The Life of Galileo

by

Bertolt Brecht

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The Life of Galileo: Scene 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
With the plague ended, Galileo arrives in Rome and finds himself amid a group of monks, religious scholars, and Vatican astronomers who are all heartily mocking his ideas amongst themselves. All are waiting for the decision of Clavius regarding Galileo’s research. While most are enjoying the scene, a group of astronomers remarks bitterly at the fact that Clavius is using Galileo’s telescope at all. They don’t see what Clavius hopes to gain by looking through it. Galileo, listening in, lets a stone drop from his hand. When a scholar mentions that he’s dropped something, Galileo replies that he has not dropped it, but rather let it rise.
Since Galileo’s reception by the Roman astronomers matches the reception he had in Florence, it’s somewhat surprising to learn that Clavius is seriously investigating Galileo’s claims. Though this is, again, a historical reality, it nevertheless introduces some ambiguity into the Church as depicted in Brecht’s play. Is the Church interested in the truth? Or is Clavius simply certain that, if Galileo’s telescope fails to confirm what Aristotle has said, it must be a fraud?
Themes
Progress vs. Tradition Theme Icon
Persecution Theme Icon
Ideas as Infection Theme Icon
Greatness Theme Icon
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 of a man that was just burned for heresy. He angrily begins reciting the lessons of Aristotle while pacing back and forth until he collapses. At the moment he falls, Clavius enters, declares that Galileo is correct in what he’s said, and promptly leaves.
The very old cardinal’s sudden entrance, bombastic speech, and fainting are all over the top—definite signs that Brecht is adding additional meaning to this moment. In fainting, the cardinal represents the Church itself, overwhelmed and unable to accept the evidence that Clavius confirms.
Themes
Progress vs. Tradition Theme Icon
Persecution Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The Little Monk approaches Galileo in private and tells him that, before he left, Clavius said that the Church would have to once again figure out how the universe worked.
In this moment, the thematic battle between tradition and progress seems to have been won decisively.
Themes
Progress vs. Tradition Theme Icon
Ideas as Infection Theme Icon
Greatness Theme Icon
Related Quotes