Dario Fo's
ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST

Act 1 Scene 1

A normal room in central police headquarters. A desk, large cabinet, some chairs, a typewriter, a telephone, two doors, an open window
From the window we hear a large angry crowd.
SUSPECT sits calmly in front of the desk. SERGEANT stands near the window, looking out, though careful not to show himself to the mob. Pause.

SUSPECT. The demonstrators appear to be rather tense today.

SERGEANT. More than tense. I would say they've been incited.

SUSPECT. By whom?

SERGEANT. The unions. Those people in the streets are workers on to protest that they've been fired or evicted.

SUSPECT. And why do they always demonstrate here at police headquarters? Right here, under the main window?

SERGEANT. It's always the same story. We're always caught in-between. It's only one week since that anarchist we were interrogating jumped out the window.

SUSPECT. That window? But it's only two stories up.

SERGEANT. Another window - upstairs. On the fourth floor. (He walks away from the window.)

SUSPECT. Oh.

(THE INSPECTOR hurries in, with a file in his hands.)

INSPECTOR. (entering) My apologies. I'm running a bit behind this morning. Sergeant, what the hell is that window doing opened?

SERGEANT. I'm sorry, inspector. ( He goes and closes the window - noise ends. )

SUSPECT. The room seemed a little stuffy

SERGEANT. I wasn't talking to you. Just sit down and shut up.

INSPECTOR. ( going through file ) Now let's go to your problem. It's obvious from your record that this isn't the first time you've been arrested for disguise. I see you've passed yourself off twice as a surgeon . . . true or false?

SUSPECT. You should know how thin the line is between truth and lies, inspector.

INSPECTOR. ( upset ) Please! Once as a pediatrician.

SUSPECT. ( To SERGEANT) Can I help it if I like kids?

INSPECTOR. ... three times as a bishop, once as a naval engineer.... So in all you've been arrested - two and one are . . . three. Three and...

SUSPECT. Would it help if I loaned you my calculator?

( INSPECTOR takes out a Chinese abacus and quickly adds up the sum. )

INSPECTOR. No thank you. It comes to . . . eleven times And this makes twelve. What do you have to say for yourself?

SUSPECT. Yes, twelve arrests, but please notice that I've never been convicted. My record is clean.

INSPECTOR. I guarantee we will mess it up this time. The indictment states that you impersonated a psychiatrist, professor from the University of Padova. Don't you know you could go to jail for assuming a position under false pretenses?

SUSPECT. A sane person could, but I couldn't. I am licensed to be crazy. See here, I have my complete clinical file with me. Sixteen times institutionalized - and always for the same reason: "histromania": from the Latin 'histrones', which means, of course, "actor". See, I can't stop myself from playing roles - and as you can tell I've already developed a rather rich repertory. Of course, inside a theater this would be considered quite normal. but unfortunately I am more into real-life acting and I draw my company from real people - who don't know they're playing roles. Which, by the way, is a good thing, as I don't have the money to pay them. I did apply for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, but unfortunately Reagan cut the whole budget for dance and theater. An actor who hates the theater. It's terrible.

INSPECTOR. So you are supported by your actors. You have them by the neck.

SUSPECT. I don't have to do anything. They're just always there when I need them.

INSPECTOR. It says here you actually charged a hundred thousand lire for one appointment.

SERGEANT. What a con man!

SUSPECT. The normal fee for any self-respecting psychiatrist . . . for one who has studied the same profession for sixteen years.

INSPECTOR. Fine, but when did you ever study, anything?

SUSPECT. Why, I studied for twenty years in sixteen different mental institutions. examining thousands of insane people like myself, day after day, and at night too. Because I, unlike normal psychiatrists, slept with them - sometimes standing up with two others, because there are never enough beds. Anyway, look into the matter, and you'll see if I didn't make an absolutely perfect diagnosis of that poor schizophrenic, the one I was indicted for.

INSPECTOR. The twenty thousand lire were absolutely perfect too!

SUSPECT. But Inspector, I had to charge him that much, for his own good!

INSPECTOR. Ah, for his own good. It was part of the treatment?

SUSPECT. Of course. If I hadn't taken that twenty thousand from him, do you suppose that poor man and especially his family, would have been satisfied? If I had charged him five thousand, they undoubtedly would have thought, "This must be a second-rate doctor maybe not even a real M.D..; he's probably just out of medical school, a beginner." This way, instead, as soon as he received my bill they were all dumb-founded. They wondered: who on earth can this be? The eternal father? and went off as happy as larks. They even kissed my hand . "Thanks so much, doctor" . . . and wept with emotion.

INSPECTOR. You really know how to tell a story.

SUSPECT. But these aren't fibs, Inspector. Even Freud said that tidy fees are the most effective remedy, both for the doctor and the patient!

INSPECTOR. I believe it! Anyway, take a look at your professional card and prescription list. If I'm not mistaken, they read: "Professor Antonio A. Antonio, Psychiatrist. The Former Professor. University of Padova." Go on, what do you have to say now?

SUSPECT. First of all, I really am a professor. Professor of drawing, ornate and free-hand styles, at the Holy Redeemer night school.

INSPECTOR. Well isn't that nice. Good for you, but it says here, "Psychiatrist!"

SUSPECT Yes, but after the period! Don't you know about syntax and punctuation? Look carefully: Professor Antonio A. Antonio. Period. Then there's a capital P Psychiatrist. Now, you'll admit it isn't acting under false pretenses to say: "I am a psychiatrist." It's like saying, "I'm a psychologist, botanist, vegetarian, arthritic " Do you have a knowledge of Italian grammar and language? You do? Well, then you should know that if someone describes himself as an archaeologist, it's as though he had written "Milanese." It doesn't mean he has a degree in it!

INSPECTOR. All right, but what about Former Professor from the University?

SUSPECT. There, you see - excuse me, but this time you're the one who's acting under false pretenses: you told me that you know Italian language and syntax and punctuation, and then it comes out that you don't even read correctly.

INSPECTOR. What do you mean. I don t know -

SUSPECT. Didn't you see the comma after "The Former"?

INSPECTOR. Oh yes, there is a comma. You're right, I hadn't noticed.

SUSPECT. Aha, "I hadn't noticed" . . . And you, simply because you "hadn't noticed," would throw an innocent man in prison?

INSPECTOR. You know, you really are crazy. ( Without realizing it, he has begun to address the SUSPECT in a more respectful tone.) What does the comma have to do with it?

SUSPECT. Nothing, for someone who doesn't know Italian language and syntax! Which reminds me, I'd like to know where you got your degree. And who granted it to you. . . let me finish! The comma, remember, is the key to everything! If there's a comma after "The Former," the entire meaning of the phrase changes at once. After the comma, you have to catch your breath . . . take a brief pause . . . Because "the comma always denotes a pause." Therefore, it should be read, "The Former, Professor," meaning, "the aforesaid, the one already mentioned, NOT the professor." In fact, I haven't been a professor for some time. So that could even be read with a little ironic chuckle: heh, heh. So the correct reading of that phrase is as follows: The Former, Professor, heh, heh. Pause. From the University of Padova. Just the same as if you read "retired dentist, from the city of Bergamo." Because I am from the University of Padova, in the sense that it was the last place I visited: I had just recently come from there when I, ah, took up my psychiatric practice. Any other reading of the phrase would be entirely false and misleading; only an idiot would make such an error.

INSPECTOR. So, you think I m an idiot!

SUSPECT. No, just ignorant of basic Italian grammar. But it's lucky for you you've come to the right person for help. I'll even offer a discount. I'll begin with the subordinates?

SERGEANT. Is he talking about me?

INSPECTOR. Quit putting me on! I'm beginning to think you really do have a mania for playing roles, but you're even playing the role of a nut. In fact, I'll bet you're even saner than I am.

SUSPECT. I wouldn't know. Certainly, your occupation is one which leads to many psychic alterations . . . let me examine your eye. ( He pulls down the INSPECTOR's lower eyelid with his thumbs )

INSPECTOR. Look - just shut up and sit down so that we can get on with the report.

SUSPECT. Oh, good, I'll do the typing. I'm certified at forty-five words a minute. Where do you keep the carbon?

INSPECTOR. Keep still or I'll handcuff you!

SUSPECT. You can't! Either the straightjacket or nothing. I'm insane, and if you put handcuffs on me - article 122 of the criminal code: "Anyone wearing the uniform of a public officer, who applies non-clinical or non-psychiatric instruments of restraint to a mentally disturbed individual, so as to cause an aggravation of said individual's condition, commits a crime punishable by five to fifteen years' imprisonment and the loss of his or her rank and pension."

INSPECTOR. Ah, I see you also have a background in law!

SUSPECT. Law? I know everything! I've been studying law for twenty years!

INSPECTOR. How old are you anyway. three hundred? Where did you study law?

SUSPECT. In mental hospitals! You have no idea how well one can study in there! There was a paranoid court reporter who coached me. What a genius! I know everything Roman, modern, ecclesiastical law . . . the Justinian code . . . Federician, Lombard, Greek orthodox codes . everything! Try testing me.

INSPECTOR. As if I had time for that! But there's nothing here in your history about your being a judge . . not even a lawyer?!

SUSPECT. Oh, no, I would never be a lawyer. I don t like to defend people; that's a passive occupation. I like to judge . . . sentence . . . repress . . . persecute. I fit right in with your kind of people, dear Inspector. Why don't we call each other by our first names?

INSPECTOR. Watch out madman. You'd better go easy on the kidding.

SUSPECT. As you say.

INSPECTOR. Now then, have you ever impersonated a judge, or not?

SUSPECT. Ah - a judge! Now there you've touched a weak spot of mine, Inspector. That is indeed a noble profession: To judge! To sentence! To persecute! You're a police inspector, you must know the feeling. But being a judge is the best of all occupations. First of all you hardly ever have to retire. In fact, at the precise moment when an ordinary man, any working person, reaches fifty-five or sixty years old and already has to be dumped because he's beginning to get a little slow, a little late in his reflexes, the judge is just starting the high point of his career. A worker on the assembly line or cutting machine is washed up after the age of fifty; he causes slow-ups, accidents - he has to be gotten rid of! A fifty-five year old miner has silicosis: out, canned, fired, quickly before he can begin to draw his retirement pension. The same thing goes for bank tellers: at a certain age they begin to mess up the accounts, forget the names of companies and clients, discount rates, corporate executives - go home . . . scram . . . you're too old and feebleminded! For judges, on the other hand, it's exactly the opposite: the older and more feeble-minded they get, the higher ranks they're promoted to. They're given important, absolute powers! You see a bunch of little old men made out of cardboard and utterly incapable of moving their limbs; wearing satin cordons, ermine capes, shiny black top hats with golden stripes that make them look like bit players from the comic opera of Venice; doddering along with faces resembling small, dried Piedmontese mushrooms . . . pairs of spectacles hanging from their necks by little gold chains, otherwise they'd lose them; they can never remember where they put them down. Well, these characters have the power to save or destroy however and whenever they will: they toss out certain life sentences just the way someone might say, "hey, maybe it will rain tomorrow!" Fifty years for you . . . thirty for you . . . "You over there - twenty years!" "But I'm the prosecutor, your honor." "Oh, in that case, ten years." "You, five - I like your face." "Now, gentlemen, when I say three, make a deal. One. Two." Ah yes, yes indeed: judging is the occupation, the role I would give anything to play at !east once in my life. The Supreme Court, the Superior Court judge - "your excellency; please be seated; silence, the court is coming in . . . oh, look I found a bone: is it yours? No, that's impossible; I have none left!"

INSPECTOR. Listen, will you cut out this blabbing!? You got me dizzy. Go on, sit down over there and shut up! ( He pushes him toward the chair.)

SUSPECT. ( reacting hysterically) Hey, hands off or I'll bite!

INSPECTOR. You'll bite who?

SUSPECT. You! I'll bite you on the neck and the buttock, too! Glom! And if you react with force there's article 122B: provocation and violence resulting in harm to a defenseless and disabled individual incapable of acting responsibility for his or her own actions. Six to nine years, and loss of your pension!

SERGEANT. What about rank?

SUSPECT. Ah, you can keep that.

INSPECTOR. Sergeant, I said . . .!

SERGEANT. But what if he bites me?

SUSPECT. Of course I'm going to bite you. And I have rabies too. I'm infectious. I got it from a dog: a rabid bastard hound who bit off half my ass. But he died and I recovered. I recovered, but I'm still infectious Ggrrrmmmm! Oowowowowowoh!

INSPECTOR. Jesus Christ!

SUSPECT. Jesus? No, I was him last week.

INSPECTOR. Please, can't we just finish writing this report? If you're a good boy, I promise - I'll let you go.

SUSPECT. No, don't throw me out, Mr. Inspector. I'm so happy here with you, in the police . . . I feel protected; there are so many perils out there in the street. People are mean; they drive cars, honk their horns, step on squealing brakes . . . and they go on strike! There are buses and subway cars with big doors that snap shut . . . screeee, clak - squished! Keep me here with you. I'll help you make suspects talk . . . subversives too. I know how to make suppositories - with nitroglycerin.

INSPECTOR. Look, I'm just about fed up with you

SUSPECT. Inspector, keep me here with you or I'll throw myself out the window. What floor are we on? Fourth? Well, it's almost standard practice: I'll jump! I'll jump and when I'm lying down there dying, splattered all over the pavement and giving the death-rattle. . . .. . I'll look up and say - it was him, the inspector! He threw me out. Inspector Bertozzo did! And I take a long time to die. I'm not fragile like the anarchist, who falls 4 floors and immediately goes into a coma after hitting the ground, so that he doesn't manage to tell the journalists anything. No, I will tell. The reporters will come and I'll tell them everything. I'm going to jump!

INSPECTOR. For god's sake, cut it out! ( to the POLICEMAN) Lock the window. ( POLICEMAN obeys.)

SUSPECT. Then I'll throw myself down the stairwell! ( heads for the door)

INSPECTOR. Damn it! Now I've really had enough. Sit down! ( throws him onto the chair, to he cop:) You lock that door . . . take out the key . . .

SUSPECT. and throw it out the window. (Dazed, the POLICEMAN approaches the window.)

SUSPECT. Right throw it - no, I mean put it in the strong box . . . lock the strong box . . . take out the key . . . ( The cop mechanically obeys.)

SUSPECT Put it in your mouth and swallow it!

INSPECTOR. NO, no, NO!. Nobody's going to make a sucker out of me. ( to the cop) Give me that key! ( opens the door) Go on, get out . . . and throw yourself down the stairwell. Do what you want. Out! Get the hell out of here before they put me away!

SUSPECT. There's an idea - we could be roommates.

INSPECTOR. Out!

SUSPECT. No, Inspector . . . you can't! Don't act like a law-breaker. Don't shove, please! Why do you want me to get out? This isn't my stop!

INSPECTOR. Scram! ( He succeeds in pushing him out, then listens apprehensively for a moment at the door.) Oh, finally!

POLICEMAN. Inspector, I should remind you that there's a meeting in Mr. Bellati's office, and we re already five minutes late.

INSPECTOR. Why, what time is it! ( Looks at his watch) Oh, for crying out loud . . . that damn fool got me completely screwed up. Let's go, get a move on.

( They exit from the left. On the right the FOOL/SUSPECT sticks his head in the same door from which he had gone out.)

FOOL. May l? Inspector . . . am I interrupting? Don't get mad, I just came back to pick up my papers . . . How come you don't answer? Come on you couldn't bear a grudge. Let's make up. Ah, there's nobody here! Well, I'll get them myself. My clinical report . . . prescription list . . . hey, here's my criminal citation! Oh well, let's tear it up. Out of sight, out of mind. Hm, wonder who this citation is for ( reads) "Armed robbery." In a pharmacy, that makes sense! It's all right, forget it, you're pardoned. ( tears up that citation also) And what have you done? ( reads) "Unlawful appropriation . . . damage . . . " Nonsense, nonsense. Go on, my boy, you're free! ( tears it up) Everybody free! ( He stops to examine one particular document ) No, not you, you bastard! You're staying right where you are . . . going up the river. ( He carefully smoothes the document out on the table, and then opens a the cabinet stuffed with files.) Everybody freeze! The law has arrived Wow, these couldn't all be criminal citations?! I'll burn the whole thing! A nice big bonfire! ( He takes out a cigarette lighter, starts to set fire to a large sheaf of documents, then reads on the cover.) "Judicial inquiry in progress." ( then, on another folder) "Order to file away transcript of judicial inquiry." ( At that moment the telephone rings. The FOOL answers calmly.) Hello, Inspector Bertozzo's office. Who's calling? No, I'm sorry but if you don't give your name I can't call him to the phone . . . What Investigator is it really you in person? No kidding, of things . . . What a pleasure! The defenestrating investigator! Nothing, nothing. And where are you calling from? Of course, how stupid of me - from the fourth floor - where else? Tell me, what do you need to talk to Bertozzo about? No, he can't come to the phone, give me the message. A supreme court judge? They're sending him from Washington? - oops, sorry, I mean from Rome, once in a while I forget about the theatrical transposition. Ah, he's supposed to be some kind of "auditor." Of course, apparently there's some disagreement within the Ministry of Justice, about the motivations of that judge who decided to have the investigation closed and filed away. But are you sure? Oh, it's just hearsay; that's what I figured. First they're delighted, then they get second thoughts. I see, because of the pressure of public opinion - oh, go on, public opinion. Pressure, hell. Exactly, Bertozzo is right here, snickering. ( he laughs, holding the receiver away from his face.) Ha ha! . . . and making obscene gestures . . . ha, ha! ( pretending to call out) Bertozzo, our friend on the fourth floor says you can go ahead and laugh about it because you re not involved . . . but for him and his boss, it's a pain in the backside. Ha ha! He says watch out when you wipe yourself! Ha, ha! No, this time it's me who's laughing. No, because I would really get a kick out of seeing the Head Commissioner caught up in it. Yeah, it's the truth, you can even tell him I said so. "Investigator Anghiari - that's me - would get a kick out of it" . . . Bertozzo agrees with me too; listen to him laughing. ( holds out he receiver) Ha ha! Hear that'. And who gives a damn if we get shit thrown at us. Yeah, you can tell him that, too: Anghiari and Bertozzi don't give a good goddamn. (lets out an enourmous razzberry) Prrrrtttt. Yes, that was him giving the razzberry. But don't get hot under the collar. Good, that's better; we'll talk about it face to face. Now, what did you want from Bertozzo, which documents? Go ahead, I'm taking it down: copy of order to file away investigation of anarchist's death . . . O.K., and he should deliver it to you. Also, copies of judicial transcripts. Right. Yes, it's all here in the files. I believe it! You and the ex-warden of the concentration camp had better get it together. If the judge who's on his way up here is even a little bit of a bastard like they say . . . Sure I know the judge! Antonio A. Antonio, that's his name. Never heard of him? Well, you will! He was in a German concentration camp. Ask your boss if by any chance . . . O.K., we'll send it all over to you right away. So long. Wait a minute! Ha, ha Bertozzo here just made a really funny crack. Promise not to get mad and I'll tell you what he said. You won't blow up? All right, then, I'll tell you: he said ha, ha! as soon as that judge-auditor winds up his visit here, you'll be sent down south, maybe to the smallest backwater town in the pit of Calabria, where central police headquarters consists of one story and the inspector's office is in the sub-basement. Ha, ha! You get it? the sub-basement. Ha, ha! Ha, ha, how'd you like that? You didn't like it? Well, better luck next time. ( listens for a moment to voice on the phone) O.K., message received and transmitted Pprrrtttt! (razzberry) from both of us. Over and out! (The FOOL hangs up the phone and immediately launches into a feverish search for the documents.) Better get to work, your honor the judge; time is pressing. God, I'm so excited! It's as though I were about to take an exam, more than one exam, for a Ph. D. from Oxford! If I can convince them that I'm a real judge-auditor . . . if they don't go wrong, hell, I've got it made! Let's see now; first of all, got to find the right kind of walk. (tries out a slightly limping gait) no, This is more like a court chancellor's. An arthritic, but dignified step! Here, this is more like it, with the neck a little twisted . . . like a very old circus-horse.... (tries it out and rejects it.) No, there's an even better one: the "slide," with a little twitch at the end. (tries it) Not bad at all! And the "pudding-knee?" (tries it) Or maybe the stiff-legged hopping one. (tries it out: small fast steps alternating heel and toe) Gosh, what about glasses? No, no glasses . . the right eye a bit closed . . . there, that's it, a wall-eyed expression, not much talk . . . A slight cough: hokk. No, no cough - maybe some tics? Well, we can think up a few on the spot if necessary, a sugary manner, nasal voice?! Good-natured, but with sudden, sharp outbursts: "No! My dear chief, you have to stop it. You're not head warden of a fascist penitentiary any longer; you'd do well to remind yourself of that once in a while!" No, no a completely opposite type would be better: cold, detached, commanding tone, monotonous voice; sad, somewhat nearsighted look . . . using glasses, but with only one lens, like this (He does a quick rehearsal, at the same time leafing through some papers.) Well, how do you like that! My god, the papers I was looking for, here they are right under my nose! Hey, calm down . . . musn't lose my cool like this; get back into character immediately. Attention, please! (in a peremptory u tone) is everyone here? Let me see: Order to close and file away record of judicial inquiry, issued by the Milan tribunal . . Aha, there's also the inquiry on that Rome anarchist group, headed by the dancer. Good! (He stuffs documents into his briefcase. takes a dark overcoat and black hat off a coat rack and puts them on. At this point the inspector enters. Not recognizing the FOOL in his get-up, he is momentarily perplexed.)

INSPECTOR. Good morning, what can I do for you? Were you looking for someone?

FOOL. No, Inspector, I came back to pick up my papers . . .

INSPECTOR. Oh, no, you again? Get out!

FOOL. Listen, maybe you're worried about your own problems; is that any reason to let it out on me?

INSPECTOR. Out! (He half pushes half pulls him to the door.)

FOOL. For heaven's sake! Are you all neurotic in here? Starting with that crazy delinquent who's going around looking for you so he can bust you in the mouth.

INSPECTOR. (stops for a moment) Who's going around looking for me?

FOOL. Some guy, dolce vita type, in a turtleneck sweater; didn't he beat you up yet?

INSPECTOR. Listen, that's enough; you've already wasted too much of my time. Do me a favor; get out of here! Scram!

FOOL. Forever? (throws little farewell kisses, threatening gesture of anger from the INSPECTOR) All right, all right, I'm going. Anyway, if you want a piece of advice, just because I think you're a nice guy . . . the minute you run into your "dolce vita" neighbor, duck! Take it from me. (Exits;; the INSPECTOR heaves a great sigh, then goes directly to the coat rack, which he finds completely empty)

INSPECTOR. (running after the FOOL) That sonofabitch! Pretending to be crazy so he can rip off people's coats! Hey, you! (Bumps squarely into the POLICEMAN, who is just coming in at this moment) Chase after that nut, the one who was in here before. He's walking out with my coat and hat . . . maybe even the briefcase. Sure, that's mine too! Quick, before he gives us the slip.

POLICEMAN. Right away. Inspector. (He stops just beyond the door, talking to someone on the outside, in the wings.) Yes sir, the Inspector is here. Please come in. (turns to the INSPECTOR, who is shuffling through papers, looking for the sheets that were torn up by the FOOL)

INSPECTOR. What the hell happened to those indictments? . . .

POLICEMAN. Mr. Bertozzo, the investigator from the political division is here; he would like to talk to you.

(INSPECTOR BERTOZZO raises his head from the desk, gets up and goes to meet his visitor, toward the wings right.)

INSPECTOR. Hey, old buddy . . . I was just talking about you a minute ago with this crazy nut who was telling me - ha, ha, get this - as soon as you ran into me, you were going to give me - (An arm shoots out from the wings. BERTOZZO finds himself literally flat on the ground, and just has the strength to finish his sentence) - a sock in the mouth! (collapses.)

(The FOOL 's head appears in the doorway. He shouts:)

FOOL. I told him to duck!

(Lights out. In he darkness, a musical interlude; probably a grotesque sounding march, such as the kind used in vaudeville shows, long enough to allow time for a change of scene.)


Act 1 Scene 2

Beginning notes


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