Accidental Death of an Anarchist

Accidental Death of an Anarchist Summary and Analysis of Act Two, Part 2


The play gears up for its climax with the reappearance of Bertozzo, wearing a bandage over one eye. He has come to deliver a metal box containing a copy of the bomb that exploded in the bank. The Maniac introduces himself as Captain Mark Weeny, but Bertozzo is acquainted with the real Weeny and knows the Maniac is lying about his identity. The Superintendent and the Inspector both kick Bertozzo and tell him he doesn't know Weeny; the Maniac kicks him and smacks his head. The three men continue to kick and slap Bertozzo, and each other, trying to get him to understand that the Maniac (whom they believe to be a judge) is only pretending to be Mark Weeny to fool the Journalist

Upon hearing that Bertozzo is an explosives expert, the Journalist asks him why the policemen blew up a bomb that was found rather than disconnecting it and having forensics test it, as doing so would have given them an additional piece of evidence. The Maniac, in his role as Head of Forensic, explains that the bomb is so complicated it would be easy to hide a second timing device inside of it with a delayed action, and that by the time they dismantled the bomb it could have gone off and killed more people. The Journalist is convinced and the Inspector shakes the Maniac's wooden hand, which comes off. 

Bertozzo agrees that the real bomb was very complex - professional and probably military - and the three men, sensing what the Journalist will infer, kick him. The Journalist asks why the policemen went after a disorganized group of anarchists even though the bombs used required professional and probably military expertise. She also points out that at least two of the ten members of the anarchist group were working for the police as informants, with one a known fascist. The Superintendent argues that such spies are essential to their preparedness and says they have undercover agents pretty much everywhere, even in tonight's audience. He claps his hands, and voices call out from various points in the auditorium. The Maniac tells the audience not to be alarmed and that the voices belong to drama students, since the real undercover agents are taught to keep quiet. 

The Journalist asks how, if informants were keeping the anarchist group under such close scrutiny, the members would have been able to pull off such a complex bombing operation. The Superintendent says their undercover agent wasn't with the group in the days prior to the bombing and denies that the fascist informer had any connection with the police, claiming ignorance when the Journalist points out he had a parking space at Police Headquarters. The Maniac commends the Superintendent for his stonewalling, the Superintendent shakes his hand, and the Maniac's wooden hand falls off again; he replaces it with a woman's hand. The Journalist continues, noting that of 173 bomb attacks to date, 102 have been caused by fascists, with half of the remainder likely the work of fascists as well. Nearly all were made to implicate leftist organizations. The Maniac says he supposes the Journalist would argue that the police should have concentrated on pursuing fascist and paramilitary organizations rather than anarchists. The Superintendent expects the Maniac to come up with a brilliant comeback, but instead the Maniac agrees that yes, they could have uncovered a lot of dirt that way. 

The Superintendent says the Maniac has gone mad, and Bertozzo realizes the man's true identity. He tries to tell the Superintendent and the Inspector, who think he finally realized the Maniac is really a judge. Bertozzo rips off the Maniac's eyepatch in an attempt to reveal the fraud, but nobody understands.

Meanwhile, the Maniac and the Journalist discuss scandals. The Maniac explains how scandals make the public think that the authorities are doing something, but that in reality, nothing changes. The people want a revolution, but the authorities give them only reforms, or the promise of reforms. 

Bertozzo continues his quest to reveal the Maniac's identity, pointing out that his false leg is strapped on at the thigh. The other three policemen drag him off, saying he's wanted on the telephone, and tell him they have to keep the fact that the inquiry has been reopened a secret. Bertozzo is confused. The Superintendent hits him on the knuckles with the phone and tells him to call somebody. 

The Maniac, in the meantime, says he has revealed his actual identity to the Journalist: a bishop. Bertozzo expresses his exasperation, and the Inspector wedges a large rubber stamp in Bertozzo's mouth. The Maniac puts on a red skullcap, reveals a crucifix under his jacket, and dons a large ring with a purple stone. Everyone kisses the ring except Bertozzo, who refuses. The Inspector and the constable stick plaster on his mouth until half of his face is covered. The Maniac opens a prayer book and takes out a syringe, which he injects into Bertozzo; he then uses the rest on the Superintendent. As he and the journalist speak about bishops and scandals, Bertozzo picks up the portrait of the Queen hanging on the wall, writes on the back that the Maniac is a clinically deluded madman, and holds it up for the others to see. The Inspector tears the picture up and the Superintendent chastises the Inspector for destroying a royal portrait. 

The Maniac continues to talk about scandals, arguing that they allow the public to vent their outrage without actually changing the system. Bertozzo, fed up, whips out a gun and threatens to shoot. He instructs the constable to handcuff the others to a horizontal bar at the back of the stage, then instructs the Maniac to tell the others who he really is. The Maniac brings out his files so that everyone will believe him; they read and are outraged. The Maniac then takes out the bomb that Bertozzo had left on the table. He instructs Bertozzo to drop the gun or he'll put his finger on the detonator and they'll all blow up. Bertozzo drops both the gun and the keys. The Maniac reveals a tape recorder featuring all of their conversations, which he plans to copy and distribute to political entities and the media to cause a great scandal. 

Suddenly the lights go out and the bomb explodes in the courtyard below. When the lights come back on, the Maniac is gone. Since the door is locked, they realize he must have left through the window. The Journalist slips her hand out of the handcuff and looks out the window; we can infer the Maniac has fallen to his death. She asks the Superintendent to make a statement. He begins, "Well, I had just left the room..." (86), but the journalist reminds him he was handcuffed here. The inspector points out that none of them had anything to do with the Maniac jumping, and the journalist says she may have to rethink her position about the anarchist's death. She leaves and the policemen take keys out of their pockets and unlock their handcuffs. 

There is a knock on the door and the actor who played the Maniac enters the room, sporting a bushy black beard and a big belly. The policemen surround him, thinking he is the Maniac in another disguise; however, it turns out he is the actual High Court Judge, there to reopen the inquiry into the death of the anarchist. 


With the reappearance of Bertozzo, the momentum increases as the play approaches its climax. Bertozzo's goal to reveal the Maniac's identity is in direct opposition to the others' goals, leading each to act in more and more frantic ways. Each character interprets the Maniac's disguise differently, with only the audience - and the Maniac - comprehending the full truth of his identity and his multiple personas.

This segment of the play has a lot of knockabout violence and humor, with the policemen kicking, slapping, and gagging Bertozzo to keep him quiet. Aside from the obvious comic value, these actions represent the way in which bureaucrats assault the truth in order to maintain their power. The violence also reminds the audience that the anarchist was likely physically abused during his 72-hour detainment and interrogation. 

The Maniac's disguise, once again, is symbolic. His wooden hand comes off twice, when shaken by the Inspector and then the Superintendent; this may symbolize the fact that they are eager to embrace a falsehood (the hand) if it benefits them, yet such falsehoods easily come undone. The second time, the Maniac switches the wooden male hand for a woman's hand, perhaps symbolizing the way in which falsehoods can so easily be procured and substituted for one another if one doesn't serve its purpose. Just as the woman's hand clearly doesn't fit on a man, however, falsehoods can be seen for what they are if we look carefully enough. 

The discussion of undercover agents is more fully developed in this section as the Superintendent reveals that they have a few of their people planted in the audience. In so doing, Fo plays upon the fear created by the government's "strategy of tension" and the thought that informants really could be anywhere. At the same time, he makes use of the alienation effect by having the Maniac address the audience directly, saying, "Don't be alarmed, they're drama students. The real undercover ones are trained to sit quietly" (70). In so doing he destroys the fourth wall, that invisible barrier between actors and audience, and reminds the audience that they are watching a play. As such, their job is to think critically about the issues the play raises, rather than getting lost in the story that is being enacted on the stage. 

Fo presents several pieces of counter-information in this part of the act: the fact that the bomb was so complex as to have been the work of professionals such as paramilitary organizations rather than disorganized anarchists, and the fact that the majority of bombings have been proven to be the work of fascists but blamed on far-left groups. As the facts implicate the government in the conspiracy, the play expands from commenting upon a single incident to making a statement about a much larger issue. The Piazza Fontana bombing, he implies, was part of the government's "strategy of tension," with the anarchist - and perhaps even the police - merely an unfortunate pawn.

The Maniac speaks passionately about scandals, contributing to a common debate in Italy in the 1970s between reform and revolution. Scandals, the Maniac explains, raise the public's opinions of the ruling establishment, for they lead to reforms (or the promise of reforms) that make the public think things are getting better without any real change taking place. Fo was a strong advocate of revolution, and he expressed his own views eloquently through the character of the Maniac. The list of scandals the Maniac uses to make his point changes based on the time and place of the performance, again reflecting Fo's belief that the play should be modified to speak to its audiences. 

As the play nears its climax, the Maniac makes one more character change, this time impersonating a bishop. His choice of disguise allows Fo to include the church in his satire of institutions and suggests that the church, too, is the source of many lies. 

There are several variations of endings for the play. This translation adopts the ending used in the original Italian version; afterwards, the "real" judge would sit down and have a discussion directly with the audience. It is ironic that the Maniac's surprise exit out the window leads the Journalist to rethink her opinion about the policemen's role in the anarchist's death; he succeeds at revealing the truth only to show, once again, how easily it can be manipulated. The ending implies that even if there were another inquiry into the anarchist's death, nothing would change; inquiries may cause scandals, but they don't change the system. In a later version, this point is reinforced with the Maniac's ending line: "The main thing is there'll be a thumping good scandal. So we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder in our social democracy and say, 'We are in the shit up to our necks, which is why we're walking with our heads held high.' (85)

In another variation, Fo offers two alternative endings and asks the audience to choose which they prefer: either the Journalist escapes and leaves the four policemen handcuffed and awaiting a ticking bomb, or she feels sorry for the men, uncuffs them, gets double-crossed and handcuffed herself, and is left to die. Which will prevail, this ending asks, truth or corruption?