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Conflict of Legal, Moral, Ethical, and Social Issues in A View from the Bridge

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On Brooklyn Bridge, American playwright, Arthur Miller, had noticed graffiti during his walks that read: ‘Dov'è Pete Panto?' which translates from Italian as: ‘Where is Pete Panto?' The message also began appearing on subway stations and on office buildings at Court Street in downtown Brooklyn. After he was known the story behind the graffiti, he learned about the lives and culture of the longshoremen, their homes in their Red Hook neighborhood. Arthur heard the true story from a lawyer, Vinny Longhi, (who worked with longshoremen), then he wrote the true story as a play, A View from the Bridge, which presents at least two, possibly three or four, different conceptions of the inter-related notions of law, justice and honor to us in the play. A belief in communal law or community values, the American system of justice, and the analogy of settling for half. Miller enlarged the psychological motivations of the principal characters – Eddie, Beatrice, and Catherine. He believed Eddie's action was made more understandable because he no longer concentrated only on the factual events of the tale.

First, let's take a look at the actual set on stage. Most of the action takes place in the apartment of the Carbones. Stage directions tell us that, while it's pretty bare, it's still clean and homey. You can tell a lot about people by what their house looks like. This apartment would seem to say that these folks don't have a lot, but they take pride in the things they do own. Also on stage, there is a bit of the street outside. This becomes very important when all the family drama going on in the apartment spills out into the public arena. It allows for space where we can see the community affected by Eddie's mistakes, such as when the Italians are arrested or when Eddie and Marco duel. Alfieri makes six appearances on stage throughout the play. He is a portly, good-humored, and thoughtful lawyer who was born in Italy.

A View from the Bridge represents a world in which legal, moral, ethical, and social issues are in conflict with one another. Miller created the role of a narrator, Alfieri, in imitation of ancient Greek tragedies where a group of actors commented on proceedings and were known as the 'chorus'. The lawyer directly addresses the audience from his office: he is both a character and a commentator. Although his original intention was to use Alfieri to convey his own wonder when he first heard the tale of the longshoreman, he clearly uses Alfieri’s speeches to the audience to connect Eddie to what Miller sees as the mythic level of the play.

Law theme in Act one, Alfieri provides the interpretation of civil law, from his very first monologue he also shows that such law is not always a cultural precedent followed in the context of a Sicilian neighborhood in Brooklyn. He tells us that the second-generation Sicilians are now more civilized, more American, he refers to “three thousand years of distrust “which have been felt by Sicilians towards lawyers, because “A lawyer means the law.” He thinks that living in America and following the written law makes people less savage and less likely to take the law into their own hands, prepared to 'settle for half and let the law handle their disputes, As a reason that, the law is not always clear nor does it satisfy basic instincts. Alfieri has witnessed men ‘justly shot by unjust men. He describes the code of modern American society, by saying, “And now we are quite civilized, quite American. However, in Alfieri’s own words, Eddie is not connected to this civilized law; his nature harks back to his roots in the old world.

Miller decided to end Act One with the dramatic defiance between Marco and Eddie when the compliant Marco shows his awareness of Eddie’s threat to Rodolpho by holding the chair over Eddie’s head. A result of Eddie's most jealous issues in A View from the Bridge. Eddie’s desire for his niece Catherine is at the heart of all the play’s action. His attention to Catherine is drawn as more than fatherly affection. There are a number of particular twists to Eddie’s desire for Catherine. Catherine is Beatrice’s niece whom Eddie has raised as his own daughter. The fact that she is not his niece by blood further complicates Eddie’s attraction to her. His need to protect her childhood innocence, first portrayed as fatherly affection, is put into a different light when he becomes enraged by her relationship with Rodolpho. His desire is evident when he reveals his revulsion at Rodolpho putting his hands on her. Yet twice in the play, Eddie is portrayed as unconscious of his desires. When he goes to see Alfieri for legal advice, the lawyer voices his concern for Eddie’s inner turmoil. At the end of the play, Beatrice will similarly confront her husband by forcing him to face the reality he is unwilling or unable to imagine. Catherine’s interest in Rodolpho is obvious on the first night of their arrival. When Catherine and Rodolpho begin their relationship, Eddie’s paternal concern turns into jealousy, which he uses to attack Rodolpho. Eddie is repulsed by what he perceives to be Rodolpho’s effeminate nature, an unfamiliar form of masculinity. Eddie tries to convince Catherine that Rodolpho is using her to have American citizenship but his argument is actually a mask for Eddie’s own desire for her. There are substantial differences between the original one-act version of the play and the revised two-act version regarding the nature of Eddie and Beatrice's relationship. Nevertheless, Eddie perceives Rodolpho as a sexual threat. He discovers that, in addition to singing and sewing, Rodolpho also cooks. Although he is told about the male chefs in European hotels, he does not appreciate a European view of what constitutes masculine behavior. As a recently assimilated American, Eddie is uneasy about his own immigrant Italian culture. For him, masculinity is only physical strength and he challenges Rodolpho to a boxing match, knowing that he can overpower him and 'accidentally' he injures him. (Maturity independence)

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Act One which includes a conversation between Beatrice and Catherine about her relationship with Eddie. Miller portrays Beatrice as aware of both Catherine’s and Eddie’s complex feelings. She realizes much more consciously than Catherine or Eddie does that Catherine is a woman, and Beatrice tries to convey that to her. Beatrice encourages Catherine to leave the house, to marry Rodolpho, and for them to find a place of their own. She says, ‘You’re a woman, that’s all, and you got a nice boy, and now the time came when you said goodbye.’ When Catherine hesitates, Beatrice is firm: ‘Honey . . . you gotta.’ Beatrice’s action in this additional scene displays her own complicated situation: torn between her devotion to her husband, her own desires as a wife, and the responsibility for the girl she has raised as a daughter.

Act Two begins with the explosive scene when Eddie discovers Rodolpho and Catherine in the bedroom. Because Eddie has no legal recourse to stop Catherine and Rodolpho’s relationship, he chooses to act according to his own code. Alfieri points out to him that he will drown if he violates the social and moral codes so powerful in his neighborhood, especially the ethnic code he breaches by reporting Marco and Rodolpho. It is ironic that according to the code operating in Red Hook, Eddie is technically committing a crime by harboring illegal aliens, but this action is permissible, even sanctioned in the community. Making the phone call to report illegal immigrants, according to civil law, is the proper action; however, the play illustrates that the moral law of the Italian society supersedes civil law – an action that makes Eddie an outcast.

The violation of this ethnic code is enforced in the scene between Alfieri and Marco after his arrest by immigration officials. Marco seeks revenge on Eddie because he has violated the Sicilian code based on loyalty to one’s blood and family, and the violation exacts terrible consequences. As Marco says, ‘In my country, he would be dead now.' Alfieri is reluctant to bail out Marco unless he promises not to exact this revenge: ‘To promise not to kill is not dishonorable.’ Ironically, Marco has the same difficulty as Eddie in understanding how the civil law conflicts with his moral code: Marco said: ' Then what is to be done with such a man?” Alfieri” Nothing. If he obeys the law, he lives.”Marco said: ' All the law is not in a book.' Alfieri replied, ' There is no other law.” Marco said” He degraded my brother – my blood. He robbed my children, he mocks my work. There is no law for that? “ Alfieri replied, “There is none.” Marco’s frustration at the law not punishing Eddie shows how the law is at odds with Marco’s sense of justice. Here ‘civilized’ America undermines the ethnic code of Marco’s land, which abhors the violation of ‘blood'. For Sicilians, this violation must be avenged, offering us another ‘view’ of how justice has its say in different worlds.


Miller’s plays concern themselves with the issue of characters accepting responsibility for their actions to accept and understand the consequences of their actions on themselves and others. At its core, A View from the Bridge illustrates the complexity of accepting – or denying – full responsibility for one’s actions and the effect this has on oneself, one’s family, and society. Eddie declares that Catherine ‘is my niece and I’m responsible for her’. But Eddie perverts his responsibility to her and in the process violates the codes that bind him to his community. The consequences are tragic. One of the most shocking aspects of Eddie's failure to fulfill his responsibility is that the play initially depicts him as fully aware of his role as a surrogate father to Catherine, husband to Beatrice, willing host to Marco and Rodolpho, and member of his immigrant community. Although Miller was intrigued by the events of the story on which he based the play and wanted to illustrate the events as the work of fate, the playwright in Arthur wanted to show that human beings are not merely victims of forces beyond their control. His characters determine their own destinies. Most of Eddie’s actions are indeed purposeful – his attack on Rodolpho, the passionate for Catherine, the information he delivers to the Immigration Bureau. His failure is that he is never truly aware of the part he has played in the unfolding of these terrible events. Refusing to accept blame, he displays no guilt and accepts no responsibility, even when the catastrophe he has caused is pointed out to him. In contrast, Beatrice and Rodolpho clearly take full responsibility for the choices they have made.

Arthur commented on how the revised staging also emphasized Eddie’s universal destiny: The play began on a Red Hook street against the exterior brick wall of a tenement, which soon split open to show a basement apartment and above it a maze of fire escapes winding back and forth across the face of the building in the background. On those fire escapes the neighbors appeared at the end like a chorus, and Eddie could call up to them, to his society and his conscience for their support of his cause.

Somehow, the splitting in half of the whole three-story tenement was awesome, and it opened the mind to the size of the mythic story. Miller maintained that modern literature does not require characters to be royalty or leaders, as in the tragedies of other eras, and therefore fall from some great height. Rather he insisted: ‘I think that the tragic feeling is evoked when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing – his sense of personal dignity. From Orestes to Hamlet, Medea to Macbeth, the underlying struggle is that of the individual attempting to gain his “rightful” position in his society.’

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Conflict of Legal, Moral, Ethical, and Social Issues in A View from the Bridge. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from
“Conflict of Legal, Moral, Ethical, and Social Issues in A View from the Bridge.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Conflict of Legal, Moral, Ethical, and Social Issues in A View from the Bridge. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 Mar. 2024].
Conflict of Legal, Moral, Ethical, and Social Issues in A View from the Bridge [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2024 Mar 1]. Available from:
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