The Accidental Death of an Anarchist and The Government Inspector

The Accidental Death of an Anarchist and The Government Inspector

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Identity and Insanity in The Accidental Death of an Anarchist and The Government Inspector In the plays "The Accidental Death of an Anarchist" written by Dario Fo, and "The Government Inspector", written by Nikolai Gogol, ‘identity' and ‘insanity' play vital roles. The Maniac, who is the protagonist of "The Accidental Death of An Anarchist", is seen changing his identity throughout the play, pretending to be various other people. Khlestakov, the protagonist of "The Government Inspector" lands in the position of being an inspector by chance, and throughout the play he thoroughly exploits this opportunity by making the most of this particular identity. It is this characteristic of both protagonists that drives the audience to a point where they may start doubting the sanity of these two characters. These two ‘ingredients' of insanity and identity have been blended with perfection and the audiences appreciate both plays, their motives and the impeccable characterization.
Identity is also the set of characteristics that somebody recognizes as belonging uniquely to himself or herself and constituting his or her individual personality for life. The protagonist of "Accidental Death of an Anarchist" is the Maniac. As the name suggests, his character is most often considered to be "insane" by the audience.

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The primary reason for this is that he assumes multiple identities throughout the play. He adapts characteristics of different people in different occupations.
Maniac:" It's more of a hobby, really- playing other people. I'll do anybody!"
At the very beginning of the play the audience is familiarized with the Maniac's "hobby", as he is being interrogated by Bertozzo. The Maniac is perceived as a quick-witted person but also very nosey. His curiosity is what instigates him to take up other identities. When he is in Bertozzo's office and he reads a report that the case of the Anarchist's death is being investigated, he decides to become the judge that everyone is expecting. The audience can relate to his character as we often find ourselves being inquisitive and intuitive to quench our thirst for knowledge.
Dario Fo, however, had an ulterior motive. He was inspired by the Piazza Fontana and the death of Pino Pinelli to write this play. However, the Maniac is the only character who is not derived from one of the people involved in the actual incident. Fo, in an interview, said, "The fool plays the part of the judge, carrying the logic of the authorities to absurd extremes, and discovering that there are inconsistencies." He appears to have created the character of the Maniac to unravel the truth. To facilitate this, he makes the Maniac change his identities. Joseph Farrell, professor of Italian, University of Strathclyde has commented on the character of the Maniac by saying, "He wears the mask of the academic psychiatrist, magistrate, bishop and member of the forensic squad. In himself, he is no one."
Khlestakov, the protagonist of "The Government Inspector", is a charming and appealing character. His charisma influences both men and women into liking him and favoring him. However, he shares a similar position with the Maniac-of pretending to be something that he is not. In the play, he finds himself stranded in a small provincial town and he pretends to be a government inspector whom the local officials were expecting. At first the officials mistook him to be the government inspector.
"Bobchinsky: Yes, Sir, that's him. That's the Official!
Mayor: What official?
Bobchinsky: The Official! The one you received a warning about: The government inspector.
However, as they start to bribe him and treat him as if he were royalty, he decides to play along and make the most of it. He is glad to adapt to his new identity and exploits the situation. He is lured into this false identity by his greed. Even when he is pretending to be the government inspector he is still being greedy.
"Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be"-Kurt Vonnegut.
It can be observed that the Maniac as well as Khlestakov are both paradigms of basic human traits such as greed and curiosity leading to false identity.
Nikolai Gogol, like Fo had a hidden motive behind the changing identity of Khlestakov. He has created the character of Khlestakov to fulfill the purpose of exposing the corrupt nature of local administration. As, the officials thought he was the government inspector they tried to bribe him and the audience was made aware of their deceitful nature. He has chosen to give Khlestakov the false identity of a government inspector so that he can unravel the truth, which was the obvious motive of Dario Fo as well.
Maniac: "Yes, if I were a sane person. But I am mad. I have a certificate."
This dialogue is met with great laughter from the audience. Fo has created the "insane" character of the Maniac to add to the humour of the play. He talks to himself as well as non-living objects around him. His dialogues are blunt and clearly reflect his insanity. At some point his multiple identities is what leads the audience to think he is insane. However, there is a thin line between insanity and wisdom. Some might perceive the Maniac to be crazy and bizarre to be fond of changing his identity at the drop of a hat. Some, however, might think that he has a superior motive for his changing identities and that he is an extremely intelligent and talented individual to be able to adapt to multiple identities with such ease and be so natural at it. Whether it is quick-wittedness or insanity, his character brings the stage alive by its presence and arouses laughter in the audience.
The character of Khlestakov in The Government Inspector is not insane in the same context as the Maniac. He can be considered "insane" for not realizing his limits. He is a young flamboyant character who has no consideration for others. He does not realize the consequences of his acts and sometimes behaves in a certain manner which leads the audience to think he is crazy. For example, when he is dining at the Governor's house with the other officials present, he has a lot to drink and behaves in an appalling manner under the influence of alcohol. He claims to have written great works of literature and also refers to himself as "His Excellency". However, it is his false identity which drives him to "insanity". Greed and power makes him cross the limit while pretending to be the government inspector. Gogol has created this character to stand out amongst others. He owes loyalty to none and has an air about him. His extravagant talks and exaggerated praise of himself add not only to his insanity but also to the humour of the play. Just like Fo, Gogol has succeeded in creating a character which will stay in the minds of the audiences for a long time after they have watched the play.
The plays have both identity and insanity as two of the main elements. This has a double impact on the audiences. Both the playwrights have successfully blended both these elements with great skill and brilliance. In the plays it is the false identity that leads to the insanity, which in turn adds to humour and catalyses the formation of the overall theme of the play. It is our laughter that affects us the most and they have brilliantly used comedy as a medium to urge us to contemplate, to go home after watching the play and mull over the ulterior purpose of the play. The effect that this has on the audience is enduring. Fo once said, "The people does not use the dramatic methods of aristocracy, the one which grabs at heart and guts, but attempts to get there by a violent moment of laughter. Because laughter really does remain at the bottom of the mind, leaving sediment which cannot be wiped off."
The rationale of the plays is deeply embedded in the minds of the audience. They go home thinking about them, intensely influenced by the impressive characterization and the remarkable way in which the playwrights have proposed their intentions and beliefs. Both plays, in my opinion, are extremely successful in terms of receiving the desired audience reaction and establishing the fundamental motives of their plays in the mind of audience.
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