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Study question: Michael Frayn's Copenhagen

These questions should be posted in the WOK Study Questions folder for Frayn's Copenhagen





For the first set of questions, let us establish what actually happens in the play. Please answer all of these questions in full sentences but keep the answers concise.

1. We find out some background information (exposition) in the first few pages of the play. Using quotes where helpful as support for your answers, please describe by answering the following questions, what we discover.

(up to page 12 where Heisenberg describes his visit.: "I crunch over the familiar gravel…" Other information (exposition does come out over the course of the play, but this part gives us some essential setup information.)

1. Why are these three characters assembling and when?

2. What information do we find out about Heisenberg in the first few pages?

3. What was the relationship between Bohr, Margrethe, and Heisenberg in the 20's?

4 .What is Heisenberg’g home country? Bohr’s? Why is Bohr personally threatened by the Nazi regime?

5. What happened to the Bohr's eldest son, Christian?

As the play goes on, Heisenberg is shown in his visit to the Bohr's home. Answer the following questions about what happens:

6. Relations seem strained between Bohr and Heisenberg in their 1941 meeting initially. Why do you suppose that is so?

7. Why do Bohr and Heisenberg 'go for a walk' rather than stay in Bohr's home?

8. There are references to the way in which Heisenberg skis. What type of skier is he? Is that reflected in his life and/or work? What kind of skier is Bohr? Does that say anything about him?

9. Why did the walk they took end so abruptly?

10. There are references to the first walk Bohr and Heisenberg took to Elsinore (the castle where Hamlet is set). Can you make any sense of what those references are used for?

11. What is the problem with using uranium (U238) for fission?

12. Heisenberg claims he is heading the reactor program in Germany for a good reason. What is it?

13. Bohr thinks Heisenberg is visiting to find out specific knowledge. What is it Bohr thinks Heisenberg wants to know?

14. References are made to Bohr’s theory of "complementarity" (pages 69-70 and 77-78) and Heisenberg’s theory of "uncertainty." (Pages 66-68). Can you explain in your own words what you think they mean as they describe them? (you need not be a scientist to get the implication of these theories- audiences had no more knowledge than you are given within the play.)

15. When World War II ended, Heisenberg and other German scientists were brought to a secluded place in Britain in Farm Hall. What did they find out when they were there?

15. Who does Heisenberg see as the true villain in this series of events and why?

16. At the end of the play why does Heisenberg assume he miscalculated the amount of 235 needed to produce the bomb?

18. How was Bohr helped in his escape from Copenhagen by his association with Heisenberg?

19. At the end of the play have we found out the 'truth' about why Heisenberg visited Bohr?

20. What do we 'know' at the end? anything? If so, what? If not, what impression are we left with? Why is memory a "curious diary"?

21. Look at the picture of the set on the cover of your edition of the play. Does it suggest any metaphor about the play or any ideas about what Frayn hopes you will see? (There is no right or wrong answer here.)