In the play Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Dario Fo expresses his political concerns, using humour as a way of educating his audience. He incorporates stock characters such as the Maniac and the superintendent to address issues like abuse of power, while using farce and satire to emphasize his point. All of these combined help to leave the responder thinking about the issues in contemporary society.
The Maniac has the main and most important role in ADOA. He can be likened to the Commedia Dell’arte character Arlecchino as both are very intelligent, but also unpredictable and known to frequently change their plans. Through the Maniac the audience learns the truth about the death of the anarchist.
The Maniac constantly changes his character in the play, representing the deception and disguise of the police force and emphasizing how ridiculous those in power are. In Act One, Scene Two, the Maniac says, «I’m not pushing. You’ve been seized by a raptus.» This is a great comic line; the irony in the remark shows how absurd the police’s statements are.
Another example is when the Maniac’s arm falls off and he mockingly states: «Next you’ll be pulling off my leg.» This is a deliberate farce to make the responder laugh. This incident is also a symbol of the cover-ups made by the police and is aimed at stressing Dario Fo’s message about the injustices and lies by the police in society.
The Maniac is very intelligent and this helps him to control the authoritative figures and make them out to be foolish and weak. For example: In Act One, Scene Two, he points to a nervous twitch in his neck. This is comic because he is threatening the police with something that couldn’t possibly cause them any harm. It also reflects how successfully he has asserted his status over the others.
The end of Act One, Scene Two is a powerful irony with the Maniac convincing the police officers to sing an anarchist song about liberty for the people, to prove that they have a compassionate side – «People would be happy to forgive all of your cretinous blunders if they could see two decent human beings behind it all.» This is an effective ironic statement and in agreeing to do this they’re only further proving the hypocritical nature of those in power to the audience.
In both of these examples, Fo tries to make a political argument aimed at the audience, that is, that the majority people should have power over the minority.
The Maniac convinces the police to re-write their version of events; thus making them look like fools. «You know what I say…You mean draw up a third version?» (Act One Scene Two). Here he uses irony to satirize police conduct, again reinforcing Fo’s idea that people in power know nothing. By making the audience laugh, Fo is also able to become closer to them, making his political views more important.
The Maniac’s lines at the end of the play – «Whichever way it goes, you see, you’ve got to decide»-emphasizes the point Fo makes about the fact that there are always different outcomes possible for any event. This non-cathartic ending is also important because it allows for political debate, encouraging the audience to take action.
As you can see, the Maniac is used as a decoy character, where he appears to be mad, but becomes normal, while everything else is abnormal. He helps to point out the farcical lengths the Italian police went to in order to exonerate themselves from any responsibility for the death of the anarchist.
The Superintendent is one of the main characters in ADOA. He is cynical and sarcastic and is always offering advice. His character is a lot like that of Brighella in the Commedia Dell’arte. He represents the police force as he is in charge (or supposed to be) in the play.
The Superintendent is not merely a caricature. He reflects the abuses of police power that were occurring at the time and still are. This is quite obviously shown in Act One, Scene Two when he speaks about the statement...
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