In conclusion act one prepares us for the final tragic outcome in act two. Act one builds up the tension to the final event a tragic, yet surprising end to the play. Action is most important in this play. Alfieri firstly addresses the audience introducing to Eddie Carbone’s story, then claims he could see each step unravelling before him and subsequently compares himself to a lawyer in Caesar’s time, powerless to watch as the events of history run their bloody course. Early on into act one we rapidly learn of Eddie’s feelings towards his niece Catherine, which in society today we would find Eddie’s feelings abnormal.
This unspoken attraction involving Eddie and Catherine is the cause of tension between Eddie and Beatrice. When Beatrice’s cousins Marco and Rodolfo arrive at the house they are both very gracious for the hospitality from the Carbones’. Marco tells the Carbone’s that he has three children, one of whom is “sick in the chest,” and a wife back home that he will be sending money to. Rodolfo, the young blonde brother, has no family and intends to stay in the country as long as possible, which Eddie later uses this knowledge to prevent Catherine and Rodolfo getting together. In the coming weeks, Rodolfo and Catherine spend a great deal of time together, which worries Eddie.
Eddie believes that Rodolfo is untrustworthy and Eddie becomes jealous of the time he spends with Catherine. Eddie tells Catherine that Rodolfo just wants to marry her to become a citizen, but she does not listen, as she knows the love he feels towards her is ‘true love’. Eddie then implies that Rodolfo is a homosexual “…if you came into the house and you didn’t know who was singin’, you wouldn’t be lookin’ for a him…” Eddie says this as he also thinks that Rodolfo isn’t a manly man, he feels he has to ‘put down’ Rodolfo to make himself feel better as he is losing Catherine.
Beatrice who is more aware than ever of the attention Eddie is giving Catherine, talks to Catherine about being a woman and tells her she must grown up and make her own decisions. Beatrice encourages Catherine to get married to Rodolfo if that is what she wants to do. Beatrice also later talks to Eddie and asks “When am I gonna be a wife again, Eddie?” This implies that Eddie and Beatrice haven’t made love in a while, making Beatrice feel unloved and unwanted, as she is aware of his bizarre feelings towards Catherine.
Eddie, who is enraged by Rodolfo taking Catherine off him, visits Alfieri and asks if there is any way he can get rid of Rodolfo by law, although Alfieri assures him there is not. Alfieri tells Eddie that he needs to let Catherine go. The situation escalates and Eddie becomes increasingly jealous of Rodolfo. Eddie resents the fact that Rodolfo thinks Catherine is freer than Italian girls. Eddie needs to let out all his anger towards Rodolfo, so when the chance occurs, Eddie eagerly invites Rodolfo to a boxing match.
Then Eddie asks Rodolfo if he knows how to box, which Eddie is aware that he doesn’t as Eddie classes him as a homosexual. Eddie cheerfully asks Rodolfo if he would like to learn how to do some boxing, which Rodolfo reluctantly agrees and the men begin to lightly box. Eddie encourages Rodolfo, and he tells Rodolfo he is doing well, then Eddie hits Rodolfo on the chin. Both Eddie and Rodolfo stop boxing.
Catherine puts on the record ‘Paper Doll’ which Catherine and Rodolfo dance to which symbolises the physical closeness also Catherine isn’t being taken away, she wants her independence and happiness in the world which she has found with Rodolfo. Marco, who silently watched the boxing incident, shows Eddie the danger he invites by threatening Rodolfo. Politeness does not permit Marco to say anything, and the gesture is far more effective as the audience observes the chair “raised like a weapon” over Eddie’s head, symbolizing the destruction he will shortly bring on himself. As Eddie and Marco are limited as speakers, and because some matters cannot be openly discussed, ideas are often shown in gesture and action. Sometimes this is apparently minor detail, but at times it is highly symbolic, seeing that actions speak louder than words.
Marco does not need to tell Eddie that he is stronger. His actions and his brief invitation to Eddie: ” Can you life this chair?” are enough to create a very intense change, which speaks volume about the altered atmosphere and the way that the characters now connect to one another. As Alfieri warns, no one can ever know what will be discovered, he also feels that compromise is better and that ‘now we settle for half’. Alfieri explains the boundaries to Eddie, even though in his heart he knows he will ignore what he has been said to him, he cannot take further action to prevent Eddie’s feelings leading to him taking action which will have regretful consequences. As Alfieri tells us in his first speech he is powerless as if the character’s destiny is already mapped out and is a path they must inevitably take.