- Dürrenmatt ambitiously considers the topics of science, reason, miracles, power, and sanity in The Physicists, a philosophical treatise in the form of an old-fashioned mystery.
- At the beginning of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Physicists, Inspector Richard Voss arrives at the Les Cerisiers sanatorium to find the strangled corpse of Irene Straub, the third nurse murdered at the insane asylum in recent months.
- Voss questions Marta Boll, the head nurse, as well as the asylum’s three patients.
- The first believes he is Albert Einstein or the physicist Joseph Eisler or perhaps he is Joseph Eisler.
- The second thinks he is Sir Isaac Newton, though he may be Herbert George Butler or perhaps the physicist Jaspar Kilton.
- The last of the three title characters is Johann Wilhelm Möbius, to whom King Solomon regularly appears to dictate to him “the Principles of Universal Discovery” which promise unimaginable power to the person who comprehends them.
- As the motivation behind the murders becomes clear, the audience finds itself in a dizzying world where the insane may, in fact, be making the most rational choice in response to a world gone mad and the police and nurses may be more insane than the residents of the asylum.
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