MILAN (Reuters) - Veteran Italian actress Franca Rame, wife and muse of Nobel prize winning playwright Dario Fo, died on Wednesday aged 84, the couple's theatre company said.
Throughout a career spanning more than half a century, Rame and Fo captured the hearts and minds of many Italians with their irreverent, piercing political satire performed for stage, radio and television.
Rame, who suffered a stroke last year, helped with the writing of many of Fo's plays and was his leading lady. The two were married in 1954. The cause of her death was not made public.
Born into a family with long-standing ties to theatre, Rame was just eight days old when she made her debut on stage in the arms of her mother.
Fo and Rame's most famous play, the controversial "Accidental Death of an Anarchist", challenged Italy's 1970 establishment by openly accusing the police of throwing anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli out of a police station's fourth-floor window and then claiming he committed suicide.
In another play, "Mistero Buffo", the pair retold the Gospels through a series of farces, an impertinence criticized by the Vatican.
A feminist and left-wing political activist, Rame was the victim of a brutal gang-rape in 1973 that Fo alleged was an attempt by fascist militants to humiliate him.
Fo won the 1997 Nobel Prize in literature and was praised by the Swedish academy as a writer "who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden." He dedicated the prize to his wife.
Rame was elected as a senator in Italy's upper house in 2006, but resigned two years later in disagreement with the policies of the then centre-left government.
Reporting By Silvia Aloisi and Ilaria Polleschi; editing by Mark Heinrich