As a far more educated man who doesnt live in the Red Hook area of New York and who lives by the law of the land but understands the values of the Italian immigrants in Brooklyn, we find it easier to hear the story from Alfieri. Arthur Miller wants the audience to think about Greek tragedy and evokes this by having Alfieri refer to Carthage. Although Al Capone came from an American town called Carthage, most people will think of Carthage in Greek times, when it was at war with Athens.
It is undeniable that it was inevitable from practically the beginning of the play that Eddie would repeat Vinny Bonzanos crime against his community. When Eddie ironically tells the sad story of Vinny to his family, he describes how the child informed the immigration bureau that his uncle was hiding an illegal immigrant, a submarine. He was then expelled from the community. This shows that the laws of the community have harsh punishments. Eddie Carbone offers a word of warning to his family, you can quicker get back a million dollars that was stole than a word that you gave away, (page 14).
This is ironic as he is telling them never to do it exactly what he will do later in the story when he loses his honour and respect. Alfieri also utters an intriguing statement in his first and his final speeches; And now we are quite civilized, quite American. Now we settle for half, and I like it better. (page 4) and Most of the time now we settle for half and I like it better. (page 64) Yet, in his heart Alfieri seems to support the natural law of the Italian community of New York, in which pride and justice are dominant and no one will settle for half of what they believe is right.
The Italian American community believes in following its morals and beliefs to the very end, as Eddie did. Alfieri suggests this is pure. In the last words of the play he says, But the truth is holy, and even as I know how wrong he was, and his death useless, I tremble, for I confess that something perversely pure calls to me from his memory not purely good, but himself purely, for he allowed himself to be wholly known and for that I think I will love him more than all my sensible clients. And yet, it is better to settle for half, it must be!
And so I mourn him I admit it- with a certain ¦ alarm. (page 64) It is as if Miller is expressing his respect for a Greek or Renaissance hero, but one who is living at the wrong time, when it is dangerous not to compromise. In his first speech, Alfieri talks about being civilized (page 4), not in the sense of Greek civilisation, but being an American citizen who can settle for half. His alarm is at his own emotional response to Eddie, which is more in tune with a Renaissance tragedy, than the objective view that he knows he should take as a lawyer working in America.
In his role as the chorus, Alfieri makes it clear that Eddies death is inevitable. At the end of his first speech he says, ¦ and sat there as powerless as I, and watched it run its bloody course. (page 4). There is an increasing doom throughout the play and, as Alfieri says at the beginning, the law is powerless to prevent the inevitable tragedy. As in Greek tragedy, fate leads the hero to his destiny; he has to choose between conflicting courses of action but all will lead to his downfall.
Eddie believes he has to choose between protecting Marco and Rodolfo and protecting Catherine. The audience knows that it is the flaw in his character that leads him for misguided reasons to looking after Catherine. He persuades himself she is being used by Rodolfo to get American citizenship, but in reality she is being used by him (this is shown in the way she runs around after him, for example, lighting his cigar and the way he watches her walk from behind for his pleasure). Eddie denies her free choice and the right to grow into an adult.
The audience knows that if he had looked after his wifes cousins and followed her advice to bless the wedding, all could have turned out happily, but to protect his pride and his name, Eddie is even prepared to end his marriage to Beatrice. He is not prepared to settle for half and his fate is an unavoidable and useless death. Is there such a thing as a modern tragedy? Miller says he was influenced by classical Greek theatre and the nineteenth-century Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Like Ibsen, Miller hopes that the spectator will be purified not of the tragic flaw of the hero but of the ills of society.?
Unlike in a Greek tragedy, where fate decides the future of a hero, the author believes that Eddie and the other characters have the power to control their own destiny. Oedipus could not control his fate even the decision to leave the country and be brought up as a shepherd did not prevent him committing the most terrible crimes of killing his father and sleeping with his mother. Oedipus is innocent and cannot avoid his fate. Eddie is guilty and has the free will to make different decisions. So does every person, and the audience is meant to understand this.
This means that, even though Miller uses the conventions of Greek tragedy, this play is not in the same genre. It is only a modern tragedy in Millers own definition that Tragedy brings us not only sadness, sympathy, identification and even fear; it also, unlike pathos, brings us knowledge or enlightenment. He says it is the glimpse of this brighter possibility that raises sadness out of the pathetic toward the tragic?. Tragedy is not the only genre that can bring knowledge, enlightenment and a glimpse of this brighter possibility.
You can do that in a comedy, too, but when a hero cannot avoid his destiny and is destroyed by fate or the gods; that can only be a tragedy. ? Tradition and Innovation in Tragedy, edited by John Drakakis and Naomi Conn Liebler, Longman Critical Readers, 1998, page 141 ? as above ? as above ? as above 2 Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Arthur Miller section.