15 May 2013

Role of Alfieri in A View from the Bridge


How effectively is Alfieri used in the play to highlight themes?
Consider Alfieri as:
A commentator & narrator – connecting two cultural views
• Eddie’s guide and advisor in his role as a lawyer.

Alfieri again rehearses the legal position of Eddie after Eddie again attempts to defend his jealousy and hatred because Rodolfo ‘ain’t right’ 
‘This is my last word, Eddie, take it or not, that’s your business. Morally and legally you have no rights, you cannot stop it; she is a free agent.’ 
The theme of law and justice is highlighted by Alfieri most effectively: he leaves Eddie, and the audience, in no doubt that letting Catherine be with Rodolfo is her legal right and the only legal action which would prevent it would be against all the community’s ideas of justice: 
‘When the law is wrong it’s because it’s unnatural, but in this case it is natural and a river will drown you if you buck it now’ 
Alfieri is used effectively by Miller to warn Eddie of the consequences of his actions should he decide to commit the ultimate act of betrayal 

At the end of the play Alfieri reiterates the theme of honour. He elicits a promise from Marco that he will not kill Eddie if he is released on bail, but is unable to prevent the violence at the end. 
Alfieri’s is the final word and he again reinforces his primary message – and that of Miller – that it is better to settle for half: 

‘Most of the time now we settle for half and I like it better’ 
Alfieri’s obvious sympathy for Eddie when he says he allowed himself to be ’wholly known’ allows the audience to feel some sympathy for him as a man ruined by a fatal flaw: a tragic hero. 

Themes of Law and Justice:
–  ‘The law is only a word for what has a right to happen’ 
–  ‘Most of the time now we settle for half and I like it better’ 
The relationships between characters • Betrayal 
  • Eddie’s downfall
Alfieri’s Interludes
P4: introduces idea of Sicilian immigrant community, where justice and the rule of law were very different, where in the early years of immigration: ‘There were many here who were justly shot by unjust men’. Now, he says, ‘we settle for half and I like it better’
Alfieri is used here at the beginning of the play to introduce the idea of the conflict between the law and justice within this community. This is effective as a means for Millar to set the scene.
At the end of this introductory speech he is used by Miller to forecast the tragedy at the end and to emphasise its inevitability: ‘another lawyer, quite differently dressed, heard the same complaint and sat there as powerless as I, and watched it run its bloody course.’
P31: dual role. Firstly comments on Eddie’s demeanour as he walked into the lawyer’s office:
‘my first thought was that he had committed a crime... soon I saw it was only a passion that had moved into his body like a stranger’
Alfieri’s role is to reinforce the audience’s notion that Eddie’s actions are out of the ordinary. Effectiveness?
Alfieri then becomes part of the action in his role as lawyer, emphasising that Eddie has no recourse in the law to solve his problems with Rodolfo and Catherine’s relationship and his intense dislike of Rodolfo:
‘There is nothing you can do, Eddie, believe me.’
P34: Introduces germ of idea to Eddie that the only recourse in law is the fact that the brothers are illegal immigrants:
‘There’s only one legal question here...the manner in which they entered the country.’
His question to Eddie:
‘But I don’t think you want to do anything about that, do you?’
is intended to be rhetorical. Eddie’s immediate response shows that this has registered with him and although he assures Alfieri he doesn’t, there is the clear idea in his mind that this is a possibility.
The theme of betrayal and subsequent shunning by a community is made very stark by Alfieri’s no-nonsense advice and his role is clearly vital.

Miller’s use of Alfieri here in a dual role is effective. It enables us to see Eddie’s motivation and the reasons he has convinced himself for his feelings (‘The guy ain’t right’) but also exposes Eddie’s real reasons, which Alfieri realises immediately:
‘We all love somebody, the wife, the kids...But sometimes there’s too much...and it goes where it mustn’t’
Alfieri’s advice to Eddie to:
‘Let her go..You did your job, now it’s her life’
is important as he highlights the crux of the matter – Eddie will not let Catherine go.
Alfieri’s comments confirm the audience’s suspicions and his role is therefore effective in enabling the major themes to be laid bare.
P43:Alfieri opens the second act by commenting on the events that led to Catherine and Rodolfo being alone in the house together and then comments again (p48) on Eddie’s reaction. By using Alfieri as a narrator and commentator, Miller is able to cement the action. Alfieri is narrating a story that is in the recent past and yet the events are given an immediacy by his interludes. 
P48: Alfieri comments on the inevitability of Eddie’s fatal action in reporting Marco and Rodolfo to the immigration authorities: 

‘when I saw him walking through my doorway I knew why I had waited...I had lost my strength somehow’ 
• ‘I kept wanting to call the police, but nothing had happened’
Throughout the play Alfieri is used effectively to show the inevitable outcome of the events and the impotence of anyone to prevent it.
                                 
         
Alfieri again rehearses the legal position of Eddie after Eddie again attempts to defend his jealousy and hatred because Rodolfo ‘ain’t right’ 
‘This is my last word, Eddie, take it or not, that’s your business. Morally and legally you have no rights, you cannot stop it; she is a free agent.’ 
The theme of law and justice is highlighted by Alfieri most effectively: he leaves Eddie, and the audience, in no doubt that letting Catherine be with Rodolfo is her legal right and the only legal action which would prevent it would be against all the community’s ideas of justice: 
‘When the law is wrong it’s because it’s unnatural, but in this case it is natural and a river will drown you if you buck it now’ 
Alfieri is used effectively by Miller to warn Eddie of the consequences of his actions should he decide to commit the ultimate act of betrayal 
At the end of the play Alfieri reiterates the theme of honour. He elicits a promise from Marco that he will not kill Eddie if he is released on bail, but is unable to prevent the violence at the end. 
Alfieri’s is the final word and he again reinforces his primary message – and that of Miller – that it is better to settle for half: 

‘Most of the time now we settle for half and I like it better’ 
Alfieri’s obvious sympathy for Eddie when he says he allowed himself to be ’wholly known’ allows the audience to feel some sympathy for him as a man ruined by a fatal flaw: a tragic hero.



The author, , is an Oxford graduate, outstanding-rated English Language and Literature teacher of ages 10-18 in the British education system. In 2012, she was nominated for Pearson's Teaching Awards. As a private tutor, she raises grades often from C to A. Her writing is also featured in The Huffington Post.