Tension is built up more directly through speech in the scene. One example of this is Eddie’s implied hostility towards Rodolpho, illustrated when he says “I know lemons are green, for Christ’s sake! ” The audience knows this underlying conflict will inevitably lead to a direct confrontation, which creates tension. Eddie’s open hostility towards Rodolpho also builds up some tension for example when Eddie “mildly staggers” Rodolpho whilst boxing with him. Open hostility does not generate as much tension as implied hostility, as when it is implied it is not resolved.
Tension is built up more subtly through the body language of characters. When Eddie tears the paper in two, the playwright is making a very powerful demonstration of both his physical strength and how angry he is. It is a very effective method of creating tension as it reminds us that a confrontation will happen soon. The stage directions in general also build up tension. Arthur Miller is very specific with the movements of the characters, so their positions are very well thought out.
Eddie moves upstage a lot, and as a stage traditionally get higher towards the back, he would appear taller and more powerful than other characters. This illustrates his dominance over other characters and reminds us he is an influential character. When Catherine plays “paper doll” on the phonograph, tension is built up because it is in open defiance of Eddie. Throughout the scene he has been attempting to embarrass Rodolpho to the extent that Catherine will no longer like him. However, when she puts the record on and asks him to dance, “flushed with revolt” she is showing she is not listening to Eddie.
This elevates the conflict between Eddie and Rodolpho. The music has already been played repeatedly, so the tune seems annoying, making the atmosphere more awkward. Another way tension is built up is through the awkward pauses throughout the scene, for example after when Eddie says “He’s lucky, believe me”, when talking about Rodolpho. The pause is very awkward because no one can think of anything to say, and the atmosphere is already very tense. The pause gives time for the tension to build up before he continues.
Beatrice’s attempts to change the subject and diffuse the situation (for example when she says “Your wife getting the money alright, Marco? ” whilst Eddie and Rodolpho are arguing about lemons) throughout the scene mean that tension is not released, it is sustained. I think that although there are several methods used to create tension, the sense of inevitability throughout the play is by far the most effective. Alfieri and the knowledge this is a tragic play remind us we will not like the ending. The audience is constantly in anticipation of the downfall of Eddie, and this anticipation builds up tension.