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Conversation between Dr. Mathilde von Zahnd and the three physicists

Alles zu Friedrich Dürrenmatt  - The Physicists

Conversation between Dr. Mathilde von Zahnd and the three physicists

Stufe 11

The comedy "„Die Physiker"“ by Friedrich Dürrenmatt – published in Diogenes Verlag Vienna/Zurich - is about the responsibility of physicists fort he mankind. The drama first was performed in Zurich in 1962. This was the time there was the crisis because of Cuba a third world war almost resulted in. So, I think, Dürrenmatt wrote this drama to show us, that inventions – especially weapons – might advance science, but also can destroy our world.

The main roles in the play are the three physicists Einstein, Newton and Möbius, who are disturbed and so live in a lunatic asylum. More over there are Dr. h.c. Dr. med. Mathilde von Zahnd, the boss of the asylum and inspector Voß.
The whole story takes place in the salon of the asylum one afternoon.
In the examined scene, the fourth of five scenes in act two, Dr. von Zahnd talks to the three physicists. Before the three patients had told themselves their true identities. However Dr. von Zahnd had bugged this conversation and so she’s informed, too. Using this very important, secret knowledge she could rule the world.

The scene contains five important topics. So you can device it in five parts. In the first part (p. 78-79) Dr. von Zahnd swaps the painting hanging on the wall. The new picture shows her father, a man who liked the deaths of heroes. This is already an interpretation to what happens next. Her sentence that there are some deaths of heroes in the asylum isn’t just about the three nurses having been killed, but also about the three physicists probably having to die. They are heroes, too, because they didn’t want the public to get to know Möbius’ inventions and so the do as if they were crazy.

To get back to the scene, it’s conspicuous, that Dr. von Zahnd suddenly is very rude to the patients. She makes the employees not to give them any caviar or wine. Instead of that she makes them really shout to the three that they’ve to come.
The scene ends with the word `Boss' by on of the employees. This is something which has changed, too. Before the conversation Mathilde von Zahnd bugged, the nurses called her `Doktor'. The word `Boss' shows, that the lunatic asylum now is more like a company than like a asylum. In part one - and the following four parts, too - the language of educated, studied people is used.

In the second part of the scene (p. 79-81) the three physicists first dazed (=benommen) tell what they feel about the night. Then Dr. von Zahnd explains, that their talk has been bugged and so she knows about the true identities. As a result of that the three patients are surprised and shocked. However Newton tries to make fun of the fact, while the others just look at him.

Sure, there are some conspicuous things in connection with the language, too, this time. First, there’s something special about shares (=Anteil) of the conversation. To begin, the three physicists speak very much. When however Dr. von Zahnd tells them, that she is informed about there true identities, she has the biggest share of the talk. This fact shows, that she has more power than the three. The stuttering of them, more over, shows, that they’re really surprised and don’t really know what to say. The employees are very rude to the patients and behave more than if the three physicists were captives.

In the third part (p. 81) of the scene this becomes even clearer. Dr. von Zahnd turns on some great spotlights shining down at the patients. Putting herself on airs (=sich aufspielend) she tells the three her great secret. Although she doesn’t say, that the three physicists have to die, yet, she tells them, that it doesn’t matter, if they know their big secret. This is already an interpretation on what happens next. The ceremonial way she talks to them shows her power and the convictions of her success, too. Another sign of her power is the fact, that this part is a monologue.

Even if the patients say some more words in part four (p. 81-83), there Dr. von Zahnd still has the biggest share of the conversation. She tells them her secret: the Israeli king Salomo has appeared to her. This is what Möbius had claimed all the years before. However Salomo hadn’t really appeared to him. He just had told all the others that lie to make them think he was mad. Dr. von Zahnd, though, really seems to think, that Salomo had appeared to her. When the patients tell her, that she is mad and Möbius denies that Salomo had appeared to him, Frl. Doktor really gets angry. Now her shares of the conversation aren’t as big as before. Her sentences are incomplete; there are some ellipsis.

Just in the fifth part (p. 83-85) of the scene, this situation changes again. The physicists suspect Dr. von Zahnd’s plans. They see that they’ve killed the three nurses for nothing. So they get sad. Dr. von Zahnd quietly and ceremonially leads a monologue. This shows her power again. She’s convinced of her success ruling the world. The scene ends with the world `Boss' again.
This word shows the dramatic turn of the whole play.
Three physicists who seemed to be mad murdering three nurses have become really heroes. The trustful doctor is a cruel despot.
Even if there is a kind of epilogue later, this scene actually is the end of the drama. As in the classic drama usual there is a catastrophe at the end. However it isn’t only the story, which is important about the drama. The play makes the audience think, whether scientists are responsible for the mankind.
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Fachübergreifend Deutsch/Englisch: Es wird die Szene aus "Die Physiker" analysiert, in der sich die Anstaltsleiterin Frl. von Zahnd mit den drei Physikern Einstein, Newton und Möbius unterhält. (986 Wörter)
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