The Life of Galileo

Galileo Galilei Character Analysis

Galileo, the protagonist and title character of Life of Galileo, is a lecturer at Padua University, where he specializes in using mathematics to prove astronomical models. Galileo is a robust man, full of energy and endowed with a contrarian nature. He is also a talented and engaging teacher with a knack for making complicated topics easy to understand. Though he is a devout Catholic, Galileo likes to question things, which makes him a problem for the Catholic Church. The primary object of his questioning is the Aristotelian model, a centuries old doctrine that says that the Earth exists at the center of the universe. Galileo instead holds to Copernicus’ model, which places the sun at the center of the solar system with the Earth revolving around it. As the story unfolds, Galileo finds himself able to prove unequivocally that Copernicus was right, but he faces the difficult task of convincing the Church that centuries of religious teachings were wrong.

Galileo Galilei Quotes in The Life of Galileo

The The Life of Galileo quotes below are all either spoken by Galileo Galilei or refer to Galileo Galilei. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Progress vs. Tradition Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of The Life of Galileo published in 2008.
Scene 1 Quotes

On our old continent a rumor sprang up: there might be new ones. And since our ships began sailing to them the laughing continents have got the message: the great ocean they feared, is a little puddle. And a vast desire has sprung up to know the reasons for everything: why a stone falls when you let it go and why it rises when you toss it up.

Related Characters: Galileo Galilei (speaker), Andrea Sarti
Related Symbols: The Proving Stone
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

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God help us, I'm not half as sharp as those gentlemen in the philosophy department. I'm stupid. I understand absolutely nothing. So I'm compelled to fill the gaps in my knowledge. And when am I supposed to do that? When am I to get on with my research?

Related Characters: Galileo Galilei (speaker), The Procurator
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

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Scene 2 Quotes

Today a world-famous scholar is offering you, and you alone, a highly marketable tube, for you to manufacture and sell as and how you wish.

Related Characters: The Procurator (speaker), Galileo Galilei
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

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I'm telling you astronomy has stagnated for the last thousand years because they had no telescope.

Related Characters: Galileo Galilei (speaker), Sagredo
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

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Scene 3 Quotes

What you're seeing is the fact that there is no difference between heaven and earth. Today is 10 January 1610. Today mankind can write in its diary: Got rid of Heaven.

Related Characters: Galileo Galilei (speaker), Sagredo
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

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[T]he horny-handed old woman who gives her mule an extra bundle of hay on the eve of a journey, the sea captain who allows for storms and doldrums when laying in stores, the child who puts on his cap once they have convinced

him that it may rain: these are the people I pin my hopes to, because they all accept proof. Yes, I believe in reason's gentle tyranny over people. Sooner or later they have to give in to it.

Related Characters: Galileo Galilei (speaker), Sagredo
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

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Copernicus, don't forget, wanted them to believe his figures; but I only want them to believe their eyes.

Related Characters: Galileo Galilei (speaker), Sagredo
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

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Scene 4 Quotes

Right, then let's have new textbooks.

Related Characters: Federzoni (speaker), Galileo Galilei, Cosimo de Medici
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

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Scene 5 Quotes

Just like them. It's their whole system of government. Chopping us off like the diseased branch of some barren figtree.

Related Characters: Galileo Galilei (speaker)
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

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As if a book could make any difference.

Related Characters: Galileo Galilei
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

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Scene 6 Quotes

I am told that this Mr. Galilei moves mankind away from the centre of the universe and dumps it somewhere on the edge. Clearly this makes him an enemy of the human race. We must treat him as such. Mankind is the crown of creation…God’s highest and dearest creature. How could He take something so miraculous…and lodge it on a remote, constantly elusive star?...How can there be people so perverse as to pin their faith to these slaves of the multiplication table?

Related Characters: Galileo Galilei
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

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Mr. Galilei, before he left Father Clavius said: Now it's up to the theologians to see how they can straighten out the movements of the heavens

once more. You've won.

Related Characters: The Little Monk (speaker), Galileo Galilei
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

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Scene 7 Quotes

Welcome to Rome, Galileo my friend. You know its origins? Two little boys, so runs the legend, were given milk and shelter by a she-wolf. Since that time all her children have had to pay for their milk.

Related Characters: Cardinal Barberini (later Pope Urban VIII) (speaker), Galileo Galilei
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

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He's a terrible man. He cheerfully sets out to convict God of the most elementary errors in astronomy. I suppose God hadn't got far enough in his studies before he wrote the bible; is that it?

Related Characters: Cardinal Barberini (later Pope Urban VIII) (speaker), Galileo Galilei
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

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Scene 8 Quotes

Our poverty has no meaning: hunger is no trial of strength, it’s merely not having eaten: effort is no virtue, it's just bending and carrying. Can you see now why I read into the Holy Congregations decree a noble motherly compassion; a vast goodness of soul?

Related Characters: The Little Monk (speaker), Galileo Galilei
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

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An apple from the tree of knowledge! He's wolfing it down. He is damned forever, but he has got to wolf it down, the poor glutton.

Related Characters: Galileo Galilei (speaker), The Little Monk
Related Symbols: Apples
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

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Scene 13 Quotes

Wine-pump! Snail-eater! Did you save your precious skin?

Related Characters: Andrea Sarti (speaker), Galileo Galilei, The Little Monk, Federzoni
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

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Scene 14 Quotes

You were hiding the truth. From the enemy. Even in matters of ethics you were centuries ahead of us.

Related Characters: Andrea Sarti (speaker), Galileo Galilei
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

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The poverty of the many is as old as the hills, and from pulpit and lecture platform we hear that it is as hard as the hills to get rid of. Our new art of doubting delighted the mass audience. They tore the telescope out of our hands and trained it on their tormentors, the princes, landlords and priests. These selfish and domineering men, having greedily exploited the fruits of science, found that the cold eye of science had been turned on a primaeval but contrived poverty that could clearly be swept away if they were swept away themselves.

Related Characters: Galileo Galilei (speaker), Andrea Sarti
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

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Galileo Galilei Character Timeline in The Life of Galileo

The timeline below shows where the character Galileo Galilei appears in The Life of Galileo. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Scene 1
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Andrea enters, carrying Galileo’s breakfast. He discusses the need for Galileo to pay the milkman, advice which Galileo jokingly... (full context)
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Galileo shows Andrea a wooden model of the Ptolemaic astronomical system. The model shows the Earth... (full context)
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Galileo talks briefly about some of mankind’s recent discoveries. He broadly mentions the finding of new... (full context)
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Galileo then quizzes Andrea on his lessons, specifically about the teachings of Copernicus, who argued that... (full context)
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Sarti chastises both Galileo and Andrea for discussing such blasphemies as the Earth revolving around the Sun. She tells... (full context)
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After Mrs. Sarti leaves, Galileo again tries to demonstrate to Andrea. This time, he uses an apple to represent the... (full context)
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Ludovico enters with Mrs. Sarti and Galileo quizzes him. He discovers that Ludovico has been sent by his mother, who wishes him... (full context)
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...so, he offhandedly mentions a new invention in Amsterdam that confused him totally: the telescope. Galileo asks him to describe the invention in detail, which Ludovico does, and Galileo sketches it.... (full context)
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Directly after, the Procurator of Padua University arrives to tell Galileo that the raise he requested has been denied. Galileo responds that he can’t live off... (full context)
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The Procurator laments that a great intellectual like Galileo didn’t choose a more profitable field of study, like philosophy. He suggests that if Galileo... (full context)
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Andrea returns with the apple and the lenses Galileo requested from Mrs. Sarti. Galileo begins constructing a rudimentary telescope, while telling Andrea that he... (full context)
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The next scene opens with a celebration at the harbor of Venice. Galileo’s “new” telescope (which they affectionately call his tube) has astonished everyone, and the entire town... (full context)
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Galileo doesn’t have much interest in these festivities, he tells his friend Sagredo, even though the... (full context)
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Virginia enters with Ludovico. Galileo mentions that he improved the telescope from the Danish version. Ludovico says he can tell:... (full context)
Scene 3
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Galileo and Sagredo are looking through his telescope at the moon. Sagredo struggles to understand what... (full context)
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Galileo, however, continues. He says that there is “no difference” between Heaven and Earth and that... (full context)
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Mrs. Sarti interrupts the two men to introduce the Procurator. He has arrived to tell Galileo the shocking news that the telescope wasn’t an original invention. A Dutch merchant has just... (full context)
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Sagredo asks if Galileo knew about the Dutch telescopes beforehand. Galileo confirms that he did, but also that he... (full context)
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...men return to the telescope, though Sagredo admits that he’s scared to see what else Galileo will show him. They look at the moons of Jupiter (which he calls stars) and... (full context)
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By way of explaining, Sagredo asks Galileo where God is if He’s not in the Heavens, which angers Galileo. Galileo responds that... (full context)
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Still, when Virginia appears moments later, Galileo forbids her from looking through the telescope. He even downplays the invention in front of... (full context)
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Galileo also tells Virginia that he’s written to the Grand Duke of Florence, asking for a... (full context)
Scene 4
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Galileo has moved to Florence with his housekeeper (Mrs. Sarti), Andrea, and Virginia. Mrs. Sarti prepares... (full context)
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When Galileo arrives with his lens-grinder and friend, Federzoni, the rest of the court accompany him upstairs.... (full context)
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In the end, the Cosimo’s scientists leave without even glancing through Galileo’s telescope. They promise to send Galileo’s ideas to Clavius, the chief astronomer of the Papal... (full context)
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A plague has begun in Florence, and Cosimo sends a carriage to escort Galileo, Virginia, Mrs. Sarti, and Andrea to safety. Galileo makes sure that Virginia and Andrea get... (full context)
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Later, Galileo can’t find Mrs. Sarti and he goes out into the street looking for her. No... (full context)
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Andrea begins to cry, and Galileo comforts him with news of all he’s discovered in the boy’s absence. As they’re discussing... (full context)
Scene 6
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With the plague ended, Galileo arrives in Rome and finds himself amid a group of monks, religious scholars, and Vatican... (full context)
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A very old cardinal enters the room and verbally attacks Galileo, calling him an enemy of the human race and saying that he reminds the cardinal... (full context)
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The Little Monk approaches Galileo in private and tells him that, before he left, Clavius said that the Church would... (full context)
Scene 7
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Galileo arrives at a ball being put on in his honor with Virginia and her date,... (full context)
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Barberini and Galileo banter back and forth, amicably trading quotes from the Bible. Barberini ends this part of... (full context)
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...Church, he continues, has decided that Copernicus’ view of the universe remains heretical. And while Galileo’s research has been confirmed, and he may continue it—indeed, must continue it—he must nevertheless abandon... (full context)
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As Galileo is escorted from the stage by Barberini and his colleague, two scribes are observed taking... (full context)
Scene 8
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The Little Monk comes to visit Galileo. He tells Galileo that, ever since Clavius declared Galileo’s findings to be correct, he has... (full context)
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The Little Monk doesn’t doubt Galileo, he says, but he doubts that telling the truth about the universe will help anyone.... (full context)
Scene 9
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Years have gone by, and though Galileo hasn’t written anything further on the subject of Copernicus, he has amassed a group of... (full context)
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...University. Virginia replies that she already has. Their conversation is interrupted by the rector of Galileo’s college, who has come to drop off a book. He refuses to interrupt Galileo, however,... (full context)
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...doesn’t interest any of them). The inscription reads “To the greatest living authority on physics, Galileo Galilei.” The group discusses what sunspots might be, though Galileo remains silent throughout. (full context)
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...iron needle will sink. The Little Monk begins to present Aristotle’s argument in Latin, but Galileo demands that he translate it into Italian for Federzoni’s sake. Through the experiment, they discover... (full context)
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...Barberini. Convinced that Barberini will usher in a new age of reason for the Church, Galileo renews his research into the Earth orbiting the Sun. (full context)
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Ludovico, however, is not as happy. Ludovico reminds Galileo that he signed a declaration saying he would never again promote Copernicus’ ideas. Furthermore, Ludovico... (full context)
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...this surely won’t be a problem, since the peasants can’t read the Latin in which Galileo will publish his findings. Galileo, however, says that he plans on publishing in simple Italian,... (full context)
Scene 11
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Galileo has been summoned to the Medici palace for a meeting with Cosimo. He and Virginia... (full context)
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Eventually Cosimo comes out, but only addresses Galileo in passing. Galileo offers the Grand Duke a book, but Cosimo ignores it, instead asking... (full context)
Scene 12
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Barberini (now Pope Urban VIII) is arguing with an Inquisitor. The problem with Galileo, the Inquisitor tells him, is not so much what he says about the Earth and... (full context)
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Barberini defends Galileo, while conceding that he ought not to have written in Italian. He reminds the Inquisitor... (full context)
Scene 13
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In Rome, Virginia, Federzoni, the Little Monk, and Andrea await the outcome of Galileo’s questioning by the Inquisition. All of them are confident that Galileo will not recant his... (full context)
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Moments later an official appears to tell them that Galileo is expected to recant. Shortly thereafter, he does, and his statement is read to the... (full context)
Scene 14
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Galileo is an old man and Virginia about forty years old. He has been under house... (full context)
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A stranger has gifted the family a pair of fat geese, and Galileo requests that they be cooked with apples. When Virginia presents them to Galileo, however, he... (full context)
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While Galileo is dictating a response to a clerical request for his opinion, Andrea (now middle-aged himself)... (full context)
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When Andrea goes to leave after only a short talk, Galileo asks him why he bothered to come in the first place. Galileo’s repentance has been... (full context)
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...clamoring for, is under the supervision of a monk in a small house in Florence. Galileo gives Andrea his transcript, so that he can take it with him to Holland and... (full context)