The Life of Galileo

by

Bertolt Brecht

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The Life of Galileo: Scene 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Galileo has moved to Florence with his housekeeper (Mrs. Sarti), Andrea, and Virginia. Mrs. Sarti prepares for the arrival of the Grand Duke of Florence, Cosimo de Medici, whose scientists want to examine the stars Galileo discovered. Cosimo arrives sooner than Mrs. Sarti expects (before Galileo has returned home from work) and he rushes upstairs to see “the tube.” His attendants, who are elderly, remain behind waiting for Galileo. This leaves Andrea alone with Cosimo, and the two soon get into a scuffle over the wooden model depicting Aristotle’s model of the universe. Andrea expresses his annoyance that the young Duke doesn’t instinctively know that the model is wrong.
Cosimo’s youth is a historical reality, but it’s also helpful here in showing the politics of the day. While nominal political control was held by governments, these were essentially “children” that needed to be tutored and led, by the Church. In this sense, Andrea could be seen here (in his tussle with Cosimo) as representing empiricism: a new power looking to influence leaders, but still not mature enough to have real power.
Themes
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Related Quotes
When Galileo arrives with his lens-grinder and friend, Federzoni, the rest of the court accompany him upstairs. He talks to Cosimo’s scientists about how mathematics have, for some time, been unable to explain certain celestial occurrences using Aristotle’s system. The “stars” orbiting Jupiter are one such example. Galileo offers to show the scientists these stars, but they want first to discuss the matter. They begin in Latin, but Galileo demands that they continue in Italian for Federzoni’s sake. The scientists present Aristotle’s understanding of the world as true, and suggest to Galileo that, since his findings differ from Aristotle’s, he must’ve made a mistake. Federzoni assures them that Galileo hasn’t erred, but they again evoke the name of “the divine Aristotle” as proof. Federzoni’s suggestion that Aristotle had no telescope is met with outrage: according to Cosimo’s court, he didn’t need one.
Latin was used for a long time in Europe both by scientific and ecclesiastical societies, both for its beauty and the clarity of thought needed to express one’s self in it. Even today, Latin is still used in such arenas as the classification of plant and animal life. However, Latin often had a secondary function. Knowledge of Latin required specialized education that was only available to members of the upper classes. Thus, by writing in Latin, priests (and others) could carry on all manner of discourses, while only publishing official knowledge in Italian.
Themes
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Persecution Theme Icon
Ideas as Infection Theme Icon
Greatness Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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 college at Rome.
The tone of Galileo’s discussion with the scientists leaves some doubt as to whether this promise is a lightly veiled threat.
Themes
Progress vs. Tradition Theme Icon
Persecution Theme Icon
Ideas as Infection Theme Icon