Character Speech Analysis
This essay will explain and analyse how each individual main character talks in the play ‘A View from the Bridge’ by Arthur Miller. It will cover the way in which the character’s speech, including his or her mannerisms and accent, are affected. Examples are: their personality; the current and previous circumstances and surroundings; class; gender, and social position. It will also aim to provide important quotes made during the story, why and how they were given, and what the effects of these were. This essay will analyse the characters in Act I of the revised and extended play from 1956. The play is set in 1950s America, in an Italian neighbourhood (Redhook) near the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
Eddie Eddie is a fairly outgoing, friendly 40-year old man of average intelligence. He is the ‘head of the household’ and therefore is probably the most powerful member of the social scene. However, he attempts to control every important thing that goes on in the house and outside, especially when it comes to Catherine, his 17-year old daughter; as Alfieri quickly grasps, Eddie may love her more than he realises.
He fights a continual struggle against himself, unable to grasp the reality of his feelings. He behaves very differently towards people he doesn’t trust; we can see this from how he speaks to Rodolfo, often throwing insults at him under a disguise that only his daughter falls for. ‘I can’t cook, I can’t sing, I can’t make dresses, so I’m on the water front. But if I could cook, if I could sing, if I could make dresses, I wouldn’t be on the water front.’ We can see from this that his language is quite basic; although he doesn’t use slang in this particular part (probably due to the fact that he is trying to ‘expose the issue’ and make sure he is not interpreted to be joking), slang such as ‘yiz’, running words together and shortening them such as ‘y’know’ and ‘nothin’ are very common in his speech.
Being an American, he has fewer ‘Italian’ mannerisms than many of the other main characters such as B (Beatrice), Marco and Rodolfo, who were all raised near or in Sicily, Italy. Catherine Eddie’s 17-year old daughter, being a teenager still is not entirely sure about herself or what she wants to do. However she is in many ways very feminine and does indeed have an ‘enlarged’ character (during the 1955 original play many characters were said to be very boring, and so Arthur Miller aimed to make many characters have a more colourful and interesting character). She is exceedingly nave and often fails to realize the truth of the situations that unfold in front of her. She is an ‘Italian’ brought up in America, which affects her speech because she uses both Italian and American mannerisms. She is thought to be ‘looser’ than most Italian girls by Rodolfo.
Rodolfo Rodolfo is truly happy-go-lucky and carefree. He is not the most intelligent of people and this can be seen in the way he sometimes throws himself into things because of his outgoing and careless attitude; indeed he is an illegal immigrant and even this he takes fairly lightly. He is known to be very jokey by Eddie’s workmates (other longshoremen) and it appears that Eddie isn’t the only that thinks he may be gay. He came to America because he was ‘bored’ of Italy and perhaps wanted to make more money.
Marco Marco is a very careful, thoughtful, doubting character who remains mostly silent throughout many events in the play. He is a solemn character (he is away from his family in Italy and only came to America to get money for them). He appears to be very truthful as can be seen when Rodolfo tells the story about how much money they made when they sang. He is in many ways the opposite of Rodolfo in terms of his approach to speech and his general attitude towards others.
Beatrice Beatrice, like Catherine has an enlarged charisma in this version of the story. She has more in common with her daughter than with anyone else in the story, both in her personality and in her speech. She knows her place and usually listens carefully to her husband before talking. She can be very actively involved in conversations but knows to be reasonably careful and not unwise in the things she does and what she says. She can be serious (shown when she is talking with Eddie about ‘being a real wife’) and may be quite intelligent. She is an Italian; however this is less obvious than with the cousins due to the time she has spent in America.
Alfieri Alfieri, the lawyer, is the narrator to the story. He makes the story more like a Greek Play. A notable part of the play is when Alfieri describes the first time he saw Eddie; ‘His eyes were like tunnels; my first thought was that he had committed a crime, but soon I saw it was only a passion that had moved into his body, like a stranger.’ He speaks poetically, most similar to the original play of 1955 which was in verse. He is compassionate and speaks in a caring manner; he does not appear to be focused on money from his first thoughts of Eddie even though Eddie seems desperate.
He treats Eddie almost like a legend or a God; he represents him very dramatically. He adds a more prominent element of drama to the play. He seems to be very emotionally intelligent from the way he talks and the way he grasps very quickly what’s really going on in Eddie’s life: ‘A man works hard, he brings up a child, sometimes it’s a niece. Sometimes even a daughter. And he never realizes it, but through the years- there is too much love for the niece. Do you understand what I’m saying to you?’ From this we can see that he is very polite and grammatically correct; all his sentences make sense and are said in perfect English. He is also brave enough to mention such a sensitive topic and shows that he knows what’s going on in an instant even though he has very little knowledge of Eddie outside of this meeting.
Alfieri emphasizes the ‘Greek tragedy’ aspect of the play; Alfieri is the play’s ‘chorus’, the constant narrator who describes what has just happened or perhaps what will come. Often these interjections come at important points in the play. Other characters There are only two other characters that have appeared during Act I, Mike and Lois. However, although they only have fairly brief parts to play, they are the only way of judging how people ‘on the outside’ are living and talking besides the limited conversation of the main characters on this topic.
They have much in common with Eddie (most obviously that they are also longshoremen) and probably live fairly similar lives in many ways. In Eddie’s conversation with them halfway through Act I, they seem to find Rodolfo a comical character and have no trouble point this out. They have very similar speech patterns to Eddie and use many of the same slang words.