Eddie and Rodolpho continue to spar, which makes Catherine nervous. Eddie hits Rodolpho and the young man is surprised, but he says he is fine and grabs Catherine to dance again.
As they dance Marco looks at Eddie and asks if he can lift the chair. He puts it in front of Eddie and Eddie tries but fails to pick it up. Marco reaches for it himself and succeeds. He holds it aloft over Eddie’s head, and “he transforms what might appear like a glare of warning into a smile of triumph, and Eddie’s grin vanishes as he absorbs his look” (46).
Alfieri addresses the audience. He explains that it was a cold day and Eddie and Marco were working. Beatrice was shopping and Catherine and Rodolpho were at the house.
Catherine asks Rodolpho if she can ask him something and he says of course she can; she has seemed secretive and worried lately. She asks if it would be okay if she wanted to live in Italy after they are married. Surprised, Rodolpho asks where she came up with this idea. She replies that he always says how beautiful it is.
Rodolpho walks over to her and says he cannot bring a wife home with no money or business. She protests that they’d be happier there but he does not agree, wondering how he can take her from a rich country to a poor country. Quietly, she says she is afraid of Eddie.
Rodolpho comforts her that they can live somewhere else when he finds a job. Catherine steels herself and asks if he would still marry her if they had to live in Italy. He looks at her and says flat-out that he would not: he wants to be an American citizen and he wants her to be his wife. He becomes angry and says she ought to tell her uncle this; he says he is not a beggar and she is not a gift for a poor immigrant.
Distressed, Catherine says she meant nothing by it. Rodolpho softens and asks why she is afraid of Eddie. She starts to cry and explain that he was good to her and she knows he does not mean it when he teases her; he always took care of her and she thought he’d be happy when she got married.
Rodolpho shakes his head and calls her a little girl. Catherine continues to explain how well she knows Eddie, even more than Beatrice does. Rodolpho tells her it is time to go and holds her. She asks him to teach her, and he leads her to the bedroom.
Eddie enters the house. He sees the pattern and cloth on the table. Catherine comes downstairs, adjusting her dress. He asks what she is sewing. A moment later Rodolpho comes downstairs and Eddie is staggered. He demands that Rodolpho get his things and leave. Catherine begins to protest and says she will leave. Grasping his arm, she says she can no longer stay there.
Eddie tells her she is going nowhere, then suddenly grabs her and kisses her. Rodolpho protests and says he cannot treat her like that. The two struggle for a bit and Eddie kisses him too. Catherine screams and tears the two apart.
Silence descends. Eddie finally tells Rodolpho he must go but Catherine says she will go too. Eddie warns Rodolpho by calling him a “submarine” and says he must leave Catherine alone.
This section features the staggering climax of the play—Eddie, horrified at the thought that Catherine and Rodolpho have had sex (and under his roof), tries to throw Rodolpho out and then passionately kisses both Catherine and Rodolpho. Ostensibly he kisses Rodolpho to “prove” that the latter is homosexual, but critics have had a field day with this, postulating that Eddie himself has repressed homosexual desires. It makes sense that this hypothesis would be difficult to prove, since Miller would not have been able to make his gay protagonist acceptable to critics, audiences, and, of course, the censors. Thus, we can only work with hints and allusions rather than any definitive evidence (even less than we have for Rodolpho), but the prospect that Eddie has latent homosexual desires is not at all farfetched.
Scholar Thomas Horan looks at this question in his article on the play. He begins by speculating that Eddie’s intense fear that Rodolpho will take Catherine from him may “belie a subconscious dread of inadvertently exposing his true nature to his wife, his community, and ultimately himself.” Other clues include the frequent allusions to homosexuality in the vein of the literary and artistic: “Paper Doll” and the biblical story of Lot in which the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are met with destruction. Horan references another scholar who sees the bridge itself, which is very phallic, as a symbol of “both the connection and the distance between Eddie’s straight persona and his queer identity.”
Beatrice’s questioning of her husband offers more fodder for thought. She says that Eddie’s antipathy toward sleeping with her began long before the brothers arrived; even Catherine has noticed and mentions something about it. It is possible that his impotence stems from his repressed homosexuality; Horan writes, “Eddie lacks the language to express the source of his sexual problem. He cannot talk about his erotic inclinations because in the intensely macho, Roman-Catholic world of the longshoremen, there is no vocabulary for the ‘love that dare not speak its name.’” Eddie becomes angry with Beatrice for questioning his manhood, a telling fixation.
Eddie’s first encounter with Rodolpho is also telling. Even before there is anything between him and Catherine, Eddie starts to manifest dislike toward him by directing the conversation almost totally toward Marco. As the young people’s relationship progresses, Eddie focuses more on Rodolpho’s sexuality than the putative danger he poses to Catherine. When he tries to convince Alfieri that the boy is homosexual, he awkwardly slips and says, “I mean he looked so sweet there, like an angel—you could kiss him he was so sweet” (35). Horan writes, “Eddie attempts to project his own embattled sexuality onto the newly-arrived scapegoat, even as the clearly heterosexual Rodolpho genuinely, passionately, and successfully woos Catherine.”
Eddie’s fears about Rodolpho taking Catherine away are not just because of some improper love for her or for her suitor. When Catherine was at home, the image of a stable, proper familial structure could be maintained. Eddie and Beatrice seemed like parents even though they had none of their own, and Eddie’s lack of interest in Beatrice was more or less camouflaged. As Horan writes, “with Catherine planning to leave, Eddie and Beatrice’s conspicuous lack of children in a thriving Catholic neighborhood threatens to become glaringly apparent, potentially eliciting curiosity within the close-knit community about the nature of their sex life. By raising questions about Rodolpho’s sexuality, Eddie may hope to deflect attention from his own; by keeping Catherine under his roof, Eddie may hope to retain the illusion that he is a father, and thus a heterosexual family man.” Eddie is frantic for legitimate reasons, even if he cannot identify them.