Tragedy In Dedham


It was not a conspiracy of evil men against noble men, as Maxwell Anderson saw it in his theatrical Gods of the Lightning . There was something more, something deeper and more embracing than all the literature about the case. It was in fact fate that was the mover behind the events at the Dedham Courthouse in the spring of 1921. And it was fate in the ironic Greek sense, dwarfing all the participants, ending in inexorable disaster.

Sacco and Vanzetti were figures of Greek tragedy, the doomed king’s son become in modern dress two Italian workmen. Fate lurks behind them at each step. Sacco, the regular worker, never misses a day at the factory except that one day of the murder when he goes to Boston for a visa to return to Italy. If he had picked any other day, the factory time clock would have been his alibi. Without him it is agreed Vanzetti could not have been convicted. But on that one day fate sent him to Boston. Fate gave him his singular resemblance to Joe Morelli. Fate engineered the almost accidental arrest of the two men as they were riding on the Brockton streetcar. But for fate Sacco would have been off to his native country in two weeks.

And as in Greek tragedy the hero condemns himself unknowingly in his own words, is doomed by his own inner weakness, so in the end are Sacco and Vanzetti doomed by theirs. The men of peace go armed. Fate plus human weakness—that is the basis of high tragedy, a tragedy such as theirs that they played out to the end with bravery and dignity. It was a tragedy for everyone concerned with the case, and in the end it is best accepted so, as it was by the Greeks.