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A: Friedrich Dürrenmatt Pf: 1962, Zurich Pb: 1962 Tr: 1963 G: Drama in 2 acts; German prose S: Private mental sanatorium, c.1960 C: 16m, 4fPolice are investigating the murder of a nurse by one of the sanatorium patients, who believes himself to be Einstein. A patient calling himself Sir Isaac Newton has also recently strangled a nurse, but he insists that he is not mad, because he is merely pretending to be Newton; in fact, he claims, he is the real Einstein. A third mad physicist, Johann Wilhelm Möbius, believes himself ruled by King Solomon. He is visited by his embarrassed family, but refuses to recognize them. When a nurse tells Möbius that she does not think him mad and believes in his genius, he strangles her tearfully. Once again, the police are powerless to arrest a madman: ‘Justice is on holiday.’ ‘Newton’ now reveals that he is in fact a Western scientist who has been sent to spy on Möbius. ‘Einstein’ explains that he too has simulated madness, in order to win Möbius's discoveries for the East. All have had to kill the nurses who guessed their secret. Newton and Einstein attempt to persuade Möbius to leave with them, the Westerner promising freedom to develop his ideas regardless of where they will lead, the Soviet apologist promising him political power to manipulate the use of his ideas. Möbius refuses, saying that his discoveries must be kept secret, for exploiting them will destroy the world. All three agree to remain incarcerated in their asylum. However, the sanatorium's director Dr Zahnd, who is truly mad, has copied all Möbius's findings. Armed with these, King Solomon will help Zahnd to gain control of the world.

A: Friedrich Dürrenmatt Pf: 1962, Zurich Pb: 1962 Tr: 1963 G: Drama in 2 acts; German prose S: Private mental sanatorium, c.1960 C: 16m, 4f

As in Brecht's Life of Galileo, Dürrenmatt here debates the social responsibility of the scientist. In contrast with Brecht's essentially realistic and historical setting, however, Dürrenmatt concentrates the action into one room and one day, schematically playing with his three figures to reach a deeply pessimistic conclusion: ‘What was once thought can never be unthought.’

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921—1990)


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