Arthur Miller's story of a longshoreman who falls tragically in his own undoing creates the character of Eddie Carbone, a role that Schreiber was born to play. His wife Beatrice, played with a perfect nervousness by Jessica Hecht, is concerned that Eddie may be a little too emotionally involved with her niece Catherine, played by Scarlett Johansson, marking her Broadway debut. Everything is under control until Beatrice's cousins, illegal Italian immigrants, come to stay with them secretly in order to find work and send money back to their starving families in Italy. When Eddie senses that Catherine may be seriously falling in love with one of them, he begins a campaign to smear his reputation, and when that doesn't work, he sets in motion a string of events at first tragic, and ultimately fatal, to himself and the Italian-American community. Schreiber's portrayal of a desperate obsession and individual moments of destructive decision making absolutely break your heart.
Now, in writing this little blog, it occurred to me: How are we, the audience, not bothered or at least a little perplexed by the fact that we root for Catherine and Rodolpho to get married when they are actually cousins? We are repulsed by Eddie's attraction to Catherine because he is her guardian and married to Beatrice, but, technically speaking, his attraction is adulterous but not incestuous as he is only related to Catherine by marriage. Is there some line in the text that implies that "cousin" is really Miller's term for distant, distant relatives? I've seen and discussed this play a few times over the last few years and this quandary has never occurred to me until just now. Miller scholars: Thoughts? Am I missing something? Or is this cousin-marriage just not that big of a deal?