A View from the Bridge

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Alfieri Character Analysis

An Italian-American lawyer and a sort of narrator for the play, who guides the audience through the story. Eddie visits Alfieri to see if there is any legal action he can take to keep Catherine and Rodolpho apart, but Alfieri advises him to let Catherine make her own decisions. Alfieri tells Eddie that Rodolpho has not broken any law, so there is nothing that Eddie can do. Near the end of the play, he helps bail Marco out of prison and tries to convince Marco not to seek revenge on Eddie, as this would be against the law. Through Alfieri’s advice about the extent and limitations of the law, we see that what is legal is not always what is just, and what is illegal is not always what is unjust.

Alfieri Quotes in A View from the Bridge

The A View from the Bridge quotes below are all either spoken by Alfieri or refer to Alfieri. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Immigration, Home, and Belonging Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of A View from the Bridge published in 2009.
Act 1 Quotes

But this is Red Hook, not Sicily. This is the slum that faces the bay on the seaward side of Brooklyn Bridge. This is the gullet of New York swallowing the tonnage of the world. And now we are quite civilized, quite American.

Related Characters: Alfieri (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Brooklyn Bridge
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

The play opens with a monologue by Alfieri, a lawyer who immigrated to Red Hook from Italy when he was 25 years old. Throughout the play, Alfieri acts as a one man "Greek chorus" who frames and comments on the actions of the characters and the nature of the neighborhood. 

In this quote, he sets the scene for the stage of Red Hook, Brooklyn, a neighborhood largely populated by poor but proud Italian immigrants. Many of the men who live here are longshoremen, or dock workers who load and unload shipments from around the world. They literally "swallow" the "tonnage of the world" by relying on the tons of goods from around the world to support their livelihoods. Though these Brooklynites have escaped the hunger and unemployment that plagued them in their countries of origin, or their parents' country of origin, their view of the ocean and their attachment to the sea is a constant reminder of where they came from, and for illegal immigrants, where they could very easily end up. Aliferi's invocation of the Brooklyn Bridge is a metaphor for the bridge between wealthy New York and the American Dream, as it connects poor Brooklyn to shiny Manhattan—an important image, and one that contributes to the play's title. 

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Alfieri:
Is there a question of law somewhere?

Eddie:
That’s what I want to ask you.

Alfieri:
Because there’s nothing illegal about a girl falling in love with an immigrant.

Related Characters: Eddie Carbone (speaker), Alfieri (speaker), Catherine, Rodolpho
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

Fed up with his inability to convince Catherine that Rodolpho is up to no good, Eddie goes to Alfieri to see if the law can intervene in what seems to be the impending marriage of Catherine and the immigrant. 

In this quote, Alfieri fails to give Eddie the answer he seeks. He informs Eddie that there is nothing illegal about Rodolpho and Catherine falling in love with each other. The only way in which the law can object to the situation is that Rodolpho is an illegal immigrant, although, of course, by marrying Catherine, he would be able to apply for citizenship. Though "sham marriages" are illegal, from every angle except for Eddie's suspicions, Catherine and Rodolpho are genuinely smitten with one another. Eddie's only recourse to split up Catherine and Rodolpho would be to give up Rodolpho's name to Immigration--an act that, in Red Hook, is considered to be one of merciless betrayal. 

We all love somebody, the wife, the kids—every man’s got somebody that he loves, heh? But sometimes . . . there’s too much. You know? There’s too much, and it goes where it mustn’t. A man works hard, he brings up a child, sometimes it’s a niece, sometimes even a daughter, and he never realizes it, but through the years—there is too much love for the daughter, there is too much love for the niece. Do you understand what I’m saying to you?

Related Characters: Alfieri (speaker), Eddie Carbone, Catherine
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

During their talk, Alfieri tries to steer Eddie's emotions towards letting go of Catherine, rather than seeking legal action in order to break up the immigrant and his niece. 

In this quote, Alfieri subtly, though more explicitly than Beatrice, tells Eddie that his love for Catherine borders on inappropriate behavior. In plain terms, he is implying that Eddie's interest in Catherine goes beyond the love of an uncle who has been a father figure to his niece, and into the uncomfortable realm of romantic feelings for a younger female family member. Though Eddie has always claimed that his feelings of ownership for Catherine are really paternal instincts of protection, the fact that he is seeking legal recourse in order to separate her from a potential husband is concerning to Alfieri. Even as a third party who is not a part of the family, Alfieri can tell that Eddie's feelings for Catherine broach inappropriate--and potentially illegal--sentiments. 

Act 2 Quotes

This is my last word, Eddie, take it or not, that’s your business. Morally and legally you have no rights, you cannot stop it; she is a free agent.

Related Characters: Alfieri (speaker), Eddie Carbone, Catherine
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

After confronting Catherine and Rodolpho--and kissing both of them, to prove his ownership of Catherine and his belief that Rodolpho is a homosexual--Eddie goes to Alfieri, to beg him to find a reason to use the law to separate Catherine and Rodolpho. Much like their previous conversation, Alfieri refuses. In this quote, he firmly tells Eddie that Catherine is old enough to make her own decisions, and that Eddie has no agency over whom or when she marries. Eddie longs to find some way to prove that Rodolpho is a homosexual, and that he is only interested in using Catherine to get a green card, but Alfieri says there is no way the law can intervene in these suspicions. It is this conversation that prompts Eddie to take matters into his own hands, and to invoke the law the only way he can think of: calling the Immigration Office and informing them of two illegal immigrants living in his apartment. This is an act of desperation that comes from a place of extreme hopelessness and lack of control, and though it is "right" from a legal perspective, on any other level it is an act of betrayal. 

The law is only a word for what has a right to happen. When the law is wrong it’s because it’s unnatural, but in this case it is natural and a river will drown you if you buck it now. Let her go. And bless her.

Related Characters: Alfieri (speaker), Eddie Carbone, Catherine
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Alfieri insinuates that the only way the law might intervene in the case of Catherine is if Eddie does something drastic to act upon his feelings for her. Even though he is not a part of the family and has not seen firsthand how attached to Catherine Eddie is, Alfieri can tell that Eddie's feelings of ownership for Catherine come from a place of romantic, not just paternal, love. Alfieri's hands are tied: he anticipates that something tragic will happen, and all he can do is to urge Eddie to let Catherine live her life as she pleases. He warns Eddie that these feelings of attachment and rage will only serve to hurt him, not hurt those whom he has hatred for. And by hurting himself, he will end up scarring those that he loves--namely, Catherine. 

Alfieri:
To promise not to kill is not dishonorable.

Marco:
No?

Alfieri:
No.

Marco:
Then what is done with such a man.

Alfieri:
Nothing. If he obeys the law, he lives. That’s all.

Marco:
The law? All the law is not in a book.

Alfieri:
Yes. In a book. There is no other law.

Marco:
He degraded my brother. My blood. He robbed my children, he mocks my work. I work to come here, mister!

Alfieri:
I know, Marco—

Marco:
There is no law for that? Where is the law for that?

Alfieri:
There is none.

Related Characters: Alfieri (speaker), Marco (speaker), Eddie Carbone, Rodolpho
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

After being arrested by the Immigration officers, Alfieri meets with Marco and Rodolpho to discuss their options--of which, really, there are none. Alfieri agrees to bail them out on the condition that they don't immediately seek revenge on Eddie. 

In this quote, Alfieri's conversation with Marco mirrors his conversation with Eddie, in that he tells both men that there is no law to appease their hatred: Eddie for Rodolpho's courting of Catherine, Marco for Eddie's betrayal. The kind of justice that these men seek is the right to retain their pride, to retain something of which they, legally, have no right (Eddie's feelings of ownership over Catherine's life, Marco's residency in the United States as an illegal immigrant). The fervent sense of justice that the residents of Red Hook feel is one of pride and vigilante law. Alfieri, as a lawyer, is legally obligated to tell his clients what the law can or cannot do; as an immigrant and member of the Red Hook community for 25 years, he urges his clients not to commit crimes for the sake of revenge and pride. The robbery that both men claim is not a motive that would stand up in a court of law, nor should it fuel violence on the streets of Brooklyn. And yet, citizens of these streets often feel that when the law fails their needs, they must take matters into their own hands.  

This is not God, Marco. You hear? Only God makes justice.

Related Characters: Alfieri (speaker), Marco
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

Though Marco seeks revenge for Eddie's betrayal, he has no legal recourse whatsoever. As an illegal immigrant, he is not allowed to be living or working in Brooklyn, and in the eyes of the law, Eddie has done the right thing. However, in the eyes of community and family justice, Eddie has committed an unforgivable act of betrayal. In this quote, Alfieri urges Marco not to act on his vengeful feelings, no matter how angry he is. Alfieri knows that Marco is desperate: when he is sent back to Italy, his starving family will be awaiting his return. The U.S. was his only chance for a livelihood. Without any work, he and his family will continue to suffer. To Marco, Eddie has stripped him and his family of their entire future. Alfieri knows that this desperation and hopelessness might drive Marco to murder Eddie. In this quote, he urges Marco not to murder his betrayer, since while he feel like he must make his own justice, God will know that he has sinned, and he will one day pay the ultimate price. 

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.

Related Characters: Alfieri (speaker), Eddie Carbone
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

As the framing device and "Greek chorus" of the play, Alfieri closes the play with a monologue, just as he opened it. After Marco kills Eddie with the knife that Eddie hoped to stab him with, Alfieri reminisces on the kind of man that Eddie was. Prior to the betrayal, he was commonly known as a good, hardworking man. Alfieri notes that Eddie was "himself purely"--though it was not good of him to have such strong feelings for Catherine, and to do what he did to Marco and Rodolpho, everything mad that he did was done for the passion of the love he felt. Alfieri insinuates that he will "love him more" than all of his "sensible clients," because though Eddie ultimately brought about his own death, his actions were largely fueled by too much love--until they were funneled into hatred. This closing commentary by Alfieri highlights the nuances of Eddie's character, as both the protagonist and the villain of the play--the man whose love ended up killing him. 

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Alfieri Character Timeline in A View from the Bridge

The timeline below shows where the character Alfieri appears in A View from the Bridge. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Immigration, Home, and Belonging Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
...the 1950s, near the small apartment of a man named Eddie. A middle-aged lawyer named Alfieri comes on stage and addresses the audience directly. He says that the people of this... (full context)
Immigration, Home, and Belonging Theme Icon
Alfieri says that he has mostly dealt with simple, petty cases during his career, but occasionally... (full context)
Love and Desire Theme Icon
Respect, Honor, Reputation Theme Icon
...he is the one who is mad. As this dinner scene comes to an end, Alfieri comes on stage and tells the audience that Eddie was a good, hard-working man. He... (full context)
Love and Desire Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
Maturity and Independence Theme Icon
As this scene comes to a close, Alfieri comes on stage and says that, ‘as the weeks passed . . . there was... (full context)
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
Alfieri comes on stage and tells the audience that around this time, Eddie first came to... (full context)
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
...that Rodolpho is only interested in Catherine in order to become an American citizen, but Alfieri says there is no proof of this. Eddie says that Rodolpho isn’t saving his money... (full context)
Love and Desire Theme Icon
Eddie then tells Alfieri that Rodolpho “ain’t right.” Alfieri tries to get Eddie to be more specific, and Eddie... (full context)
Respect, Honor, Reputation Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
...that people on the docks call Rodolpho “Paper Doll” and “Blondie,” and laugh at him. Alfieri again tells Eddie that there is no legal action he can take. Eddie reiterates that... (full context)
Love and Desire Theme Icon
Maturity and Independence Theme Icon
Alfieri tells Eddie that sometimes there’s simply too much love in a man’s life and “it... (full context)
Love and Desire Theme Icon
Respect, Honor, Reputation Theme Icon
Maturity and Independence Theme Icon
...hands on her like a goddam thief!” He shouts that Rodolpho is stealing from him. Alfieri tells Eddie that Catherine wants to get married, and says she can’t marry Eddie. Eddie... (full context)
Immigration, Home, and Belonging Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
Eddie leaves, and Alfieri tells the audience that he knew then what would happen, but was powerless to stop... (full context)
Act 2
Immigration, Home, and Belonging Theme Icon
Love and Desire Theme Icon
Alfieri says that it is now the 23rd of December. Marco and Eddie are working, and... (full context)
Love and Desire Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
Alfieri comes on stage and says that he next saw Eddie on the 27th. Eddie came... (full context)
Love and Desire Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
Maturity and Independence Theme Icon
Eddie says that Rodolpho “didn’t give me the right kind of fight,” and tells Alfieri that he kissed Rodolpho so Catherine would see what Rodolpho really is. Eddie asks what... (full context)
Respect, Honor, Reputation Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
Maturity and Independence Theme Icon
Alfieri tells Eddie that someone was going to marry Catherine eventually, and says he should let... (full context)
Respect, Honor, Reputation Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
Later, at a prison, Alfieri and Catherine visit Marco and Rodolpho. Alfieri says that Marco can be bailed out until... (full context)
Respect, Honor, Reputation Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
Marco says he cannot promise not to kill Eddie, as this would be dishonorable. Alfieri says that as long as Eddie obeys the law, “he lives,” and tells Marco, “To... (full context)
Respect, Honor, Reputation Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
...out for Beatrice, and Beatrice and Catherine hold Eddie up. He dies in Beatrice’s arms. Alfieri comes forward and addresses the audience. He says that even though Eddie behaved wrongly, he... (full context)