Michael Frayn's Copenhagen Essay

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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
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Therefore the observations the characters make are often blind to one or more facts that they cannot see because they see the same instance differently. This obscuring of one dynamic by focusing on another illustrates the primary concept of Uncertainty as well. Frayn clearly makes the connection between his characters and the science in the following exchange:

Heisenberg: Listen! Copenhagen is an atom. Margrethe is its nucleus. About right, the scale? Ten thousand to one?

Bohr: Yes, yes.

Heisenberg: Now, Bohr’s an electron….I’m a photon. A quantum of light. (68-9)

This exchange connects the characters in the play to a hypothetical situation involving the core components in particle theory. The second method Frayn uses is staging which often reinforces what the dialogue depicts:

The staging of the play reinforces the scientific ideas. In the Broadway and London productions, the stage was round and bare, and the actors' motions around it called to mind the electrons, protons, and neutrons moving in an atom. Some of the audience sat in a tribunal at the back of the stage, watching and "judging" the action in start marble stalls. They were in turn watched by the rest of the audience -- the observers observed. (Lustig and Shepherd – Barr 553)

The staging uses the language and makes it clearer to the audience by providing a different perspective. The audience members in the marble stalls also exemplify Complimentarity because they…

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