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Fo: Banquet Speech

Fo: Banquet Speech

Fo’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, 10 December 1997
(Translated by Paul Claesson)

Even though I don’t hold a glass in my hand, I’d like to raise a toast to a great Queen, a Queen of your past: Kristina.

Kristina arrived in Italy in the late 17th century. As someone already mentioned, she came to Rome and there, obviously, she got to know the Pope, Alexander VII. He was a man seeking to restore the city’s ruined cultural fabric. The reaction to the Counter-Reformation had peaked a few years earlier. Alexander sought the return to Italy of the men of the theatre that had been driven away by the Counter-Reformation, and through his efforts Queen Kristina became acquainted with Italy’s greatest comedians, as they returned to their homeland.

She already loved the theatre; through these actors she became enthralled with it. During a visit to France, she got to know Molière, with whom she began a correspondence on her return to Italy. At one point Molière sent her one of his comedies, Tartuffe. It was only a draft.

Kristina asked Molière if she could stage it in Italy, and got the consent of the Pope. The Pope, who had a great sense of humour, said: “What are you trying to do, ruin my reputation with this comedy? These . . . the cardinals will fire me."

But Molière couldn’t give the play to Kristina because the King wanted it for himself.

This play, Tartuffe, was played for the first time . . . it wasn’t completed yet. It was a vicious comedy that with great irony took to task the hypocrisy of the day, in particular the hypocrisy of the Catholics and especially as it expressed itself within the family.

It led to a disaster. It was censured. It was banned for three years in a row. It was played again for a while and then was again banned for several years.

It may be safe to assume that if Molière had given in to Kristina, and had she arranged for it to be played in Rome, no one would have dared to censure it. Kristina enjoyed the protection of the Pope, and who could touch the Pope?

So, I beg You, Queen, and you Princesses that are here this evening: if you love the theatre, give it your support, as Kristina did.

I know . . .? Did you tell your joke? Eh? You’ve stolen my punch line! Not yet, not yet? All the better, all the better!

As I was saying, when the theatre is ironic, grotesque, it’s above all then that you have to defend it, because the theatre that makes people laugh is the theatre of human reason.

And if you have any problems, seek the support of the Pope. You will no doubt succeed.

Here’s to Kristina!

[© The Nobel Foundation, 1997. Dario Fo is the sole author of his speech.]

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