Use of Language: “Accidental Death of an Anarchist”

After reading Dario Fo’s script for “Accidental Death of an Anarchist” we can clearly see that the use of language during the play is quite interesting as they underline certain characteristics of the people in the play, the things that they represent and therefore the whole meaning and comical affect of the play itself.

When looking at his use of language in more detail, we carried out a few diverse tasks to see how and why Fo used the linguistic devices that he did.

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One of our practical tasks was to study an extract from a ‘parallel’ piece of script, “Oooh What a Mess, (The terrible tale of Stephen Lawrence)”. This was created by previous students at Stowupland High School who tried to imitate Fo’s styles for a satirical comic effect. Through studying this we also learnt about what types of language and linguistic devices Fo used in his own plays. For example, there are a couple of occasions in ‘Oooh What a Mess’ when word play is used. For example, Clement mentions the size of a torch and Bullock replies with, ‘Don’t worry Searg, size isn’t everything!’ This verbal humour creates an innuendo which manages to make a mockery of an authority figure which Fo liked to do a lot in his own plays, I also t has a comic effect, which adds to how well it works. Another example is the use of jargon in ‘Oooh what a Mess!’. When talking about a broom, Mansfield says it is a piece of ‘Highly sophisticated technological equipment’.

He uses official language to dress up the broom to make it sound impressive, when it isn’t. We learnt through this that Fo used jargon in ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’ to show that people often try and make things sound better than they actually are to get themselves out of a dilemma and to try to seem more imposing. At the end of ‘Oooh What a Mess’, Clement delivers his lines in a ‘morose and childlike’ way due to his stage directions. This means the language would sound very childish and immature. Fo uses this often and it has the effect of demeaning the characters when necessary. There were also examples of exaggeration, sarcasm, crude language, idiomatic language, verbatim and euphemism statements throughout.

From looking at ‘Oooh What a Mess’ I learnt that Fo uses a wide diversity of linguistic devices to get across messages and convey a satirical effect throughout his plays. By utilizing all of these, his plays are more comical and his views are brought across in a more outstanding and powerful way. The students still also managed to get across the reality of the tragedy that was Stephen Lawrence’s death.

We then went on to create our own devised scripted piece, with a Maniac-style character interviewing a person in authority. We aimed and successfully emulated some of Fo’s linguistic devices for satirical and comic effect.

In ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’, Fo’s broad use of linguistic devices helps to create a unique effect throughout the play with elements of satire and comedy. Fo used ‘attacking’ and defensive language for certain characters, which helped towards the unique style of language on the play as a whole.

Attacking Language –

Puns and Word play

* In his play Fo likes to use word play and puns to express his satirical views and ideas. This is very much verbal humour and Fo loves to use these to create a comic effect. An example of this would be when the Maniac says ‘Mucking? With an m?’ He knows that this could sound uncouth, so he plays on it.

* Another time when Fo used word play, he created a large amount of irony in doing so. This time the Super says ‘Galoshes are a ridiculous garment. An anarchist wouldn’t be seen dead in them!’ The Anarchist did actually die, so this word play creates an ironic atmosphere.

Absurd Non-Sequiturs

* Another linguistic device which Fo uses in this play to create humour is absurd non-sequiturs. He used these so they confuse the police to show the audience that the Maniac is far more intelligent than the policemen are. Fo didn’t agree with how much power some people had due to who they were and what they did, so he uses these devices to baffle the policemen and expose their lack of logic. The Maniac frequently uses non-sequiturs, managing to confuse the Policemen.

* An example of this is when Pissani asked the Superintendent to ‘come here as quickly as possible if he can…’ The Maniac replies with ‘Yes-even if he can’t’. This type of language is used to bewilder the officials and makes the audience laugh at their expense.

Exaggeration and Sarcasm

* Throughout the play we can see that there are many examples of exaggeration and sarcasm. Fo made sure the Maniac used them regularly. This managed to give the Maniac his own distinctive style of language which he could use effectively when attacking other characters.

* For instance when Bertozzo says to the Maniac, who is disguised as a Forensics expert, “Your face looks very familiar…” the Maniac replies in a sarcastic way, “That’ll be because we both have bandaged eyes”. This is seen as being very humorous because of how sarcastic it is.

Defensive language –

Euphemistic Language

* Another linguistic device is euphemistic language, which is used by the policemen to dress up or conceal the truth. One example is when the Constable is talking about the anarchist and says that, “He had fully recovered. He didn’t give a damn about his murdering friend. He was…cheerful” which is in fact was the complete opposite too how the anarchist did act. This is good for this satirical comedy because it’s obvious to the audience that this is indeed a complete lie.

Verbatim statements

* Fo wanted to reveal to the audience what the real truth was, he did this by using verbatim statements, which are is where you quote word for word what someone has stated. An example of these is when the Maniac makes the Super repeat exactly what he said to the anarchist on the night of the ‘accident’. The Super says he said, “I don’t want you mucking me about…” in a very casual, cheerful manner. This makes it very clear to the audience that he wouldn’t have actually said this and that it is just a twisted version of the truth.

Jargon

* Another example of a linguistic device is jargon which is the ‘official’ language the police use to make themselves sound impressive. An example of a jargon statement used is, “deception strategy”, used by the constable when talking the Maniac about the re-writings of events in the second version of the ‘accidental’ death of the anarchist.

Swearing

* At particular points throughout the play the policemen, underneath their fa�ade of ‘sophisticated’, resort to swearing and insults, which are aimed at the Maniac because of their frustration when he cleverly outwits them making them feel inferior. An example of this linguistic device is when the Maniac is threatening to throw himself out of the window and Bertozzo says “Bugger ‘im, I’ll give ‘im a hand…!” This is effective because it demonstrates to the audience that the Maniacs behaviour and attitude towards the police has a very tedious effect on them making them very irritated and angry, which is humorous.

Childish Phraseology

* Childish Phraseology is used in the play to make the Maniac seem to have more authority and power over the policemen. In the play the policemen become very child, like and behave in a way a young child would when the Maniac wittily outsmarts them. An example of this is when Pissani is talking to the Super about the ‘accident’ of the anarchist and says “I only did it because you told me to”, which he says in a very sulkily, childish manner.

It is clear that in the play all the characters have their own distinctive use of language and their own the different use of linguistic devices. All of the policemen try to talk as if they are in fact upper class and have authority over the other characters. They do this by using jargon and euphemisms to make themselves sound impressive. The Maniacs use of language is mostly all linguistic devices, he mostly uses sarcasm to patronize the policemen and belittle them. The character Mrs Felleti however, is very sophisticated and formal when she is speaking, which is shown when she is asking questions. Her use of language is very much contrasts with the other characters, because it is direct and to-the-point. This works well as a counter-balance to the flippant, mischievous language of the Maniac.

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