The Rose Tattoo is a three-act play set in a Sicilian immigrant village on the Gulf Coast of the United States. The play opens at dusk and Serafina Delle Rose, the main character, is sitting in her living room, waiting for her husband, Rosario, to return; she is pregnant. A sign reveals that she is a seamstress, and Estelle Hohengarten arrives with a piece of rose-colored silk she wants made into a man’s shirt. During the course of act 1 the audience learns that Rosario is a truck driver who is engaged in smuggling to earn enough money to pay off his truck. Serafina reveals to Assunta that on the night she conceived her son, she awakened to feel needle pricks on her breast and saw there a rose tattoo, exactly like Rosario’s tattoo. The tattoo disappeared, but she knew she had conceived. Later, the neighborhood women and Father de Leo come to tell Serafina that Rosario has been killed. In defiance of the Church’s strictures, Serafina decides to cremate Rosario and to keep his ashes. The trauma causes her to miscarry.
Scene 4 opens in June, three years later, with Serafina besieged by women who have paid her to sew graduation dresses for their daughters. Serafina is disheveled and disoriented, and Rosa is locked up in the house naked because Serafina learned that she met a sailor named Jack at a high school dance. Miss Yorke, one of Rosa’s teachers, arrives and persuades Serafina to let Rosa attend the graduation ceremony.
While Rosa is gone, two customers, Flora and Bessie, arrive on their way to an American Legion...
(The entire section is 640 words.)