Compare and contrast the Role of Alfieri and Dysart in ¡¥A View from the Bridge¡¦ and ¡¥Equus¡¦


In Arthur Miller¡¦s A View from the Bridge (¡¥View¡¦) and Peter Shaffer¡¦s Equus, the characters of Alfieri and Dr. Martin Dysart act as narrators of their respective plays, which allows them to impregnate the stories with their own perspective, and as direct links to the audience ¡V influence their opinion of main characters such as Eddie Carbone and Alan Strang as well. The manner in which both Alfieri and Dysart have been influenced by these characters into revealing their inner conflicts also allows the introduction and development of greater ideas and conflicts such as the value of a romantic life and the definition of sanity.


In View, Alfieri, by directly addressing the audience and thus conveying his personal impressions of Eddie as the only narrator of the story, is able to elevate Eddie to the tragic common man and instill in the audience the same sense of helpless fascination Alfieri himself feels, reinforcing a sense of inevitability regarding Eddie¡¦s eventual demise. A dramatic tone is immediately set through Alfieri¡¦s first description of Eddie: ¡§This one¡¦s name was Eddie Carbone¡¨ (3). Miller¡¦s ominous use of past tense already affirms Eddie¡¦s death, and therefore its inevitability. However Alfieri accentuates this sense of inevitability throughout the play: ¡§I could see every step coming, step after step, like a dark figure walking down a hall toward a certain door. ¡K And I sat there many afternoons asking myself why, being an intelligent man, I was so powerless to stop it.¡¨ (38). Miller¡¦s association of Alfieri¡¦s powerlessness with this idea of inevitability increase the tension centred on Eddie, and thus contributes to his portrayal as a dramatic figure. Alfieri¡¦s own fascination with Eddie, for example when he is entranced by Eddie¡¦s eyes which lead Alfieri to thinking Eddie ¡§had committed a crime. ¡K But soon [he] saw it was only a passion that had moved into his body, like a stranger¡¨ (33), further serves to elevate his character as Alfieri acts as a storyteller, his opinion, here fascination with Eddie¡¦s passion, has direct weight on the audience. The fact Alfieri gravitated toward Eddie to the extent that, as he said, ¡§[I]t occurred to me how¡Valmost transfixed I had come to feel. I had lost my strength somewhere¡¨ (53) contributes to the importance of Eddie¡¦s character as a man able to influence even the embodiment of the law into reflecting on his own helpless position.


In Equus, Dysart shares a similar role to Alfieri as a narrator influencing the audience through the statement of personal opinions, but he also allows the audience to witness Alan¡¦s dissection and gain a progressive understanding of his character as Dysart exposes the multi-faceted boy who abides by his own equine religion, but also yearns to be understood. Similarly to Alfieri immediately presenting Eddie as a man who would suffer tragedy, Shaffer uses to Dysart build expectations and curiosity toward Alan¡¦s character before he even speaks. Dysart¡¦s beginning reflection on Alan, ¡§What did I expect of him? Very little, I promise you. One more dented little face. One more adolescent freak. The usual unusual¡¨ (21) is both telling of the measure by which Alan distinguishes himself from other patients through the implication that Alan surpassed Dysart¡¦s expectations, and by doing so, establishes Alan as a figure of interest in the same way interest in Eddie was built early on. As with Alfieri, Dysart displays fascination for Alan¡¦s singularity, as seen when ¡§[ALAN [passes] through the left door. DYSART looks after him, fascinated]¡¨ (23) and describes Alan¡¦s stare ¡§like being accused. Violently accused¡¨, which is a trait which further increases curiosity in Alan as Dysart himself has never encountered such a stare. In contrast to Alfieri, however, Dysart is significantly more active, allowing the audience to see the perceptiveness and intelligence which separate Alan from common perception of insanity, instead showing that he can trick even a psychiatrist at his own game, as when he enquires about Dysart¡¦s relationship with his wife and makes him explode in an uncommon fit of rage: ¡§Alan, give [those cigarettes] to me! ¡K Now go!¡¨ (60). However, contrarily to Eddie and Alfieri, Alan and Dysart also display a relationship of trust and understanding upon which Alan depends, leading him to be more willing to share his experience. This is seen when Alan says that the idea of the tape recorder is ¡§stupid¡¨ but ¡§suddenly returns to DYSART and takes the machine from him¡¨ (43) regardless of his words, as if he yearned to be understood and trusted Dysart to be able to do so.


Beyond exposing multidimensionality and importance in Eddie and Alan¡¦s characters, Alfieri and Dysart¡¦s own doubts and inner conflicts are also exposed by this interaction, and both Miller and Shaffer use this to increase the impact of their plays by instilling in the audience those same inner conflicts. As a lawyer, Alfieri is the embodiment of the law which the audience is familiar with, but from his first monologue, Alfieri introduces the idea that the passionate romance associated with the Brooklyn life is desirable. Miller uses Alfieri as a bridge between Brooklyn and codified Manhattan, and his understanding of both worlds leads him to be torn between them. His claim that ¡§many here ¡K were justly shot by unjust men. Justice is very important here¡¨ (2), reveals his acknowledgement of Brooklyn¡¦s own personal justice based on honor and passion, but it is when he says ¡§Now we settle for half, and I like it better. ¡K And my practice is entirely unromantic¡¨ (2) that the idea that there is a certain appeal to a romantic practice over a fully codified system. Miller even portrays Alfieri as being constrained by the law regarding Eddie¡¦s case as it rendered him ¡§powerless as [he] watched it run its bloody course¡¨ (2), ¡§And yes, it is better to settle for half, it must be!¡¨ (72)  reaffirming in Alfieri and the audience that their desire for a more romantic life is constrained by society, and that there are shortcomings to a codified world admitted to even by Alfieri when he told Marco ¡§Only God makes justice. ¡K Only God, Marco¡¨ (67).


In Equus, Dysart, similarly to Alfieri, also acts as a bridge between opposing mentalities: the dispassionate normalcy he must impose on his patients, reflective of the regular conventions of the world the audience is accustomed to, and the passionate insanity found in Alan, which eventually blurs the definition of sanity and Dysart¡¦s own perceptions as his understanding of Alan makes him, as with Alfieri, torn between two worlds. Shaffer uses Dysart¡¦s dreams of Ancient Greece to contrast with Alan¡¦s living of his own dreams and display in Dysart and instill in the audience a certain respect for the passion with which Alan dedicated himself to his religion. However the parallels to the lifestyle of both Dysart and the audience gives rise to self-awareness and doubts about the value of a conventional lifestyle, as when Dysart said: ¡§[T]hat boy has known a passion more ferocious than I have felt in any second of my life. And let me tell you something: I envy it¡¨ (82). This echoes Alfieri¡¦s conflict between conventional justice, and Brooklyn¡¦s unconventional justice being appealing through the passion involved. Shaffer uses Dysart to address, more explicitly than Alfieri, the extent of society¡¦s influence on humans and the value of normalcy, as when he states ¡§Essentially I cannot know what I do ¡V yet I do essential things. Irreversible, terminal things. I stand in the dark with a pick in my hand, striking at heads!¡¨ (108), questioning the benefit of permanently robbing from his patients a passion stronger than conventional humans experience. Eventually Shaffer uses Dysart to communicate a message similar to Alfieri¡¦s regarding the constraints of society preventing a more passionate lifestyle, ¡§this sharp chain. And it never comes out¡¨ (109).


In conclusion, Alfieri and Dysart¡¦s role as narrators of their respective plays and as bridges between opposing mentalities exposes the multidimensionality and passion of characters such as Eddie and Alan, and by doing so, draw parallels between conventionality and unconventionality, simultaneously exposing and instilling in the audience the idea that there is a certain appeal to the unconventional, romantic passion that normalcy prevents due to society¡¦s expectations constraining actions into a familiar mold.



Knowledge & Understanding

There is a good knowledge of the two plays demonstrated here and two significant and clearly different roles for each character are explored. There is a good use of quotation to support each point (sometimes a little more than is actually needed) usually accompanied by good explanations, although this needs to happen all of the time.


Response to the Question

There is a clear focus on the question throughout and there are some lovely, detailed comparisons here but. However, in order to score more highly the candidate needs to offer some evaluations as to which play is more dramatic, powerful, effective, moving, etc ... These evaluations can be offered throughout the essay but can also be used effectively to sum up ideas in the conclusion.


Literary Conventions

There is a good use of quotations here to support the points being made. However the candidate needs to talk more about the play as a play, by exploring features or moments that are specifically dramatic and performative rather than purely the linguistic.


Organisation & Development

The overall structure is very nice with a clear introduction of the first text in the first paragraph followed by comparisons and evaluations explored in the second. The ideas are well developed, but there is an overlap between the first and second idea here which ultimately brings down the grade in this section.



The language is generally good although there are a number of overly-long sentences at times that are hard to follow and should be avoided if possible.




17 = 5