Life of Galileo: The Dramatic Portrayal of Scientist’s Life

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Life of Galileo is a play written by Bertolt Brecht, a German playwright, in the year 1945. The play revolves around the life and work of seventeenth century Italian scientist Galileo Galilei. The play is based upon historical data and also on the imagination of Brecht. We enter Galileo’s life in the year 1609, where he was a middle-aged, short on money, professor who has been introduced, by a prospective student, to a “ a queer tube thing”, a telescope that was being sold in Amsterdam. Galileo recreates the telescope and sells it to the Venetian Republic as his own gadget. Galileo uses the telescope to prove that the Copernicus’ heliocentric model of the solar system. This model was by large considered an abomination by the Church and the popular mass.

Brecht takes the audience away from their Aristotelian passive-consumer position by making them aware of the dangers the protagonist puts himself into when making a choice. Brecht accomplishes this by firstly establishing the protagonist as a clever man who seems to know his way around people. For a brief period of time at the beginning of the play, Brecht maintains passive-consumerism by keeping the protagonist in a position that the audience remains at ease and gives itself over to the protagonist’s determined enthusiasm. Then as the scenes progress, Brecht makes a clear show of his alienation effect by making use of the protagonist’s companions for expressing disapproval which helps the audience take a critical stance on the protagonist’s choices, hence making them active consumers, and in the process diminishing their anticipation for a clichéd climax totally in favor of the protagonist, henceforth making the play devoid of the concept of heroism.

The scene starts with Galileo arriving at a ball which is being held in his honour along with Virginia and Ludovico. They talk about how beautiful Virginia is, their conversation seems a little awkward. Virginia tells Galileo how she got special treatment from her hair stylist because of him. “One has to move with the times, gentlemen. Not just hugging the coasts; sooner or later one has to venture out.”

Galileo talks to two of the secretaries playing chess in this scene, supporting the idea of to set the mind free and allowing the new ideas and possibilities to evolve. There is an exchange of dialogues and Galileo then meets Barberini and one more priest and they discuss Galileos ideas. Clerks recorded their conversation. During this scene, Galileo, and Cardinals Bellarmin and Barberini have a heated discussion about faith and reason. Whilst Bellarmin hypocritically suggests that while the church accepts new knowledge helpful to commerce and trade, it will not embrace knowledge that undermines the Scriptures. Reinforcing the conflict between the science and religion. This scene also shows the existence of the misleading and corrupt nature of officials in power. The conversation between them is all witty, intense and intelligent just like a verbal boxing match. They’re also saying quotes from the bible. Barberini thinks Galileo is very smart and he starts telling him about his own astronomy experience. But there is still some tenseness about the exchange. The conversation then turns into Galileo’s critique and they continue to talk about his theories. While Galileo has no control over whatever they’re saying and he defends his theories which seems to leave him defensive and confused. “Mr Galileo, Tonight the Holy Office decided that the doctrine of Copernicus…..is foolish, absurd, heretical and contrary to our faith. I have been charged to warn you that you must abandon this view”.

This response explains how easily the truth can be manipulated by those in power. “Truth” can only be found in the scriptures and, as it is the theologians of the Church who explain the scriptures according to biblical scholars. There is a small possibility of challenging doctrinal “truths” and thereby upset the stability of society. Therefore, they want Galileo to keep his findings secret.

The Priest refuses to admit Galileo’s knowledge with the same poorly defended way and restating the same things in different words he used to establish the theory of Aristotle. They keep trying to induce Galileo to give up his theory. They call attention to the social importance of his discovery. The Church helps the common people make sense of their lives and Galileo’s theory throw their belief systems into uncertainty and doubt.

The Cardinal Inquisitor comes and talks to the daughter of Galileo, Virginia. Firstly he congratulates her on the engagement. He also calls attention to indirectly or hint at the ambiguity of Galileo’s position.Virginia doesn’t really tell anything, she shows interest only in her upcoming wedding. He asks about her understanding of astrology to which he is delighted to know that the daughter knows/ understands almost nothing of his father’s theories.


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