Beatrice

An illustration of Beatrice, with Catherine and Eddie.
  • Beatrice is Eddie’s wife. Her name means ‘blessed’ (from the Italian word ‘beata’) and she does have a saint-like quality. One stage direction tells us that [Her hands are clasped at her breast; she seems half in fear, half in unutterable joy] which echoes the pose in many images of the saints in religious paintings. She is long-suffering and patient, and we see plenty of examples of her goodness in the play. We can assume that she has had some sorrow in her life since she has no children of her own, and it is likely that she would have loved to be a mother. She has, in part, been able to realise this dream because she has brought up Catherine, her sister Nancy’s daughter, since she was a baby. During the play she finds it difficult to remain silent as she sees her husband’s feelings for Catherine change from paternal to romantic ones.
  • Beatrice is a devoted wife. She loves Eddie deeply, even though he is not always kind to her. She manages to hide her hurt feelings from him, but the audience is aware of how she is affected by his cruel words. Her role as a housewife is shown in her first appearance when the stage directions say that she [Enters, wiping her hands with a towel.] She is houseproud, although the family is poor, and has done her best to make their apartment 'homely'.
  • When Eddie speaks affectionately to Catherine, Beatrice remains silent. This prompts Eddie to ask her why she is mad (angry), to which she responds Who’s mad?...I’m not mad... You’re the one is mad. The way that Eddie treats Catherine throughout the play is almost the way that a husband would interact with his wife, but Beatrice must watch and listen while being unable to prevent it happening. All she can do is warn him, Listen, you ain’t gonna start nothin’ here.
  • The state of Beatrice and Eddie’s marriage is constantly being examined. It becomes clear that they have not had sex for some time. She asks him, When am I gonna be a wife again, Eddie? and then adds, It’s three months, Eddie. She is careful not to put the blame on him, even though she knows that it is his obsession with Catherine that is affecting him. She asks, Well, tell me, am I doing something wrong? Talk to me.
  • Her horror when she realises that Eddie has betrayed Marco and Rodolpho is enormous, Oh, Jesus, Eddie. And then, Oh, my God, my God. She still intends to go to Catherine’s wedding at this point, but after Eddie tells her not to, she changes her mind. When she hears that Marco is praying in the church, she realises that Marco is praying for forgiveness before coming to kill Eddie. She raises her hands in terror.
  • Beatrice commands huge sympathy from the audience in the final scene. She desperately tells Eddie how much she loves him, wanting him to tell her that she is enough for him. However, he refuses to listen and still rants about wanting his respect from Marco. Finally she is pushed to her limit and shouts out, You want somethin’ else, Eddie, and you can never have her! As he lies dying in her arms, he calls her name and she replies, Yes, yes!

A devoted wife

How is Beatrice like this?

When Beatrice is nervous about her cousins coming to stay in their apartment, she trusts her husband to make everything alright.

At the end of the play she chooses to obey Eddie and does not go to Catherine’s wedding.

Evidence

Mmm! You’re an angel! God’ll bless you. You’ll see, you’ll get a blessing for this!

Now go, go to your wedding, Katie, I’ll stay home. Go. God bless you, God bless your children.

Analysis

Beatrice knows that as the head of the household, Eddie must give his permission for her cousins to stay. When he does so, she is very grateful and she tells Eddie how good he is for allowing them to come to their home. At this point he seems like a husband who will do anything for his wife.

Beatrice obeys her wedding vow to obey her husband. She chooses to remain with him despite his atrocious behaviour.

Houseproud

How is Beatrice like this?

She worries what her cousins will think of the apartment.

Evidence

I didn’t even buy a new tablecloth; I was gonna wash the walls–

Analysis

There is a touch of humour here, as Eddie reassures her that their apartment is probably better than her cousins’ homes in Sicily, but Beatrice panics about insignificant things, such as tablecloths.

Insightful

How is Beatrice like this?

Beatrice can see exactly how Eddie feels about Catherine. She knows he is hostile towards Rodolpho because of his feelings.

Evidence

What’s the matter with you? He’s a nice kid, what do you want with him?

What’re you gonna stand over her till she’s forty? Eddie, I want you to cut it out now, you hear me? I don’t like it!

Analysis

Beatrice still only refers to Eddie’s behaviour in a vague way, suggesting that he is too protective. However, she is careful not to accuse Eddie of having inappropriate feelings until she finally driven to blurt it out at the end.

Social and historical context

Beatrice is portrayed as most Italian housewives would have been in the 1950s, in that her life would have revolved around the home and the church. She mentions at one point that she went to a confirmation ceremony, so it is clear that she is a practising Catholic, as are her friends and family. Confirmation is one of the seven sacraments which Catholics go through during their religious upbringing; it initiates them into their faith. She would have been brought up strictly, and her experience of men would have been limited to her relatives and Eddie. She would have promised to honour and obey her husband in her marriage vows. Her speech has many references to God, Jesus and blessings. It would have been a great sorrow to Beatrice that she had no children of her own, but bringing up Catherine from the time she was a baby would have been some consolation to her.

Analysing the evidence

… You still think you’re a little girl, honey. But nobody else can make up your mind for you any more, you understand? […] I told you fifty times already, you can’t act the way you act […] You’re a woman, that’s all, and you got got a nice boy, and now the time came when you said good-by. All right? (Beatrice)

Question

What do these words tell the audience about the way Beatrice feels?

Beatrice is gently trying to convince Catherine that she has to go ahead with her own life and not allow Eddie to make decisions for her. We can tell that she is frustrated because she has told Catherine this several times before. She says that Catherine needs to act in a more appropriate way in front of Eddie, and that the role Eddie played in Catherine’s life should now be filled by Rodolpho. Beatrice feels that she and Eddie need space and time to repair their marriage; this cannot happen if Catherine continues to live with them.