Achille Campanile, L'inventore del cavallo (1925)


The very brief, one-act comedy L'inventore del cavallo was performed for the first time on 25th April 1925 at Teatro degli Indipendenti, the most prominent avant-garde theatre of the Fascist period, directed by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia. The action takes place at the Accademia degli Immortali (the Academy of Immortals), where the members celebrate Professor Bolibine for his great achievement, the invention of the horse, for which he receives a prestigious prize. However, after a Minister has given a eulogistic speech, a military parade passes by the Academy, with a cavalry squadron. The group of academics thus realizes that the great invention is nothing but a mystification, because the horse already existed.

Main Principles

  1. The Legitimization of the Artist/Intellectual's Participation in the Public Sphere

  2. The Role of Cosmopolitanism in the Modernization of the Italian Artistic Field

  3. Citizen’s Media Manipulation: Entertainment, Escapism and Consensus


L’inventore del cavallo is one of the first plays written by Achille Campanile, and is illustrative of the main objectives and characteristics of his theatrical production. The play is first of all a satire of academic culture. The Accademia degli Immortali is an illustrious, dusty place, full of eminent, ancient academics, suffering from various disabilities, engaging in useless discourses. The obvious allusion is to academic elites that wallow in their own decrepitness, discussing futile questions devoid of any substance or interest, unable to apply the most elementary principles of logic, and prone to heated disputes. The detachment between erudition and the reality of life is embodied, in particular, by the character of the historian, who knows all the dates but no historical facts, while the inconsistency of literary culture is incarnated by the ‘cursed poet’, who cannot write in rhyme, free verse, nor in poetic prose, and does not even have one poetic idea.

Achille Campanile’s theatrical production shares many similarities with Futurist avant-garde theatre and Futurist art in general, including the predilection for short forms (at times extremely brief, with texts of two or three lines) and the demystifying, satirical purposes, in particular against those expressions of tradition or established culture which Campanile saw as backward and anachronistic. His comedies and the type of humour that he employs also reveal the influence of Ettore Petrolini’s work, not only in terms of social satire, but especially as far as the language is concerned. In Campanile’s plays, as in Petrolini’s, language is constantly shaped by creative, desemantizing processes such as nonsense, puns and wordplays, which become the privileged instruments for the expression of a paradoxical and grotesque humour. Other aspects of Campanile’s theatrical production, like the deterioration of the power of rationality and the loss of points of reference anchored in reality (for instance temporal coordinates), seem to anticipate the later developments of the nouveau théâtre


Bagni, Paolo. 2006. ‘Vertigini dell’imitazione (a proposito delle Tragedie in due battute di Achille Campanile)’. In Linguaggi dell’estetica. 37-44. Florence: Alinea.

Bottoni, Luciano. 1999. Storia del teatro italiano: 1900-1945. Bologna: il Mulino.

Cavallini, Giorgio. 2000. Estro inventivo e tecnica narrativa di Achille Campanile. Rome: Bulzoni.

De Caprio, Caterina. 1990. Achille Campanile e l’alea della scrittura. Naples: Liguori.

Nardi, Florinda. 2007. L’umorismo nel teatro italiano del primo Novecento. Peppino De Filippo e Achille Campanile. Manziana: Vecchiarelli Editore.

Laura Pennacchietti