American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE (first perf. 1955; first pub. 1957). Written by Arthur Miller (1915- ) and originally produced with the title From under the Sea, A View from the Bridge was first seen in New York in 1955 as a one-act at the Coronet Theatre, directed by Martin Ritt. The current two-act version of the play was originally staged in London in 1956 and published in 1957. Chicago’s Lyric Opera presented the world premiere of the opera, composed by William Bolcom, in 1999.

The play tells the story of Eddie Carbone, an Italian American longshoreman, and his relationship with his family, including his niece, Catherine. When his cousins Marco and Rodolpho arrive from Italy to work on the docks, the burgeoning romance between Rodolpho and Catherine angers Eddie. Ultimately, Eddie betrays his cousins to the immigration authorities, and Marco kills Eddie in a street fight. Miller connects the lives of the longshoremen to the sea through the use of the narrator, the lawyer Alfieri. Alfieri sets the tone of the play when he compares Red Hook, Brooklyn, to Sicily. Red Hook is the “slum on the seaward side of Brooklyn Bridge ... the gullet of New York swallowing the tonnage of the world” (6).

Throughout the play, the immigrant cousins are referred to as “submarines” because they “come in under the water” (27). In addition, the play vividly evokes the conditions of longshoreman labor, suggesting comparison with Budd Schulberg’s On the Waterfront, a play that was published in 1955 and won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. Schulberg based his drama on a series of articles that ran in the New York Sun in the late 1940s under the title “Crime on the Waterfront,” by Malcolm Johnson, a series that won a Pulitzer Prize in journalism and that was published along with other reporting by Johnson under the title Crime on the Labor Front (1950). On the Waterfront was also released as a film (1954) directed by Elia Kazan and starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, and Lee J. Cobb. [See also DRAMA OF THE SEA]

David Jortner