Authors: Dario Fo

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Italian playwright

Author Works


Poer nano, pr. 1951 (radio play), pr. 1952 (staged)

Il dito nell’occhio, pr. 1953 (with Franco Parenti and Giustino Durano)

I sani da legare, pr. 1954 (with Parenti and Durano)

Ladri, manichini, e donne nude, pr. 1958 (includes L’uomo nudo e l’uomo in frack [One Was Nude and the Other Wore Tails, 1985], I cadaveri si spediscono le donne si spogliano, Gli imbianchini non hanno ricordi, and Non tutti i ladri vegono per nuocere [The Virtuous Burglars, 1992])

Comica finale, pr. 1959 (includes Quando sarai povero sarai re, La Marcolfa, Un morto da vendere, and I tre bravi)

Gli arcangeli non giocano a flipper, pr. 1959 (Archangels Don’t Play Pinball, 1987)

Aveva due pistole con gli occhi bianchi e neri, pr., pb. 1960

Chi ruba un piede è fortunato in amore, pr., pb. 1961

Isabella, tre caravelle e un cacciaballe, pr., pb. 1963

Settimo: Ruba un po’meno, pr., pb. 1964

La colpa è sempre del diavolo, pr., pb. 1965

La signora è da buttare, pr., pb. 1967

Grande pantomima con bandiere e pupazzi piccoli e medi, pr. 1968

La fine del mondo, pr. 1969

Mistero buffo: Giullarata popolare, pr. 1969 (Mistero Buffo: Comic Mysteries, 1983)

Legami pure che tanto spacco tutto lo stesso, pr. 1969 (includes Il telaio and Il funerale del padrone)

L’operaio conosce trecento parole, il padrone mille: Per questo lui è il padrone, pr. 1969 (The Worker Knows Three Hundred Words, the Boss Knows a Thousand: That’s Why He’s the Boss, 1983)

Morte accidentale di un anarchico, pr., pb. 1970 (Accidental Death of an Anarchist, 1979)

Vorrei morire anche stasera se dovessi pensare che non è servito a niente, pr., pb. 1970

Tutti uniti! Tutti insieme! Mascusa, quello non è il padrone?, pr., pb. 1971

Fedayn, pr., pb. 1972

Oridine per DIO.000.000!, pr., pb. 1972

Pum, pum! Chi è? La Polizia!, pb. 1972

Guerra di popolo in Cile, pr., pb. 1973

Le commedie di Dario Fo, pb. 1974-1998 (13 volumes)

Non si paga! Non si paga!, pr., pb. 1974 (We Can’t Pay! We Won’t Pay!, 1978)

Il Fanfani rapito, pr., pb. 1975

La giullarata, pb. 1975

La marijuana della mama è la più bella, pr., pb. 1976

Parliamo di donne, pr. 1977 (with Franca Rame; televised)

Tutta casa, letto e chiesa, pr., pb. 1978 (with Franca Rame; adapted as Female Parts, 1981; also known as Orgasmo Adulto Escapes from the Zoo)

La storia della tigre, pr. 1978 (The Tale of a Tiger, 1984)

La storia di un soldato, pr. 1978 (libretto by C. F. Ramuz; adaptation of Igor Stravinsky’s opera The Soldier’s Tale)

La tragedia di Aldo Moro, pr. 1979

Clacson, trombette e pernacchi, pr. 1981 (Trumpets and Raspberries, 1981; also known as About Face, 1983)

L’opera dello sghignazzo, pr. 1981 (music by Kurt Weill; adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s play The Threepenny Opera and John Gay’s play The Beggar’s Opera)

Il fabulazzo osceno, pr., pb. 1982

Patapumfete, pr., pb. 1982

Coppia aperta, quasi spalancata, pr. 1983 (with Rame; An Open Couple–Very Open, 1985)

Elisabetta: Quasi per caso una donna, pr. 1984 (Almost by Chance a Woman, Elizabeth, 1987)

Dio li fa e poi li accoppa, pb. 1986

Hellequin, Arlekin, Arlecchino, pr. 1986

Il ratto della Francesca, pr., pb. 1986

Parti femminili, pr. 1987 (with Rame; includes revised version of Coppia aperta [An Open Couple, 1990] and Una giornata qualunque [An Ordinary Day, 1990])

Papa e la strega, pr. 1989 (The Pope and the Witch, 1992)

Zitti! Stiamo precipitando!, pr. 1990

Johan Padan a la descoverta de le Americhe, pb. 1992 (Johan Padan and the Discovery of the Americas, 2001)

Plays, pb. 1992-1994 (2 volumes)

Dario Fo incontra Ruzzante, pr. 1993, revised pr. 1995 as Dario Fo recita Ruzzante

Mamma! I Sanculotti!, pr. 1993

Sesso? Grazie, tanto per gradire, pr. 1994 (with Rame)

Il diavolo con le zinne, pr. 1997, pb. 1998 (The Devil in Drag, 1999)

We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay!, and Other Plays, pb. 2001


Lo Svitato, 1956


Ballate e canzoni, 1974


Manuale minimo dell’attore, 1987 (The Tricks of the Trade, 1991)


An internationally acclaimed and widely produced political playwright, Dario Fo was born in the small town of San Giano on the shore of Lake Maggiore, Lombardy, in 1926. An outspoken but not doctrinaire Marxist, Fo has often created his dramatic works on the spur of the moment, to be used in specific political situations.{$I[AN]9810001130}{$I[A]Fo, Dario}{$I[geo]ITALY;Fo, Dario}{$I[tim]1926;Fo, Dario}

Fo’s father was a railway worker and ardent antifascist. Fo was reared in a rural environment where he learned to appreciate both the traditional peasant culture of his mother and the political fight against fascism. Much of Fo’s childhood was spent listening to the traditional storytellers who could still be found in the remote areas of Lombardy. By the time he was in his teens, he had internalized a vast repertoire of traditional folk narratives. Following a brief time in the army, Fo studied architecture in Milan. Strongly attracted to the theater, however, he dropped out to become first a scene designer and then a performer.

Fo started writing plays at the age of eighteen, yet it was not until 1950 that his professional career began. He had performed for friends and fellow students with success and approached the then famous actor Franco Parenti, hoping to be invited to participate in a stage show Parenti was organizing. Parenti accepted, and a collaboration began that lasted four years. The Italian state radio invited him to do his own comical one-man show, Poer nano (poor dwarf), and in 1952 Fo and his “poor dwarf” took to the stage. Soon after, Fo, Parenti, and the actor Giustino Durano produced the famous revue Il dito nell’ occhio (a finger in the eye). Fo, arguably the most gifted actor-clown of his day, has throughout his career worked as an all-around theater man, writing plays and songs, directing, creating sets, and acting.

After a brief interlude in Rome, where he worked as a screenwriter, there followed years when Dario Fo wrote and starred with his wife, actress Franca Rame, who came from a popular theatrical touring family. Together, they embarked on a series of successful farces. Although they all included some social satire, these works are now known as his “bourgeois” comedies. The first was Ladri, manichini, e donne nude (thieves, dummies, and naked women), and six more followed in rapid succession. Then came the political turmoil of 1968, and Fo decided that the time had come for him to change from “the jester for the bourgeoisie” to “the jester for the proletariat.” When he decided to become the people’s court jester, Fo left the established theater behind and began a theatrical odyssey, touring Italy and, eventually, the rest of Europe.

Since the ingenious “clown-show” La signora è da buttare (throw the lady out), Fo’s plays have had a raw, uncompromising edge. The “lady” to be thrown out is American capitalism and imperialism. The play was produced when the Vietnam War was at its height, and Fo’s criticism of the United States is stinging. In the late 1960’s, Fo began working on what many consider his best play, the original and hysterically funny monologue Mistero buffo (comic mystery). With this work, he returns to his roots and takes his theater back to the people who created it. He builds the play around a series of medieval texts performed by the so-called giullari, wandering minstrels and comics who performed for the poor, satirizing the overlords and those in power. Fo dug the texts out of old documents and used them to demonstrate the historical and necessary opposition between poor and rich, between those inside and those outside the power structure. The medieval texts are juxtaposed with new texts, featuring conflicts between modern-day workers and bosses.

Fo and Rame have been in and out of favor in their native Italy. When the Left has been in political favor, they have been given positive media attention, but when the Christian Democrats reign the couple is criticized. Outside Italy, however, their fame has grown. Fo has performed his Mistero buffo all over the world, except in the United States, where lingering McCarthyism kept the couple from gaining acceptance. In 1970, Fo and Rame founded another theater dedicated to political issues of the time. An important and later internationally known play presented there was Accidental Death of an Anarchist, which satirizes police injustice. His international reputation was solidified by his being awarded the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Dario Fo’s plays, which are haphazardly thrown together for special occasions, are often so well constructed and powerful that they withstand the test of time. Perhaps the reason for Fo’s success is to be found in his background, in his early immersion in folklore. Indeed, he has contributed to the creation of a modern folklore with a certain universality and durability that many “literary” works lack.

BibliographyBehan, Tom. Dario Fo: Revolutionary Theatre. Sterling, Va.: Pluto Press, 2000. Analysis and criticism of Fo’s theatrical works. Bibliography and index.Cairns, Christopher, ed. The Commedia dell’arte from the Renaissance to Dario Fo. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1988. A useful reference. Essays by Joseph Farrell, Ed Emery, and Stuart Hood lucidly discuss, respectively, Fo’s use of a medieval minstrel figure (giullare) and commedia clown figure (zanni), a commedia-influenced Fo play, and translation and editing problems with Fo’s work.Farrell, Joseph. Dario Fo and Franca Rame: Harlequins of the Revolution. London: Methuen, 2001. An examination of the collaboration between Fo and Rame, with emphasis on their political activities. Bibliography and index.Farrell, Joseph, and Antonio Scuderi, eds. Dario Fo: Stage, Text, and Tradition. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000. Contains a comprehensive introduction and eleven well-selected essays treating the man and his work by respected Fo scholars. Particularly interesting are Bent Holm’s discussion of Fo’s plays and performances from 1957 to 1967, Walter Valeri’s view of Fo as actor-playwright, and Antonio Scuderi’s insight into Fo’s use of adapting principles and techniques of ancient and medieval Italian comedy to a contemporary context. Includes photographs of Fo, three of his sketches, and an informative index.Jenkins, Ronald Scott. Dario Fo and Franca Rame: Artful Laughter. New York: Aperture, 2001. A look at Fo and Rame as dramatists and the state of theater during the twentieth century in Italy. Bibliography.Kushner, Tony. “Fo’s Last Laugh–I.” The Nation 265, no. 14 (November 3, 1997): 4-5. Kushner rejects Vatican disdain for Fo as a Nobel Prize winner, finds Fo most worthy of the Nobel award, and praises his life of courageous political activism. Fo’s stature as a performer, researcher, and playwright is specially admired.Mitchell, Tony. Dario Fo: People’s Court Jester. 2d rev. and extended ed. New York: Methuen, 1999. An examination of Fo’s drama with emphasis on his political views. Contains a stage history, bibliography, and index.
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