Essay on Michael Frayn's Copenhagen

Essay on Michael Frayn's Copenhagen

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Michael Frayn's Copenhagen


“Our children and our children’s children. Preserved, just possibly, by that one short moment in Copenhagen. By some event that will never quite be located or defined. By that final core of uncertainty at the heart of things.” (Frayn 94)

The final line of Michael Frayn's Copenhagen suggests an approach to reading the entire work that looks at the inseparable scientific and dramatic elements of the play. Heisenberg says that no one will ever fully understand the meeting in Copenhagen between himself and Bohr in 1941; Uncertainty forever preserves the moment. Therefore, it is Uncertainty that must guide the reading of the play. Understanding the basic principle of Uncertainty is necessary in understanding how Frayn uses it dramatically. Uncertainty states that when describing the state of an atomic particle, the more accurately you describe its position, the less accurately you can describe its velocity and vice versa (134). This means any observation of a particle will never fully describe it and that a certain amount of mystery will always exist. Demonstrating how Frayn uses scientific principles to construct his play, and then more closely how he uses Uncertainty to construct Heisenberg, demands a careful analysis of how the play functions, how Uncertainty connects to the drama (primarily through Heisenberg) and how this ultimately allows us to explore the moral implications of Copenhagen.

Frayn makes the connection between the drama and science in two ways. The primary method he uses is language. Characters’ observations about one another are integral in illustrating the properties of Complimentarity and Relativism. Complimentarity works in the play by saying an observ...


... middle of paper ...


...n takes over once the individual processes all the information. The “Uncertainty at the heart of things” is that everyone perceives the same information differently based on individual perspectives (whether they are a physicist or an audience member like Margrethe). Although there is something poetic and beautiful about Heisenberg’s last sentiments about Uncertainty preserving the instance in time, Frayn compels us to use our imaginations by providing as much information as possible and allowing us to reach our own individual conclusions.

Works Cited

Dasenbrock, Reed Way. Copenhagen: The Drama of History. Contemporary Literature, 2004 Summer; 45 (2): 218-28.

Frayn, Michael. Copenhagen. Anchor Books, Random House, New York 2000

Lustig, Harry; Shepherd-Barr, Kirsten. Science as Theater. American Scientist Nov/Dec2002, Vol. 90 Issue 6, p550, 6p, 3c, 1bw

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