
" You wouldn't have known it, but something amusing has just happened to me".
This shows that he is good-humoured and is not a grumpy man, and is relaxed, which helps the audience to relax. He then talks about why the two pitchers nodded at him "I often think that behind that suspicious little nod of theirs, lie three thousand years of distrust". This shows that in a way he feels apart from the community because he is a lawyer and "a lawyer means the law", but he does not feel like he is above them because he is wealthier. He then leads into the history of himself and who he is, and describes the past of the society, and the type of community they are living in where the drama is set.
"But this is Red Hook, not Sicily".
When he is speaking, he is at the front of the stage, sitting behind a desk, with a spotlight on him. So the audiences' attention is only on him. Alfieri makes the audience feel more comfortable and even more relaxed, as he speaks to them in an informal chat. Alfieri sets the mood for the next scene when he speaks, and creates expectations.
" Catherine told me later that this was the first time they had been alone together in the house".
I believe that there are three different links concerning Alfieri, which helps to make sure that the audience completely understand the drama.
These are the link between himself and the audience, and the link, which he makes between the present day, and the past of this community. The other link is the link between the rich in the audience, and the poor on the stage. In his opening monologue, he does all three of these.
"…. And in Sicily, from where their fathers came…" as he describes the society in Red Hook.
Arthur Miller uses Alfieri almost as a bridge between himself and the audience. Which is quite ironic, as in real life the bridge separates the two different sets of society.
Alfieri normally speaks in the form of soliloquies, which in my opinion is important, so the audience can concentrate only on him. In Millers words Alfieri can "set up what's called the moral situation".
Alfieri explains difficult concepts such as the social structure of the Italians, honour and reputation in the community to the audience. He ties this into conversation with the audience. He doesn't do this in a rude manner, as if to say you don't know anything about our community, and so you are stupid, but he does this in a gentle chat, as if he was telling a story. So the audience listen to him.
Arthur Miller wanted to change the way the people who lived in Manhattan, excluded those who lived in Red Hook, just because of their culture, and the difference in wealth. He wanted to get the point across that they shouldn't exclude them any more, so they don't feel left out of society and the community of America. This is why he uses Alfieri to make the story line so predictable. Miller says "Solidarity in that community was very important to them, more so than in a normal American community.
I think that Alfieri is a very important device that Arthur Miller uses so that the audience get the full impact of the play. He explains situations well and without him, the audience wouldn't be able to understand what the society in Red Hook was like, as they wouldn't have had all of the background information, which Alfieri offers. I think it is good how Alfieri is able to interact with the audience and talk about the drama from a different perspective. He builds up a lot of tension in the audience, who are then eager to watch what is going to happen next. By giving them hints and clues, it builds up even more tension, as they want to know how the play is going to unfold. He makes it clear to the audience the differences between the different societies, which are only separated by a bridge.