A View from the Bridge - Plot summary

A dockhand pauses whilst shovelling coal onto a truck under Brooklyn Bridge, New York
Brooklyn Bridge, New York circa 1950 CREDIT: Three Lions

A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller is a two-act play set by the docks of Red Hook, a working-class part of Brooklyn, New York. It is narrated by a lawyer, Alfieri, and revolves around the Carbone family – Eddie, his wife Beatrice and their niece Catherine. The family are first seen awaiting the arrival from Sicily of Beatrice’s cousins Marco and Rodolpho. (Sicily is the island which looks like the football on the end of Italy’s 'boot'). The cousins arrive late one night, and the Carbone family welcome them. Catherine and Rodolpho are attracted to each other, which annoys Eddie a lot. He finds more and more things to dislike about Rodolpho as the young couple grow closer over the following weeks. When they decide to get married, Eddie does a terrible thing – he reports the cousins as illegal immigrants. This makes his family and all the neighbours hate Eddie. Marco comes to get revenge on him, but Eddie produces a knife during the fight which Marco uses to stab him. He dies in Beatrice’s arms.

Social and historical context

A View from the Bridge was first performed in its present format in 1956, at a time when the United States was entering a period of great prosperity after the hardships of the Second World War. Many immigrants were arriving, having decided to leave the problems of war-torn Europe behind them. It was seen as a time when hard work and ambition could lead anybody with a strong enough desire to achieve the American Dream.

The play is set in the 1950s, and is based on an apparently true story told to Miller by a lawyer who worked with longshoremen. It echoes the format of a Greek tragedy, where the main protagonist is propelled helplessly towards his fate, and nothing can be done to alter it.