A discussion of how Alfieri's opening monologue is used by Miller to establish a dramatic and troubled atmosphere in A View From the Bridge.
How does Miller use the character Alfieri to establish a dramatic and troubled opening to the play, A View From the Bridge?
Alfieri is a key character and chorus in Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge (1955), opening the play with a speech that introduces the violent history of Red Hook in Brooklyn before narrating the play. He literally provides a view from the bridge between the Sicilian culture of the characters and American culture. As such, he is a key tool for establishing a dramatic and troubled opening. This is evident from the outset, particularly where he asserts that it is unlucky to meet a lawyer on the street as they are “…thought of in connection with disasters” (Miller, 2010, p. 2). This creates a sense of foreboding and tension, establishing the tragic nature of the narrative in terms of the framing of the play with reference to Ancient Greece: “…the law has not been a friendly idea since the Greeks were beaten” and later to Caesar (Miller, 2010, p. 2). This has a far deeper significance than is immediately evident, which adds to the drama. Indeed, the speech is in free verse, is theatrical in nature and anchors the narrative with an “ancient element” (Bigsby, 2005, p. 180). According to Marino (2013), this creates a troubled atmosphere that draws on the myth of the Greek tragedy. Of course, Miller purposely uses this element of Alfieri’s speech to juxtapose the ancient world with the modern one, referring to Red Hook as a slum in which family arguments, evictions and other such events play out. The latter seems petty in comparison to a Greek tragedy but this heightens the tension of the final line, which refers to the powerlessness of Alfieri to influence a specific case’s “bloody course” (Miller, 2010, p. 2). This establishes a dramatic and troubled opening that perfectly sets the stage for the story of Eddie Carbone.
Bigsby, C., (2005). Arthur Miller: A Critical Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Marino, S., (2013). ‘Cut Out the Town and You Will Cut Out the Poetry’: Thornton Wilder and Arthur Miller. In D. Eisenhauer & B. Murphy eds. Intertextuality in American Drama. Jefferson: McFarland, pp. 90-98.
Miller, A., (2010). A View From the Bridge. London: Penguin.