This gives the audience a sense of intimacy though like Alfieri they will have no influence on the play itself. Alfieris role in the play is to oversee the action and relate it to the audience and by the end of the play he is the only character that seems to have any sympathy for Eddie even though he has been described by critic Shay Daly as not a full flesh and blood character. Alfieri is effectively playing the chorus in this tragedy and like in Greek and Roman tragedies the chorus is always filled with foreboding for the coming events; Alfieri invests this sense of tragedy strongly in his opening narration and like the chorus of many Greek tragedies is powerless to stop an eventually tragic outcome.
Alfieri mentions Al Capone, calling him the greatest Carthaginian. At first we might believe that he means Al Capone is a law breaker punished by the law as represented by Rome because Carthage was destroyed by Rome. By later mentioning Calabria and especially Syracuse as well as justly shot by unjust men we know Alfieri means Al Capone represents a Carthage from an earlier age. Rome hardly existed and Carthage, competing for the rule of Sicily, would punish those who broke the rules of war, such as the tyrant Agathocles of Syracuse who was famed for his cruelty and who, unprovoked, attacked his unsuspecting neighbours. Al Capone has become a kind of hero for the average Italian American upholding the Sicilian family ethos.
Another key theme in the play is that of the relationship between Eddie and Catherine which from the very start of the play is lively intimate and flirtatious. Eddie greets Catherine first when he comes home imparting the feeling that she is more important to him than Beatrice. Eddies masculinity is outlined in this scene, he is very much a manly man who finds it difficult to come to terms with his emotional side and shows this by ordering Beatrice and Catherine around while he imparts news and drinks beer in his chair. Catherine sits by his chair in a pose of supplication, slave like, subdued and obedient to Eddie. A sense of foreboding runs not just through Alfieris opening speech but throughout Beatrice and Catherines lines. An example of this is Catherines shocked No! and Beatrice who is half in fear and afraid. These fearful premonitions point the way for the tragedy to unfold.
Alfieri makes us aware of the law in Red Hook; it is not the law of the establishment but the law of Sicilian values upheld by its citizens. Alfieri is aware and is part of both types of law, he is aware of the limitations to both laws and the consequences of someone going outside either law. We settle for half, as Alfieri says, or compromise which is one of the key ideas in this play. The audience is made aware of this idea of compromise early on in the play and the fact that Alfieri likes it better suggests that it is better because he no longer has to keep a pistol in his filing cabinet. Compromise defeats violence and those who wont compromise will be left behind; it is failure to compromise which is the eventual downfall of Eddie because he wont change. This is not Eddies fault, his character is usually described as forceful, obsessive, warm, protective, irrational, and self-interested.
Alfieri suggests that Eddies type held back the civilisation of Red Hook, and as sympathetic as he is towards Eddie now he is dead and they are quite civilised, quite American. Like Stanley in A Streetcar named Desire, Eddie is little more than an uneducated and driven man but he has become obsolete next to a man like Rodolpho who Eddie criticises: he cooks, he sings, he could make dresses and the new working woman like Catherine. Every theme and idea in this play is sowed by Alfieri, Catherine and Beatrice in the first five pages to be later expanded upon throughout-which is why these first few pages are so vital to the play.