How does Miller build tension in Act 1 in A View from the Bridge?

Last Updated: 20 Apr 2022
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How does Miller build tension in Act 1 in A View from the Bridge? The play A View from the Bridge was written by American playwright Arthur Miler in the early 1950’s. The play is set in Red Hook, Brooklyn. This is where the ports are near the Brooklyn Bridge that is the gateway to Manhattan. The play is centred on an Italian-American longshoreman– Eddie Carbone. Eddie lives with his wife Beatrice and his niece Catherine who he has developed improper feelings for, however his feelings are repressed.

These matters are further complicated when Catherine falls in love with immigrants they are sheltering from the US government. Eddie repressed feelings suddenly begin to seep out in the form of rage and anger. Miller initially wanted the play to have one big arc culminating in a “final bang”. It was intended to have only one Act but was split up into the two. Because of this, the first Act does not contain any major climaxes in the plot but rather includes various tension-building elements that form the path to the eventual pinnacle at the end of the play.

A View from the Bridge is a very tense play, with numerous layers of conflict consistently going on, and almost all of these are with Eddie. The tension aroused in Act 1 is crucial for the rest of the play. Miller during Act 1 creates tensions in a variety of manners. One of the ways Miller creates tension is through the sphere of sex and love. This is a key theme throughout the play. There are many examples of sexual tension in Act 1. On various examples it is obvious to the audience the sexual tension that exists between Eddie and Catherine even if they cannot see it.

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This is evident right from the opening of the play where Eddie is complementing Catherine on her new look. Eddie is supposedly the father figure in the life of Catherine and though nothing he says here is too improper, Miller from the outset has planted the seeds that Eddie thinks that Catherine, to some extent, is quite attractive. This idea that Eddie is sexually attracted to his niece is further illuminated by his overly protective nature of her. Even though she is practically an adult Eddie still treats her like a child.

Beatrice conveys this when talking with Catherine when she says “I told you fifty times already you can’t act the way you act…if you act like a baby he be treatin’ you like a baby”. However, this is not the main reason why Eddie treats Catherine in an over protective manner. When Catherine is showing off her new skirt Eddie reacts by saying “I think it’s too short, ain’t it…I don’t want to be a pest, but I’m tellin’ you you’re walkin’ wavy. ”

His over protectiveness in this instance demonstrates the idea that Eddie is not comfortable with the fact of other guys being attracted to his niece, as his feelings towards her are not resolved. Further tension is created in this household when Catherine alerts Eddie that she wants to go to work. Eddie thinks of all the possible excuses to sway her decision. Simultaneous to this Beatrice is questioning why Eddie is so overly concerned by this. Eddie tells Catherine and Beatrice one of his lacklustre excuses for Catherine not taking the job “I know that neighbourhood, B., I don’t like it. ”, Beatrice responds with ““Tell her to take it. You hear me”.

This is a clear example of Eddie’s possessiveness for Catherine and how Beatrice seemingly doesn’t see it as his feelings are suppressed. Sexual tensions are further highlighted by the problems that are going on between Eddie and Beatrice. This is evident when Beatrice demands of Eddie “When am I going to be your wife again? ” This implies that Eddie has rejected his love for his wife because of these strange and confusing feelings he has bottled-up.

He fears that if he engages in any romantic way with Beatrice his true feelings will spill out. One of the crucial aspect of the build-up of tension is the fact that the audience always knows more than Actual characters themselves. They understand that Eddie has feelings for Catherine, they can see that it is burning him up inside and they can also notice the obliviousness of Beatrice to this improper love. Miller in Act 1 has verbally conveyed much of the sexual tension, however there are various occasions where sexual tensions is expressed through physical and visible Action

On various occasions in Act 1 Miller has created tension by physical Actions and events rather than by any verbal dialogue. Sometimes physical dialogue is more powerful than any verbal dialogue as it can sometimes to be more accessible to the audience, as the message that is trying to be conveyed is easier to comprehend. In Act 1 this can once again be seen by the creation of tension between Eddie and Catherine. This is clear in the scene where Eddie is talking about the imminent arrival of Beatrice cousins Marco and Rodolpho. After talking of this Catherine goes gets Eddie a cigar.

Catherine is eager to be at Eddie’s assistance and to even light it for him. The long spherical shape of a cigar can be likened to a phallus. This image of Catherine lighting the cigar is quite provocative thereby provoking quite blatant sexual imagery. Another key moment in the play in regards to tension building is the scene where Eddie teaches Rodolpho how to box. This scene ultimately culminates in the display of Marco’s superior strength. This scene evokes tension in different ways. Initially Eddie has taken the manly role in trying to get Rodolpho to box.

By doing this, to some extent, he is patronising Rodolpho as he treats him as a physically inferior being. This idea of Eddie’s superior strength climaxes when he punches Rodolpho. However, quickly the tension is turned around as Rodolpho reacts by saying “No, no, he didn’t hurt me. To Eddie with a certain gleam and smile: I was only surprised”. This is a very subtle way of showing that maybe Eddie has physical superiority but Rodolpho can hurt him mentally which in reality is much more painful. This is achieved by Rodolpho asking Catherine to dance in front of Eddie.

Tension is then further increased as Marco challenges Eddie’s physical superiority. Marco asks Eddie if he can lift the chair with one hand by grabbing one of the legs at its base. Eddie cannot manage to do it however in a symbol of pure strength and force Marco is able to do it. The stage directions describe the end of the scene “Marco is face to face with Eddie, a strained tension gripping his eyes and jaws, his neck stiff, the chair raised like a weapon over Eddie’s head – and he transforms what might appear like a glare of warning into a smile of triumph, and Eddie’s grin vanishes as he absorbs his look”.

This is the end of Act 1 and it substantially establishes the tension that is to arise in Act 2. The tension in this circumstance is built by the changing mood of the scene in such a short time. Eddie initially felt masculine and superior; however any sort of superiority seems to be lost as Rodolpho can torture him with his relationship with Catherine. But more importantly the brute, strong, physically superior character of Eddie is no longer as Marco demonstrates his grander strength. Eddie no longer has any power and has essentially, in a way, been stripped of his masculinity.

Eddie has no power in the Marco or Rodolpho now. In Act 2 it becomes clear that Eddie due to the tension between him and Marco and Rodolpho has resorted to the pettiest measures to get what he wants. The grin Eddie once had of knowing that he was strongest has disappeared as there is a new man of the household. Arthur Miller in Act 1 creates tension by using visual imagery and Actions. In this manner the events that go in front of our eyes carry a greater significance while we also gain a better understanding of emotions as we are able to see the Actors faces.

The tension that is existing between the characters is more visible as in some situations the tension is physically present. In Act 1 Miller employs various techniques to create tension. In the scheme of the whole play Act 1 is crucial as it sets up for the climax that is to come in Act 2. Miller creates tension in Act 1 verbally through various moments of sexual tension. Furthermore tension is created in Act 1 through physical interactions. Arthur Miller creates tension in Act 1 in A View from the Bridge through verbal and physical dialogue.

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How does Miller build tension in Act 1 in A View from the Bridge?. (2016, Sep 01). Retrieved from

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