A View from the Bridge


Major themes


Justice & The Law:


Miller presents at least two, possibly three or four, different conceptions of the inter-related notions of law, justice and honour to us in the play. On the one hand, Alfieri represents the letter of the law. The law as it is written down in books and the law that is used by the U.S. government to decide on innocence or guilt and punishment. It is according to this law that Rodolpho and Marco are illegal immigrants although they are good men; it is according to this law that Eddie cannot prevent Catherin from marrying who she wishes and it is according to this law that Marco cannot kill Eddie even though Marco believes Eddie has ‘killed’ his family. Although Alfieri defends this law to Eddie saying that it is basically a written down version of what is ‘natural’ he does admit that the law can be ‘wrong’ when it becomes ‘unnatural’. He also admits to Marco that his version of the law is not the same as ‘justice’ which, he seems to believe, can only be dispensed by God. Alfieri’s confidence in the law of books is also revealed to be uncertain in his final speech when, despite his assertion that ‘it is better to settle for half, it must be!’, he clearly is attracted to the truer, more complete and more ‘holy’ versions of justice that we have just witnessed.


The second important form of justice is one that cannot be found in books and it is championed principally by Marco. Marco believes that it is his duty to exact revenge upon Eddie for the way in which he degraded his brother and betrayed his family. When he says that ‘in my country [Eddie] would be dead now.’ what he is really saying is that Eddie should be dead by now and that although Eddie has acted legally according to the laws of the U.S. he has acted unjustly and so needs to be punished. This is a conception of justice that Marco has brought with him from Sicily where there is a strict code of personal honour. Hence Marco believes that promising not to kill Eddie would be ‘dishonourable’ because he either has to break his promise and kill Eddie or fail to avenge his betrayal. In Marco’s eyes, both of these courses of action are not honourable. Strangely, Eddie also shares this conception of family honour at the start of the play – hence his contempt for the ‘stool pigeon’ Vinny Bolzano at the start of the play. Eddie’s tragedy develop when his feelings for Catherine overpower his allegiance to the values that he shares with Marco, his family and the rest of the community in which he lives.


Eddie also demonstrates a further conception of justice, which we might call moral justice, when he visits Alfieri in order to prevent Rodolpho from ‘stealing’ Catherine away. Although Eddie’s reasoning is twisted by his unconscious sexual desire for Catherine there is a shred of justification to his thoughts. If Eddie were right, and if Rodolpho really were marrying Catherine simply for a passport then this would be an immoral / unjust act on Rodolpho’s part and, once again we find, Alfieri’s law of books unable to do anything to punish Rodolpho or prevent his actions. Indeed, Alfieri explicitly says ‘You have no recourse in the law, Eddie.’ This form of justice may, on closer examination, be mostly similar to Marco’s more natural conception of justice above.


Finally, there is a code of street conduct that appears briefly, for example when Louis and Mike are forced to refrain from openly questioning Rodolpho’s sexuality because they know that ‘they have to see [Eddie] if they make a crack.’ Once again, this is broadly similar to Marco’s naturalistic conception of justice.



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Alfieri introduces Red Hook with the comment that ‘There were many here who were justly shot by unjust men.’ which is, in some ways a reversal of what happens in this play. At least according to U.S. law – Eddie was unjustly killed but the just Marco.




Vinny Bolzano’s family ‘spit on him in the street’ when they found out that he ‘snitched’ on his uncle.




Alfieri explains to Eddie ‘The law is nature. The law is only a word for what has a right to happen.’




‘Marco spits in Eddies face.’ and Eddie shouts ‘I don’t forget that, Marco! You hear what I’m sayin’?’




Marco responds to Alfieri’s request that he not kill Eddie by saying that ‘He knows that such a promise is dishonourable.’ Alfieri however believes that ‘To promise not to kill is not dishonourable.’ This seems to be ‘a new idea’ to Marco but he is dissatisfied that with the rest of Alfieri’s answer that ‘Nothing’ will happen to Eddie if he obeys the law and he concludes that ‘I don’t understand this country.’




Marco argues that ‘All the law is not in a book’ but Alfieri responds ‘Yes. In a book. There is no other law.’ However he later admits ‘This is not God Marco … Only God makes justice.’




Eddie explains his desire to fight with Marco by saying ‘I want my name! … Marco’s got my name and … he’s gonna give it back to me in front of this neighbourhood, or we have it out.’




Eddie believes that he has helped out these complete strangers ‘Like in the Bible.’ but that in return they have ‘come out of the water and grab[bed] a girl for a passport’ and ‘take[n] from [their] own family like from the stable.’




Eddie accuses Marco of ‘Wipin’ the neighbourhood with my name like a dirty rag! I want my name, Marco. Now gimme my name and we go together to the wedding.’




Alfieri ends by admitting that his version of legality is limited and that ‘The truth is holy’