The play recounts the political history during the 1970s. The anarchist is someone who disrupts or refutes society. It is based on the history of Salsedo, an Italian immigrant in New York who was arrested and then threw himself from a window on the fourteenth floor of the police headquarters. There was an inquest to discover if it was suicide or if he was assassinated.
In the play, the anarchist is Pinelli who was arrested after a bomb exploded in Milan during the Calabrian procession ‘Lotta continua.’
Throughout the courtroom scenes, Fo tries to discover the truth behind the event. He does so in a comical manner and represents the police as idiots and shows comedy through irony, such as the evidence of three scarves found on the body. It is implied that the police are fools and a debate begins to try and find out where these scarves came from. All the evidence that is provided is done so through comic measures in order to demonstrate the futility and falsity of the political system and the crimes of the state. Also, the use of newspaper reports highlights the external world looking in on the events. Fo’s use of irony and the comic is done so to exacerbate the extreme political tension that was present at the time. He wanted to demonstrate the facts without being overtly political but wanted to involve the theatre within the political frame. The play changes the way in which people view justice. During the course of the case, the leftist papers accuse the police and produce contrary information through a series of lies from the state.
The humour of the play becomes increasingly more intense from the outset, which assists in destroying the credibility of the police; at the end of the first act we see them singing the nationalist song ‘bandiera rossa’ an event, which would never really happen. Also, the man with the wooden leg and the glass eye is seen as not being a real man but appears to be more like a puppet or a maniac who constantly changes his personality. Fo does this to show the demystification of man and pinpoints the falseness of people that take part in the inquest.
At the end of the play, it is decided that Pinelli was not assassinated and the papers are sued. Fo’s impetus in writing the play is in order to show how the world can and must change. In Fo’s world, he knows that it is necessary to progress with the development and improvement of class struggles.