Analysis of the Scene 7 from the Play Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht
Life of Galileo is one of Brecht’s finest works that takes the audience through a journey full of surprises and allows them to enjoy a very prodigious epic theatre experience. The play unfolds and the audience is immediately given a surprise by having Galileo appear in a very de-familiar way, which is very different from what the audience was anticipating, hence leaving various questions in the minds of the audience members.
One such question is the portrayal of Galileo’s imagery to be a clever man, with tactful approach to handling situations regarding his efforts in trying to prove Copernicus’s new theory – in this scene the fact that the audience thought of him to be this great man is being challenged as he is being introduced in a humanized way. Scene 7 reveals how he, despite all odds, faces rejection with dignity and how he portrays his shrewd side as he responds to questions thrown at him in a very subtle, clever and adequate way – at times getting furious, again justifying his humanism.
Scene 7 opens and Galileo is shown entering the ball that has been hosted in his glory and rectitude. He is received with applause by a small group of ladies and gentlemen as he enters with his daughter Virginia and her fiancé, Ludovico. The audience at this point is made to get all geared up for what is to follow this welcome and they are left to be curious as to how his theory will be judged and looked upon. Galileo and Ludovico then continue to converse over Virginia’s beauty and the way the father tells her daughter that she has to look beautiful and presentable as to how else will he be able to convince the jury. Here the audience is given an insight to the factual happening at that time, known as woman-izing.. here one of the folded layers of Galileo and Virginia’s relationship is uncovered as the audience can now join the dots as to why throughout the scene, her involvement with her father has been vague and confusing. This is further proven when Inquisitor questions her about her father’s work she appears rather clue-less.
The scene begins and the audience is de-familiar with Ludovico and Virginia’s relationship as they are taken by surprise when it is revealed that the two of them are in love and are engaged to each other. The audience is also made to get curious and anxious about Galileo’s cleverness as up until this very moment, the audience is under the impression that Ludovico is Galileo’s student and he is inspired his student’s work and idea of the telescope. This is further proved to the audience that he was a shrewd man and he really did not like his student when Ludovico says that the original coloured casing would have looked better. For a student and a potential love interest of his daughter, Ludovico’s remark made earlier, now has played it’s part in letting the audience know by surprise that Galileo was not just good at Astronomy but also knew what he wanted and how. However, some members of the audience may get a positive image of him as he succumbed to the love of his daughter and accepted him, keeping aside his differences of having plagiarised Ludovico’s idea and allowing him to be in a romantic relationship with his daughter. Where the audience will see this point to be positive, they are also taken by surprise and are shook because earlier there were zero mentions of Ludovico and Virginia being together.
Then comes the moment where Virginia comes running towards his father to let him know that because of his name being attached to hers, she was given extra favours by being treated first at the hair dresser even though there were four women present before her, where the audience gets an insight to her character that leaves the audience to be able to draw comparison between the father and his daughter as to how his only aim is to have this theory proven and she was amused and taken by surprise by this treatment, revealing her interest in worldly matters.
This however, is applicable in today’s time too and has been appropriate since perhaps the beginning of time that the one with name and fame is given extra advantages of being someone well known. However, this could have also led the audience to feel that regardless of the church not accepting and coming to terms with the cosmogony, there are locals and civilians who support his ideology and are decent enough to allow Virginia get her hair done first, because had they been against him, the people at hair dresser would have thrashed Virginia and would have called her out as this would have been one apt representation of natural human behaviour.
Galileo then starts to explain it to the secretaries that they should play tactfully in the sense that they should deal with situations and people basing it on their nature and behaviour. This allows the audience to come to terms with the fact that he indeed knew what he was doing and saying and they are able to put the puzzle pieces of this particular imagery of Galileo when earlier he calls the meeting a “circus”, then too he did that on purpose. The secretary then continues to talk about as to how he can make small moves because he is not as intelligent as Galileo nor does he earn that much. The audience can easily at this point draw comparison between the rich and the poor and they will also feel pitiful towards the secretaries as they portray themselves to be less fortunate as Galileo.
The poem serves the purpose of letting the audience know about the plague situation that has led to fading of youth – meaning that it has cost lives of many young youthful people and it is a humanitarian loss. This however to some extent can be considered to be de-familiar that at a ball party organised to glorify and look at the cosmogony closely why would they discuss plague. Barberini calls Galileo ingenious when he gives him the ship-shore ideology- this again proves it to the audience and makes them feel more curious towards the scientist as he again makes it vivid that he knows what he is talking about and to whom. He deals with people the way they are to be dealt with, again putting forward his intellectual capabilities. Barberini then passes a remark that the study of stars sticks to one like itch, meaning if you get yourself into it once, it is hard for you to not think about it anddit also meant that Barberini too had some knowledge about astronomy and indirectly taunts Galileo that he isn’t the only smart person present there.
This conversation leaves the audience to get excited about what is to happen next as to whether or not these men from the church allow him to go on with his study as this was one witty, intelligent and full of ups and downs conversation. It appears to the audience to be a verbal match – a tiff. Barberini then suggests that this might be the reason as to why mathematics was not able to justify the system was because God had not given that much power to mathematics. Here at this point, the audience is able to make sense of the remark that was passed over maths as a subject when Galileo has requested for an increase in the pay – 500 scudi. Galileo is shown defending himself again which helps the audience witness that he is indeed confused and is being careful about the situation allowing the audience to yet again believe that he is clever as he is able to present himself persuasively in front of two men. This also led the audience to realise that he was extremely passionate about his work and was not ready to give up at any time, making the audience feel enthusiastic and keeping them engaged that this is not the end yet and he will keep on trying till he succeeds.
In the next comparatively simple moment, Bellarmin says that the Holy church is not entitled to interpret the workings of the astronomy but the Bible. He continues that the church has decided that Copernicus’s theory is heretical. He then goes on saying that Galileo will have to keep his work in hiding otherwise he will have to face the consequences. The audience at this point is able to sense the importance of the church clergy as it denies Galileo’s reasoning saying that they are old and poorly defended. However, the audience, considering Galileo’s shrewd approach earlier, sensed that he is just dealing with the situation the way he is because he just wants to get done with this conversation and he knows what he is doing.
Barberini then takes Galileo by his hand and the spectators can somewhat at this point sense that a big show is about to go down as the intensity levels rise. In this scene, Galileo is questioned – he defends tactfully that result in a snowball effect of him being considered a man who is careful with his words and knows exactly what he is saying. Barberini literally talks about the lamb mask which is of huge significance in the church world while addressing Galileo and in a way taunts him by saying that figuratively; he too has a mask on, which subtly suffices to the argument that Galileo’s tactful approach led others to talk to him the same way, which further answers the questions in the minds of the audience that he was shrewd but other character had the tinge of being shrewd to them too.
With the portrayal of secretaries writing down pretty much everything these men had to say, Brecht has put forward the ideology of that time as to how all big talk was recorded, allowing the audience to come to terms with the fact that no matter what happens in the end of this scene, this scene has a huge impact on how, eventually the world got to know of Galileo, the great scientist. Further on in the scene, a new character is introduced as the Inquisitor. Virginia and this man indulge in a conversation where he taunts her by saying “…In the fisherman’s house no one eats fish, eh?”, this entire piece leads the audience to get curious about the forth coming role of the Inquisitor as he appears to be a man who can give Galileo a piece of mind since he too, talks very tactfully.
The audience at this point can sense that the Inquisitor was trying to be a little provocative with Virginia by laughing and saying that “…your father to hear that almost all your knowledge about the world of stars comes from him.” This also allows the audience to get a deeper look at Virginia’s and Inquisitor’s character and further portrays that thought in the minds of the audience that Virginia at this point felt alienated as since the beginning of the play, she was not shown showing any interest in the study of stars rather her role remains pending. Earlier too her father himself addresses her as his “enchanting daughter”, as if he only needed her in order to be presented in front of an audience he was trying to convince, leading the audience taken by shock that such a great scientist, they know of, used his daughter. However, they also felt bad for Virginia as she was in a way insulted and humiliated by the remarks of the Inquisitor.
There are various themes being discussed in the scene with one of them being tradition vs. progress. The audience of today will ponder upon the fact that how people at that time used to be so adamant on whatever teachings the church provided the people with. However, the audience at that time, did not feel de-familiar with the way church was dealing with Galileo as religion had its own respective importance that was looked down upon if questioned.
The way Brecht has put forward the political propaganda in this scene has made it an important one in the course of the play. All in all, this particular scene, relationships are being looked upon in much more depth – father daughter, church Galileo, Ludovico Galileo to name a few. The church’s beliefs of not being in favour of this cosmogony, affected Galileo’s life in such a way that regardless of rejection, he was able to make it out alive through the chaotic turmoil that led him to eventually become a great one and also led the audience to realise that he was a clever man but was a human being as his responses and the fact that he was clever proves the humanised factor.
The order in which these incidents occur are plotted this particular way because Brecht wanted to humanise the dogmatism and led the protagonist of the play, Galileo himself so that the audience could get a deeper understanding of the alienated and de familiarized technique, that occurs throughout the play so that they could get a better understanding of the play. His idea of staging allowed the audience to realise the importance of each and every character and happenings of the play.
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