In 1941 the German physicist Werner Heisenberg made a clandestine trip to Copenhagen to see his Danish counterpart and friend Niels Bohr.

Play Title: Copenhagen

Author(s): Michael Frayn

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Samuel French, Anchor Books: Random House

Publication Date: 1997

Genre: Drama

Primary Discipline: Physics

Secondary Discipline: Quantum Mechanics

Scientist(s): Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg

Source Texts:

Thomas Powers, Heisenberg’s War (Cape, 1993)

David Cassidy, Uncertainty: The Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg (Freedman, 1992)

Abraham Pais, Niels Bohr’s Times (OUP, 1991)

Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Beyond (Harper & Row, 1971)

In German, Der Tell und das Ganze. His memoirs

Operation Epsilon, the Farm Hall Transcripts, introduced by Sir Charles Frank. (Institute of Physics Publishing, 1993)

Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy (Penguin, 1958)

Niels Bohr, The Philosophical Writings of Niels Bohr (Oxbow Press, 1987)

Elizabeth Heisenberg, Inner Exile (Birkhauser, 1984)

David Irving, The Virus House (Collins, 1967).

Character Breakdown: 2 men, 1 woman

Margrethe Nørlund Bohr, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg

Setting: Home of Niels and Margrethe Nørlund Bohr, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1941

Time Period: 1941, present day

Synopsis of Play: In 1941 the German physicist Werner Heisenberg made a clandestine trip to Copenhagen to see his Danish counterpart and friend Niels Bohr. Their work together on quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle had revolutionized atomic physics. But now the world had changed and the two men were on opposite sides in a world war. Why Heisenberg went to Copenhagen and what he wanted to say to Bohr are questions that have vexed historians ever since. In Michael Frayn’s ambitious, fiercely intelligent, and daring new play Heisenberg and Bohr meet once again to discuss the intricacies of physics and to ponder the metaphysical—the very essence of human motivation. – Random House (Publishing Company)

First Performance Date: May 21, 1998

First Producer: Cottesloe Theatre, Royal National Theatre

Performance History:

  • London Premiere [1998]: National Theatre

○      Moved to Duchess Theatre [1999]

  • Broadway Premiere [2000]: Royal Theatre

○      Tony Award for Best Play 2000

  • TV Adaptation [2002]


Entered by:  Cate Wells and Brooke Sanders

Production Photos:

The 2013 production of Copenhagen: John Decker and Benjamin McRae. Photo by Caitlin Dennis.
The 2013 production of Copenhagen: Mary Ann McAllister, John Decker, and Benjamin McRae. Photo by Caitlin Dennis.
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

London Toast Theatre
Greta Scacchi, Simon Russell Beale, and Benedict Cumberbatch
PJ Powers, Isabel Liss, Terry Hamilton (PC: Lara Goetsch)
Martha Henry

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