Life of Galileo
Brecht’s play portrays Galileo as he struggles with the church over his attempts to prove the Copernican theory of a heliocentric solar system. The play opens as Galileo teaches his theory to eleven-year-old Andrea Sarti, his housekeeper’s son. He is initially celebrated as a great man of the Renaissance – until the church condemns his teachings, fearing that he will begin to question the order of the social system, too. For eight years, he stops his research, but when an argument about sunspots piques his interest, and he is compelled to begin his study again. His daughter, Virginia, is engaged to the wealthy and stupid Ludovico. Ludovico breaks off the engagement when Galileo starts his research again, and Virginia resents her father for it. When Cardinal Barberini, a man of the Enlightenment, becomes pope, Galileo hopes that the church will change its position, but Barberini, now Pope Urban VIII, is pressured to censure the scientist. Galileo recants his theories under threat of torture, and for the remaining years of his life, he writes in secret, only to have his papers confiscated. Only Virginia is proud of him, and she keeps a watchful eye on him. He manages to keep a copy of his work hidden in a globe, which the now 39-year-old Andrea smuggles out of Italy. Andrea berates him for his recantation. Galileo admits that he recanted out of a fear of torture and proclaims that he has betrayed science. Brecht’s powerful play questions the scientist’s responsibilities in the face of an oppressive government. There are two major versions of this play, as well as other minor variations, and not all characters appear in each version.
Includes adult, mature adult, child, early teen, young adult characters