"A story is not finished, until it has taken the worst turn."

Friedrich Dürrenmatt (January 5, 1921 – December 14, 1990) was a Swiss author and dramatist. He was a proponent of epic theater whose plays also share some similarities with the "Theater of the Absurd." His work represents a comic response to the essentially tragic nature of modern life, a view that reflected the recent experiences of World War II. His work was significant for the post-war German theater's revival. (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Friedrich_D%C3%BCrrenmatt)


SUMMARY OF THE PLAY:
Dürrenmatt’s other major play is THE PHYSICISTS (1962), set in an insane asylum. In the asylum three patients have voluntarily entered. Two of them claim to be Newton and Einstein while a third says he is King Solomon. It turns out all three are only pretending to be insane. The man who claims to be King Solomon is a nuclear physicist so appalled by the possible misuse of the formula he has discovered. This formula unifies all scientific knowledge and so gives unparalleled destructive power to its possessor. Therefore, he has chosen the disguise of insanity as a method of hiding from the world. The men who claim to be Newton and Einstein are agents of rival superpowers (presumably Russia and the U.S.) and each hopes to bring “King Solomon” over to their side.

They each discover the other is not mad but then suspect their nurses share this knowledge. They murder the nurses and therefore need to stay secluded in the asylum for the rest of their lives, because only their insanity can excuse them of their murders but it then turns out that the woman running the asylum, Fraulein von Zahnd, has stolen the formula and transfers it to a power that seeks to control the world. The scientists realize she is actually mad and that they are trapped in an insane asylum run by a madwoman. The play ends on that bleak note with, presumably, a totalitarian power now in control of the world.

The play is a comic-grotesque parable about the modern world ruled by madmen. They offer no solutions to the moral questions they pose. These plays also belong to a modern tradition of the theatre of rationalism.

KEY CONCEPTS
  1. Epic theatre assumes that the purpose of a play, more than entertainment or the imitation of reality, is to present ideas and invite the audience to make judgments on them. Characters are not intended to mimic real people, as in the realistic theater tradition it preceded, but to represent opposing sides of an argument, archetypes, or stereotypes. The audience should always be aware that it is watching a play, and should remain at an emotional distance from the action. (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Friedrich_D%C3%BCrrenmatt)
  2. satire:
  3. grotesque comedy:

PHYSICALISING