In the history of American theater in the second half of the 20th century, one of the leading places belongs to the playwright, writer, essayist, drama theorist Arthur Miller. A View from the Bridge is one of the best plays by Miller, the playwright who is rightfully called the American Shakespeare. The play is based on a real story that took place in one of the Italian quarters of Brooklyn (New York) in the fifties of the last century. This is a tragic story about love and jealousy, friendship and betrayal.
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The play was first staged in 1955 at the Coronet Theater on Broadway as part of a two-act performance. The play was not a success; Miller rewrote it into a two-act play, and namely this version became popular among the audience. The premiere took place in London at the New Watergate Theater Club on October 11, 1956, directed by Peter Brook (Bhatia, 1985). The main character of the play, a simple port loader Eddie Carbone, agrees to give shelter to Marco and Rodolfo, his wife’s brothers, who came to the country illegally in the hope of breaking out of poverty. However, with their appearance, a quiet and measured family life is cracking. Even the danger of being convicted of breaking the law does not worry Eddie as much as the fear of losing his favorite, niece Catherine.
The feelings that arose between Rodolfo and Catherine become a test for the whole family, revealing the most secret desires and fears, and very soon Eddie and his loved ones will have to find out into what abysses forbidden love can drag. A mutual feeling develops between Rodolfo and Catherine, however Eddie is overprotective of his niece, which develops into insanity. The tragic story of forbidden love could not end with a happy ending. To some extent, this play is a social drama; moreover, Arthur Miller even wrote an essay about social plays (1955), where he noted that a drama written for public performance must be social, that its dramatic purpose is to portray a person as a social animal rather than to show the individual (Bhatia, 1985). The ancient Greek tragedy, in which events influenced the state of the entire state, in Miller narrows down to the framework of the American family, which does not at all change the significance of what is happening on the stage.
In addition, in this play, Miller clearly showed himself as the father of American analytical drama and in this regard, a direct follower of such European playwrights as Henrik Ibsen and George Bernard Shaw. At the end of the 19th century, Shaw announced that the only correct form of modern drama is discussion-drama, in which the event serves as an occasion for discussion of various urgent problems in society, questions of politics, philosophy and morality. There is a fairly clear point of view, which the playwright affirms throughout the course of the action and summarizes in the speech of the reasoners (Bhatia, 1985). The analytical drama of the 20th century also clashes different views and opinions, it is all built on ideological contradictions.
The second piece of the dilogy View from the Bridge is extremely dynamic. The playwright is rapidly developing only one, the main line of action: he shows how the hero of the play, the loader Eddie, came to betrayal. After the arrival of the immigrants Rodolfo and Marco (this is the beginning of the play), the action is steadily moving towards disaster. The method of depicting characters corresponds to the dynamics of the plot development. Miller completely moves away from detailed psychological analysis of his characters. The characters in the play are revealed only in action, each of them is the embodiment of only one passion. The play has one act, but it breaks up into separate scenes or pictures. Alfieri’s monologues represent the connecting links between them, which serves as a choir. Compositionally, these monologues carry out that decrease of tension, which is usually achieved by side episodes and the development of parallel plot lines. Alfieri’s monologues – and in this, apparently, their purpose – give the events taking place on the stage the character of epic predetermination, fatality. For example, at the junction of the fourth and fifth pictures, after Eddie came to Alfieri, a voice of rock is heard in the mouth of the lawyer, foreshadowing the fate of his client. It is obvious that the strict unity of the dramatic action in combination with Alfieri’s monologues-commentaries comes from the techniques of classical Greek tragedy.
The central theme of View from the Bridge is the theme of betrayal. This theme – in a broad sense – sounded in the play All My Sons, it was the leading one in The Severe Trial. The question arises: how did it happen that Eddie Carbon, a simple loader, became an informer? The reason, apparently, should be sought not only in Eddie’s love for his niece, not only in his alertness towards strangers who are trying to take his dear creature from him. Obviously, the very spirit of the times pushed Eddie to an act that has no forgiveness. “I want my name!… Marco’s got my name!” – Eddie shouts in desperation (Miller, 2010, Act 2). In the tragedy of a man who has learned the bitterness of split-off, there is that echo with today’s American reality, which gives the play a realistic force.
Yet, in this play, the theme of betrayal is interpreted by Miller differently than in The Severe Trial, where it unfolds against a certain historical background, grows out of the conditions of social life. In general, Miller’s previous plays are more firmly “tied” to America and constitute a kind of dramatic chronicle of its post-war history. In the play View from the Bridge, the theme of betrayal acquires an apparent autonomy, which does not seem to require social motivation. The playwright is primarily interested in the plot development of the problem of honor in its universal human aspect. This is confirmed in the central position of Miller’s concept of social drama: the drama becomes more sublime and more intense in proportion to how well it suits the most diverse people.
Bhatia, S. (1985). Arthur Miller: Social Drama As Tragedy. Prometheus Books.
Miller, A. (2010). A view from the bridge. Penguin Books.