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Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht
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Life of Galileo

by Bertolt Brecht

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English (11)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (13)
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"Galilei: Ja, wo ist sie jetzt? Wie kann der Jupiter angeheftet sein, wenn andere Sterne um ihn kreisen? Da ist keine Stütze im Himmel, da ist kein Halt im Weltall! Da ist
eine andere Sonne!
Sagredo: Beruhige dich. Du denkst zu schnell.
Galilei: Was, schnell! Mensch, reg dich auf! Was du siehst, hat noch keiner gesehen. Sie hatten recht!
Sagredo: Wer? Die Kopernikaner?
Galilei: Und der andere! Die ganze Welt war gegen sie, und sie hatten recht. Das ist was für Andrea! Er läuft außer sich zur Tür und ruft hinaus: Frau Sarti! Frau Sarti!
Sagredo: Galilei, du sollst dich beruhigen!
Galilei: Sagredo, du sollst dich aufregen! Frau Sarti!
Sagredo dreht das Fernrohr weg: Willst du aufhören, wie ein Narr herumzubrüllen?
Galilei: Willst du aufhören, wie ein Stockfisch dazustehen, wenn die Wahrheit entdeckt ist?
Sagredo: Ich stehe nicht wie ein Stockfisch, sondern ich zittere, es könnte die Wahrheit sein."

In "Das Leben des Galilei" by Bertold Brecht

I watched this play in 2006 in Lisbon at Teatro Aberto starring Rui Mendes as Galileo. There was a repartee between Galileo and Arturo Ui that I'll never forget. Right at the beginning, Galileo and Arturo have two simple, and unforgettable lines. When Andrea remarks, "Infeliz a terra que não tem herois" ("Unhappy the land that has no heroes"/"Unglücklich das Land, das keine Helden hat!") Galileo retorts, "Infeliz a terra que necessita de herois" ("Unhappy the land that needs heroes."/"Unglücklich das Land, das Helden nötig hat.") And from Arturo Ui, comes the searing "Porque apesar do mundo ter parado o cabrão, a puta que o deu à luz está novamente com o cio" ("For though the world has stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again."/"[...] Der Schoß ist fruchtbar noch, aus dem das kroch." taken from the play "Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui").

I was absolutely mesmerized! I was so mesmirized that I had to buy the play in German which I did two years later (it was out of stock on Amazon at the time). The version of "The Life of Galileo" that the Teatro Aberto presented in 2006, with the reduced title by which it is better known, is based on the second of the three versions.

The general belief in a geocentric solar system was based on Aristotlean writings and Ptolemeic astronomy and was the generally accepted science when the Church was first formed. The Pythagoreans had proposed the idea of a heliocentric solar system around 600 B.C., but it was not accepted science at that time, nor six centuries later. The geocentric idea influenced early Christian theology, as did the writings of the ancient Greek philosophers. Unfortunately, what the Church did was change the Greek idea of seeking truth and knowledge through intellectual thought and science into seeking truth and knowledge within the scripture only. And thus, the Dark Ages began. Anyway, the heliocentric theory was revisited by astronomers and mathematicians throughout the next two millenia, until it was finally accepted, and through no simple means. Overcoming an authoritative figure that has huge political influence and control over many of the universities is no small task, not to mention the mathematical, scientific, and equipment challenges. the trouble with the heliocentric model at the time of galileo's discoveries was that there was no coherent theory of gravity until newton's publication of principia in 1783. given that matter tends to "fall" toward the centre of the earth, it's quite intuitive to theorise that the earth is the centre of the universe. Although galileo's evidence for a heliocentric model (ie. phases of venus, topography of the moon and satellites of Jupiter) was quite compelling , in the absence of a theory of gravity it wasn't complete enough to debunk the geocentric model. In other words, the objections to heliocentrism weren't necessarily ignorant and arrogant ; there was also a scholarly debate that, had merit on either side.

Two points should be made here:

1) Galileo's telescopic obvservations had nothing whatsoever to do with his conviction on heresy charges. They had to do with his publication of a book called "Dialog on the Two Chief World Systems," in which he was judged to have violated the pope's order to give a fair account of both the heliocentric (Sun-centered) and geocentric (Earth-centered) systems, a concept he personally submitted to the pope before going ahead with the project.

Note that Galileo was not prohibited from discussing the virtues of the heliocentric system. The concern was that the system was unproven, and that certain passages of scripture, in their literal sense, suggested the geocentric theory. Cardinal Bellarmine, who was one of the principal officials in the affair, acknowledged in writing that the Church's rejection of heliocentricity was provisional, and based on the scientific data available at the time, and might have to be changed in the future if further evidence emerged . And in fact, we now know that many aspects of the Galilean-Copernican theory were false, and very much so. In some ways, the Ptolemaic system was more correct, including variable orbital velocities, something eliminated from the Copernican system.

2) Copernicus was never persecuted for his book promoting the heliocentric theory, and his book was not censored by the Catholic Church, circulating freely throughout Europe for many decades before Galileo's run-in with the pope. Copernicus, by the way, dedicated his book to the pope, and he himself was a cleric with minor orders. After Galileo's conviction, only one sentence was stricken from the work.

Personally, I'm thankful for the Church's scientific brilliance and its contribution to humanitarian thought and advancement. I'm also thankful for some of the philosophical and spiritual wisdom that comes from religion. But the Catholic Church wasn't alone in suppressing scientific thought, and not all evil and closed-mindedness comes from religion. Many an authoritarian atheist has succeeded in suppressing and killing millions and squashing ideas that challenge their authority. And then there are always the economic interests that suppress or support scientific findings.

The Catholic church at the time was in the tricky position of wielding both secular and spiritual authority. Although interpretation were made they also tended to believe that the very best sources of information (whether biblical, philosophical or practical) were ancient. Unfortunately a lot of it was also inaccurate but people still tended to believe it *and* allowed it to shape their perceptions. What complicated things was the prominent faith component of Christianity that made doubting such ancient wisdom sinful and dangerous. I recommend people read a Beastiary to see what kind of mind-set they were working from at the time. Galileo was one of those people that allowed others to look at the universe with fresh eyes and thus encourage modern, scientific thought. It is also interesting to note that Galileo wrote Sidereus Nuncius in New Latin rather than Medieval Latin. This meant that a wider audience was reached, rather than just the clergy or the rich well educated upper classes. Everyday people could read his work, which made Galileo one of the first science communicators of the age, and this loss of control of the masses frightened the Catholic church nearly as much as the knowledge contained within his work.

Copernicus's work was actually used in the development of the Gregorian calendar. the Catholic Church had not been vehemently opposed to science for centuries. In the 13th century, there had been many disputes about the relationship between those that wished to follow the natural philosophy of Aristotle and those who rigidly stuck to scripture to explain everything under the sun and the idea that scientific speculation and its logically based predictions were futile as God could anything he wanted at any time. However, William of Ockham produced a brilliant solution to the problem, he declared that God was indeed omnipotent and could do anything he wanted but he had also given man the logical mind to predict these outcomes even though they were inevitably fallible. It lead to a divorce of faith and reason - Science was in man's attempt to guess the will of God but it was not an attempt to declare that will so don't persecute them as they're only guessing. Early Scientists worked under this restriction for centuries, by modern standards it seems ridiculous but it gave early scientists plenty of leeway. All they had to do to avoid persecution was explain that their work was only speculation and dedicate it to the Pope. Galileo choose not to do this, instead he mocked the arrangement and this was how he fell foul of the church. It was an error as it did not advance the cause of science, he wasn't in a position to mock his critics as he did not have a convincing proof of his heliocentric system, he didn't even accept Kepler's groundbreaking work. It takes time for new scientific ideas to break through and heliocentricism wasn't widely accepted until after Newton.

Bottom-line: What really infuriated the Pope was that he used the telescope to inspect the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel a little more closely, and saw that Michael Angelo had depicted God running away with his trousers down. It's in the second from last "panel" as you look from the entrance of the chapel. Needless to say, he flew into a rage and blamed Galileo for inventing such a blasphemous object. "It is not for mankind to dwell upon images of God's buttocks" he is reported to have said. However, he unable to do anything about it as Rome was in the middle of a ladder shortage, so the ceiling had to remain as it was. So Galileo was made a scapegoat. ( )
1 vote antao | Aug 14, 2018 |
Match found in the German National Library. Edition unknown.
  glsottawa | Apr 4, 2018 |
The 16th & 17th Italian physicist and mathematician Galileo Galilei is widely considered to be the founder of modern science, due to his adoption of the scientific method in conducting experiments about gravity, motion and the movement of the planets in space, aided by the development of the telescope in the early 17th century. He also fell afoul of the Catholic Church during the Inquisition, due to his rejection of Aristotle's geocentric model in 1610, in which the earth was a fixed object around which the other planets, including the sun, revolved, in favor of the heliocentric model proposed by Nicolas Copernicus in 1543, which placed the sun at the center of the solar system. The Church opposed this pronouncement, as it apparently contradicted several Biblical passages that implied that the sun moved in space, cast doubt upon the location and existence of Heaven, and thus was a threat to Christianity and, more importantly, the authority of the Church during a period of widespread suffering and subjugation of millions of believers. Although the heliocentric model was confirmed by Jesuit astronomers who also had the benefit of using telescopes to confirm Galileo's findings the Church declared that heliocentrism was heretical in 1616, banned any publications that supported it, and Pope Paul V specifically ordered Galileo "to abstain completely from teaching or defending this doctrine and opinion or from discussing it...to abandon completely...the opinion that the sun stands still at the center of the world and the earth moves, and henceforth not to hold, teach, or defend it in any way whatever, either orally or in writing."

Galileo kept quiet from 1616 through 1624, after Maffeo Barberini, a mathematician, became the new pope, Urban VIII, in 1623. Galileo assumed that the pope would support heliocentrism, based on prior interactions with him, but Urban VIII, under pressure exerted by members of the Inquisition and Galileo's decision to publish his work in Italian, the language of the common people, was ultimately convinced to withdraw his support and protection of the famed mathematician. In 1632 Galileo was called to Rome to testify in front of the Inquistion, and once he arrived the following year he was found guilty of heresy. Under threat of torture and death he publicly recanted his heliocentric beliefs, and he was sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life. Although he was forbidden to write any works which fell afoul of the Church and despite going blind in 1638, Galileo did surreptitiously write a manuscript, "Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences", which was published in the Netherlands to avoid censors, and became critical to the development of modern physics.

The German playwright Bertolt Brecht wrote "Life of Galileo" in 1938, while he lived in exile from Nazi Germany, which he fled in 1933 after Adolf Hitler rose to power. The play starts in 1610, as Galileo receives word of the newly invented telescope from a young Dutch man who wishes to study under him, and ends just prior to his death. At the time he was a professor at the University of Padua, whose salary did not meet his means, which forced him to take on students outside of the classroom in order to earn a decent living. Although he was well known and widely respected he, along with other modern scientists and thinkers, was viewed unfavorably by the Catholic hierarchy, but his position in the university afforded him the protection he needed to conduct his experiments. Brecht portrays Galileo as a man singularly driven to pursue Truth using the scientific method, irregardless of his daughter's future and happiness, the advice of others to avoid antagonizing the Church and members of the Inquisition, and his own health, as presumably his blindness was largely due to him repeatedly viewing the sun to study its position in space and the spots on its surface. It is not an anti-religious play, but one that contrasts science and reason with authority and dogmatism.

I read the script of "Life of Galileo" after I saw the production of it at The Young Vic in London last month, which was translated by John Willett, directed by Joe Wright, and starred Brendan Cowell as Galileo. Although the play was true to the act-less script it omitted one or two scenes, and featured several irreverent skits, including one particularly amusing one set to music. The round stage was surrounded by the audience, but several paying customers sat in the middle of the set, as actors moved around them, forcing them to move repeatedly throughout the performance.

"Life of Galileo" was a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable performance, and after seeing three outstanding renditions of Bertolt Brecht's plays in London in the past nine months, "The Threepenny Opera", "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui" and "Life of Galileo", I am eager to see the remainder of this brilliant playwright's works. ( )
1 vote kidzdoc | Jul 17, 2017 |
SAGREDO: Gott! Wo ist Gott?
GALILEO
zornig: Dort nicht! So wenig wie er hier auf der Erde zu finden ist,
wenn dort Wesen sind und ihn hier suchen sollten!
SAGREDO: Und wo ist also Gott?
GALILEO: Bin ich Theologe? Ich bin Mathematiker.
SAGREDO: Vor allem bist du ein Mensch. Und ich frage dich, wo ist Gott in deinem Weltsystem?
GALILEO: In uns oder nirgends!
SAGREDO
schreiend: Wie der Verbrannte gesagt hat? [33]

Not many readers I'm acquainted with read plays at all, let alone regularly. I consider this typical, though of course there remains a significant minority who don't fit this profile. Among those typical, though, I assume a common response if confronted with Brecht's Leben des Galilei would be to wonder, what's the point? The accompanying frame of mind: It was silly for anyone to think the Sun went round the Earth, and it's a waste of time to read about people who thought that way.

I suspect Brecht wrote the play precisely to dispel that outlook. He draws parallels between the accepted hierarchy of Church over Science in Venice circa 1600, and that of owners over wage earners in the late 1930s. (It would apply today equally well.) We're just as resistant to reconsidering our accepted truths today as ever we were.

DER INQUISITOR: Es ist die Unruhe ihres eigenen Gehirns, die diese auf die unbewegliche Erde
übertragen! Sie schreien: die Zahlen zwingen uns! Aber woher kommen ihren Zahlen? Jederman
weiß, daß sie vom Zweifel kommen. Diese Menschen zweifeln an allem. Sollen wir die
menschliche Gesellschaft auf den Zweifel begründen und nicht mehr auf den Glauben?
[105] ( )
  elenchus | Sep 5, 2016 |
Considered by many to be one of Brecht's masterpieces, Galileo explores the question of a scientist's social and ethical responsibility, as the brilliant Galileo must choose between his life and his life's work when confronted with the demands of the Inquisition. Brecht examines the issues of scientific morality and the difficult relationship between the intellectual and authority
  DevizesQuakers | Apr 17, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brecht, Bertoltprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bentley, EricEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laughton, CharlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
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In the year sixteen hundred and nine
Science's light began to shine.
At Padua City, in a modest house
Galileo Galilei set out to prove
The sun is still, the earth is on the move.
Quotations
Wer die Wahrheit nicht weiß, der ist bloß ein Dummkopf. Aber wer sie weiß und sie eine Lüge nennt, der ist ein Verbrecher! (Galileo)
Das Denken gehört zu den größten Vergnügungen der menschlichen Rasse. (Galileo)
Ich verstehe: freier Handel, freie Forschung. Freier Handel mit der Forschung, wie? (Galileo)
Truth will triumph only in so far as we triumph; the victory of reason can only be the victory of the people. (Galileo)
He who does not know the truth is merely an idiot, but he who knows it and calls it a lie, is criminal. (Galileo)
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Frutto di diverse stesure, la commedia nasce negli anni che precedono immediatamente la Seconda guerra mondiale e che vedono sperimentare e utilizzare a fini bellici la scissione dell'atomo, gli anni in cui si compie definitivamente una paurosa frattura tra progresso tecnico e progresso sociale. La figura di Galileo, lo scienziato che con le sue rivoluzionarie intuizioni rischia di mettere a repentaglio gli equilibri teologici e sociali del suo tempo e che si piega alla ritrattazione per timore della tortura e per mancanza di agonismo eroico, è la metafora dello scienziato moderno, dell'intellettuale perseguitato dall'inesorabile binomio scienza-fanatismo. Eppure, nonostante il suo intimo dissidio, la sua contraddittorietà, questo Galileo brechtiano è figura umanamente ricca, moderna proprio perché, pur asserendo in modo geniale la verità contro l'ignoranza, la superstizione e il conformismo, egli resta in bilico perenne tra due fronti. Dramma implicitamente antiatomico, "Vita di Galileo" mantiene oggi, al di là della sua straordinaria efficacia scenica, una notevole attualità proprio tematizzando la figura degli scienziati "deboli", subalterni al potere politico, "gnomi" venali, troppo spesso privi di coraggio etico.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802130593, Paperback)

Considered by many to be one of Brecht's masterpieces, Galileo explores the question of a scientist's social and ethical responsibility, as the brilliant Galileo must choose between his life and his life's work when confronted with the demands of the Inquisition. Through the dramatic characterization of the famous physicist, Brecht examines the issues of scientific morality and the difficult relationship between the intellectual and authority. This version of the play is the famous one that was brought to completion by Brecht himself, working with Charles Laughton, who played Galileo in the first two American productions (Hollywood and New York, 1947). Since then the play has become a classic in the world repertoire. "The play which most strongly stamped on my mind a sense of Brecht's great stature as an artist of the modern theatre was Galileo." - Harold Clurman; "Thoughtful and profoundly sensitive." - Newsweek.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:52 -0400)

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Contains the text of a play based upon the life of seventeenth-century physicist Galileo Galilei, which explores the ethical dilemma he faced when confronted with a choice between his life's work and the demands of the Inquisition.

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