The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Accidental Death of an Anarchist opens in the central police headquarters in Milan, in a drab, ordinary office room. A large window forms a central part of the set. Inspector Bertozzo and a constable enter, and Bertozzo begins a direct address to the audience in which he states the official version of the anarchist’s death, insisting that the police verdict of “accidental death” was “quite reasonable.” The anarchist, he maintains, fell from a window of the Milan police headquarters. The constable brings in the Maniac, who is dressed as a clichéd version of a Freudian analyst and who carries four overstuffed plastic bags. Bertozzo takes the Maniac’s statement, constantly being distracted and disrupted by the Maniac’s antics, the focal point of which is the Maniac’s qualifications in the field of psychoanalysis by virtue of having been in fifteen “looney bins.” Bertozzo throws the Maniac out and leaves for a meeting.

The Maniac reenters and begins to “dispense justice,” as he explains, by pitching his own and others’ files out the window. When the telephone rings, the Maniac answers, and, on discovering the caller to be Inspector Pissani, Bertozzo’s superior, the Maniac impersonates the judge who is being sent to investigate the anarchist’s death, thus setting up Bertozzo’s exposure later in the play. During the telephone call, the Maniac pretends that Bertozzo is in the room shouting insults at Inspector Pissani and giving him “raspberries.” When Bertozzo actually returns, the Maniac advises him to avoid Pissani; Bertozzo forcibly ejects the Maniac from the office and discovers the missing files. The scene ends in chaos as Inspector Pissani enters and, set up by the Maniac, promptly knocks out Bertozzo.

Scene 2 moves to the actual room in which the “accidental death” happened. The Maniac enters, this time disguised as Professor Marco Maria Malipiero, the investigating judge. Pissani and the constable are fully deceived, and the phony judge begins his investigation,...

(The entire section is 834 words.)