RSS

Book Review: Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht

03 Dec

Life of GalileoLife of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The play explores the pivotal moment in human history, at least in western history, when man confronts for the first time the proof that his conceptions of truth were entirely wrong.

Galileo comes alive as a larger than life genius from the pages, full of witticisms and blustering energy. Even his betrayal of his own science tends to be easily forgiven by the audience because he is such a genial revolutionary.

More than the drama of science standing up to the bully called religion, I liked more the instances of Marxism creeping into the play. In the discussions about Latin and how writing science in English will spell doom to the nobility, we get a sense that the real danger that Galileo represented was not just contradictory new knowledge but that the knowledge was suddenly out in the public realm. Galileo had to die because he was not just an academician, he was a new kind of preacher – a preacher of logic.

These instances are woven into the grander drama with small scenes of Galileo ranting about professors having to teach all seven days and having not “time for research and about “knowledge as commodity”, these are the scenes that to me made this a play of our times.

The true gist of the play comes out in the penultimate scene. I would like to put some of it here so that even if someone does not have the patience to read the play, they can still get the spirit of its core argument. This occurs immediately after Andrei discovers that Galileo has been working on a scientific treatise even during his imprisonment:

GALILEO: I had to do something with my time.

ANDREA: This will found a new science of physics.

GALILEO: Stuff it under your coat.

ANDREA: And we thought you had become a renegade! My voice was raised loudest against you!

GALILEO: And quite right, too. I taught you science and I denied the truth.

ANDREA: This changes everything, everything.

GALILEO: Yes?

ANDREA: You concealed the truth. From the enemy. Even in the field of ethics you were a thousand years ahead of us.

GALILEO: Explain that, Andrea.

ANDREA: In common with the man in the street, we said: he will die, but he will never recant. You came back: I have recanted, but I shall live. Your hands are tainted, we said. You say: better tainted than empty.

GALILEO: Better tainted than empty. Sounds realistic. Sounds like me. New science, new ethics.

ANDREA: I of all people ought to have known. I was eleven years old when you sold another man’s telescope to the Venetian Senate. And I saw you make immortal use of that instrument. Your friends shook their heads when you bowed before a child in Florence, but science caught the public fancy. You always laughed at our heroes. “People that suffer bore me,’ you said. ‘Misfortune comes from insufficient foresight.’ And: Taking obstacles into account, the shortest line between two points may be a crooked one.”

GALILEO: I recollect.

ANDREA: Then, in 1633, when it suited you to retract a popular point in your teachings, I should have known that you were only withdrawing from a hopeless political squabble in order to be able to carry on with your real business of science.

GALILEO: Which consists in …

ANDREA: . . . The study of the properties of motion, mother of machines, which will make the earth so inhabitable that heaven can be demolished.

GALILEO : Aha.

ANDREA: You thereby gained the leisure to write a scientific work which only you could write. Had you ended in a halo of flames at the stake, the others would have been the victors.

GALILEO: They are the victors. And there is no scientific work which only one man can write.

ANDREA: Then why did you recant?

GALILEO: I recanted because I was afraid of physical pain.

ANDREA: No!

GALILEO: I was shown the instruments.

ANDREA: So there was no plan?

GALILEO: There was none.

Definitely a play worth reading, not for a scientific or historic perspective but for a picture of how reason and logic broke free from dogma and of how one man made the whole world tremble by unfolding a telescope.

It is indeed a marvelous portrait of intellectual betrayal. The angry impotence of a man who realizes that he is ethically unequipped to deal with the consequences of his own genius.

View all my reviews

Advertisements
 
7 Comments

Posted by on December 3, 2011 in Book Reviews, Books, Thoughts

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

7 responses to “Book Review: Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht

  1. baltimore ravens jersey

    February 1, 2012 at 13:22

    I lately arrived throughout your post and are currently analyzing along. I need to talk my appreciation of your creating ability and capability to help to make target audience research through the use of the commencing to the end. I must study more recent articles and also to write about my ideas along with you.

     
  2. Hector Mondale

    February 2, 2012 at 11:21

    I was just seeking this information for a while. After six hours of continuous Googleing, at last I got it in your website. I wonder what is the lack of Google strategy that don’t rank this kind of informative sites in top of the list. Generally the top sites are full of garbage.

     
  3. New England Patriots

    February 4, 2012 at 12:57

    You actually allow it to be seem so easy together with your presentation but I find this particular topic to become really something which I believe I would never understand. It seems as well complex and incredibly broad for me. I am anticipating for your next post, I will attempt to get the hang of it!

     
  4. new england patriots

    February 15, 2012 at 13:18

    Be thankful for the superb writeup. Anyhow, how might all of us talk?

     
  5. buy photoshop cs2

    February 19, 2012 at 08:10

    I’m a long time watcher and I just believed I’d drop by and say hello there for your very first time.
    I seriously enjoy your posts. Thanks
    You are my role models. Thanks for the article
    thank you for helpful tips and simply good info
    i can agree with the article
    r u sure that is true?
    Not so bad. Interesting things here
    really good things here, just thanks
    hey buddy, this is a very interesting article
    Read it, liked it, thanks for it
    I am looking for a competent writer, long time in this area. Excellent article!
    I have read not one article on your blog. You’re a big lad
    This is exactly what I was looking for, thanks
    Thank you for your work. Article helped me a lot
    Really worthwhile article. Pay attention
    Hey, buddy, I have not figured out how to subscribe
    I am a long time ago I read your blog and has long been saying that you’re a great writer
    Say “thanks” you to your parents that they gave you the world
    It’s super blog, I want to be like you
    You are my role models. Thanks for the article
    Beautiful essay, got the pleasure of reading
    I found what I was looking for. great article, thanks
    Subscribed to your blog, thanks
    I can not figure out how do I subscribe to your blog
    Thank you for what you have. This is the best post I’ve read
    I will not talk about your competence, the article simply disgusting
    You just copied someone else’s story
    All material copied from another source
    I’ll complain that you have copied material from another source
    This is the worst article of all, I’ve read
    You are the worst writer
    Thank you, this is the worst thing I’ve read
    Reading this article – the gift of your time
    Learn to write himself, the article from another source
    I would like to uslysht a little more on this topic
    I have not found what I wanted
    This is a set of words, not an essay. you are incompetent
    if you want, I’ll write you articles. Copywriter looking for work
    I have a few question to you, write to those I do not e-mail
    I can not subscribe to your channel
    Blog moved out in chrome
    Hi! Your article rocks as well as being a legitimate wonderful understand!??
    I can??t really help but admire your blog site, your site is adorable and nice
    My spouse and I stumbled over here different website and thought I should check things out.
    I like what I see so i am just following you. Look forward to exploring your web page yet again.
    There is noticeably a bundle to comprehend this. I assume you have made specific nice points in features also.
    Lately, I didn’t give lots of consideration to leaving feedback on blog page posts and have placed comments even much less.
    Reading by way of your nice content, will help me to do so sometimes.
    I’m a long time watcher and I just believed I’d drop by and say hello there for your very first time.
    I seriously enjoy your posts. Thanks
    You are my role models. Thanks for the article
    thank you for helpful tips and simply good info
    i can agree with the article
    r u sure that is true?
    Not so bad. Interesting things here
    really good things here, just thanks
    hey buddy, this is a very interesting article
    Read it, liked it, thanks for it
    I am looking for a competent writer, long time in this area. Excellent article!
    I have read not one article on your blog. You’re a big lad
    This is exactly what I was looking for, thanks
    Thank you for your work. Article helped me a lot
    Really worthwhile article. Pay attention
    Hey, buddy, I have not figured out how to subscribe
    I am a long time ago I read your blog and has long been saying that you’re a great writer
    Say “thanks” you to your parents that they gave you the world
    It’s super blog, I want to be like you
    You are my role models. Thanks for the article
    Beautiful essay, got the pleasure of reading
    I found what I was looking for. great article, thanks
    Subscribed to your blog, thanks
    I can not figure out how do I subscribe to your blog
    Thank you for what you have. This is the best post I’ve read
    I will not talk about your competence, the article simply disgusting
    You just copied someone else’s story
    All material copied from another source
    I’ll complain that you have copied material from another source
    This is the worst article of all, I’ve read
    You are the worst writer
    Thank you, this is the worst thing I’ve read
    Reading this article – the gift of your time
    Learn to write himself, the article from another source
    I would like to uslysht a little more on this topic
    I have not found what I wanted
    This is a set of words, not an essay. you are incompetent
    if you want, I’ll write you articles. Copywriter looking for work
    I have a few question to you, write to those I do not e-mail
    I can not subscribe to your channel
    Blog moved out in chrome
    Hi! Your article rocks as well as being a legitimate wonderful understand!??
    I can??t really help but admire your blog site, your site is adorable and nice
    My spouse and I stumbled over here different website and thought I should check things out.
    I like what I see so i am just following you. Look forward to exploring your web page yet again.
    There is noticeably a bundle to comprehend this. I assume you have made specific nice points in features also.
    Lately, I didn’t give lots of consideration to leaving feedback on blog page posts and have placed comments even much less.
    Reading by way of your nice content, will help me to do so sometimes.

     
  6. Derek Garis

    March 14, 2012 at 02:59

    Hrmm that was weird, my comment got eaten. Anyway I wanted to say that it’s nice to know that someone else also mentioned this as I had trouble finding the same info elsewhere. This was the first place that told me the answer. Thanks.

     
  7. barberah stockton

    March 17, 2012 at 07:46

    You are a very smart person!

     

"Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?" - Walt Whitman

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: