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English Literature

Dramatic effect

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Here's what Miller himself said about the dramatic [dramatic: To do with a drama or play. A description or portrayal that is vivid and immediate - as if it is being acted out in front of you. Something that is tense or exciting. ] nature of the play. "I wanted to write a play that had the cleanliness ... the clear line of some of the Greek tragedies. Meaning that we would be confronted with a situation and we would be told in effect what the ending was. The question was not what was going to happen, but how it was going to happen."

Each of the following aspects of the play contribute importantly to the build up of dramatic tension as we wait to see how the tragedy [tragedy: A type of drama in which characters undergo suffering or calamity and which usually ends with a death. A sad or catastrophic event causing suffering or death. ] will play out.

"A Greek tragedy"

Alfieri is the lawyer who narrates the story.

Like a Greek drama - where the action all takes place in a single location - most of the action of this play takes place in the Carbones' apartment or immediately outside it. Miller explains at the opening of Act 1 how Alfieri's office can fit into this setting too (it is Alfieri's view from the bridge that we see).

Alfieri is established immediately as the commentator. He introduces the play, narrates the story in flashback [flashback: A scene enacting something that happened in the past; the enactment of a character's memory of a past event. ], focussing on key scenes, then closes the play. He is in control and we trust him.

  • He is like the Chorus in a Greek tragedy, explaining the events on stage to the audience without actually participating in them.
  • Although he does play some part in the action, it is clear that he was powerless and that nothing he could have done would have altered the bloody course. He tells us right from the start what is going to happen: dramatic [dramatic: To do with a drama or play. A description or portrayal that is vivid and immediate - as if it is being acted out in front of you. Something that is tense or exciting. ] interest is maintained because we want to find out how.
  • He reminds us at various intervals during the play that the ending is inevitable, such as near the end of Act 1: "I could see every step coming, step after step, like a dark figure walking down a hall towards a certain door."

As you read the play, it is important to imagine yourself watching and listening to the action. It is a drama, not a novel! The stage directions [stage directions: Instructions written into the script of a drama to guide the performers' actions. ] are important in helping us to imagine exactly what is going on: they can help us picture each character's actions and reactions.

During the course of A View from the Bridge the Carbone family change from a poor but loving family into one torn apart by mistrust, jealousy and violence. Ask yourself what happens to create such a dramatic contrast [contrast: A description of all the differences between two things (in this case, two texts). ]. How is the tension maintained and the audience involved?

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