Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 438
Internationally popular, Accidental Death of an Anarchist is based on a 1969 incident in which an anarchist railway worker, arrested in connection with a terrorist bombing in Milan, fell to his death from a fourth-story window at police headquarters during the course of an interrogation. His death was officially declared a suicide. The police report held blatant contradictions. Subsequent investigation revealed the probable innocence of the worker. Fo set out to demolish the official story through the play’s production at his collective, La Commune.
Fo created one of his most successful roles for this play, that of a maniac who infiltrates the Milan police headquarters and carries out a number of impersonations in order to force the police to admit the illogic of the worker’s alleged leap from a window and to confess their culpability. The Maniac resembles the Zanni figure of the commedia dell’arte.
Called “a grotesque farce” by its author, the play’s dramatic action takes the form of a mock investigation carried out by a make-believe judicial examiner. A madman impostor (the Maniac), summoned to police headquarters to answer to charges of false identity, luckily happens to steal the file on the anarchist’s death. He then changes his identity, posing as an investigating judge, purportedly to ascertain that the police have constructed a solid case which can be upheld by the magistrates. In the course of the interrogation of the officers, the Maniac is forced to assume numerous disguises. He exposes the blatant contradictions and lies of the police, who admit their guilt, whereupon the Maniac invents for them another outrageous story about the anarchist’s fall. The arrival of a journalist and...
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