"Fo makes much of his historical "research." Take one of the Fo-Rame theatre pieces and explore the way Fo uses history to his own ends."
Dario Fo uses his historical "research" in order to promote his own viewpoint rather than present a seemingly objective representation. The notion that an understanding of the past was necessary to change society in the future was his most serious consideration and this essay shall argue that this was the primary reason for his historically based pieces. "Boniface VIII" is an interesting example as he uses a relatively small body of evidence to add substance to his piece, but his main idea is to criticise the church and emphasise his conception of the institution as fundamentally corrupt. This provides understanding as to why he utilised such an example that, if viewed with more historical evidence, was more likely to be a power struggle within the upper echelons of society with little concern for the proletariat. However, his use is justified from a different viewpoint. He considers the traditional approach toward history an imposition of the ruling classes and aims to subvert the assumed knowledge to shed a critical light upon he subject creating a people's culture and interpretation of history. This is created by means of a dichotomy between his giullare-style scenes with the narration; the former being based on the entertainer of the people in the past and the latter presenting a means of presenting his own evidence. The result is an analogous depiction of historical events that corresponds with a vicarious criticism of the contemporary power structure.
Fo's view of society is explicitly Marxist, his ideas had been heavily influenced by the writings of Gramsci; an individual who argued that historical knowledge is essential in order to understand the progress that can be achieved . Fo argues that without this: "the very meaning of culture is undermined." Fo's narration serves to present his own Marxist approach to historiography and aims to provide a form of culture beyond that of the aristocratic tradition. His whole conception of culture and cultural repression is founded on one essential postulate: the notion of the oppression of the proletariat and its place in history as "constant of every moment in time." This dictates that any representation he makes will be ideologically based, and the very name "Mistero Buffo" refers to the nature and ideals underpinning the production: it was derived from the "Misteriia-buff" of Vladimir Mayakovsky. This play was of similar content, focusing on the varied representations of historical events using a comic style with the underlying theme of the proletariat's oppression.
It is interesting that Fo uses Dante's nemesis as a means of spreading the people's culture. The actual story of Boniface VIII, as far as one can be sure, was that of a power struggle between the church and the government led by King Phillip. Dante opposed an unequal distribution of power between the two and this, in addition to his exile (arguably the more important factor), would have contributed to his distaste for Boniface VIII. The ramifications of this dispute could have been of little consequence to the people (from a Marxist perspective regarding progress and social upheaval) so this adds evidence to the notion of Fo's interpretation of history as being analogous of the present. The importance of Dante is that he is a noted author whose texts, as a result of the education system, are reasonably well known by the members of all classes. This allows the common knowledge to become subverted by means of satire in order to create his notion of the people's culture.
His representation clearly illustrates this ideological perspective as he sympathises with the peasants in an uprising and claims that history, written by the ruling classes, aims to forget these events as it would result in an antagonism toward the powers that be. He does admit that his...
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