Life of Galileo is regarded as one of German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s greatest masterpieces. The play follows legendary astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei in the later part of his life, and his struggle to prove the Copernican theory of a heliocentric universe. At the onset of the action, Galileo is a scientist and a teacher of certain renown in Renaissance Italy. He builds his own telescope, the first of its kind in Italy, and -- through its use -- discovers a revolutionary astronomical breakthrough. Copernicus’ theory — that it is the Sun, not the Earth, that is the center of the Universe — has long been known, but never believed. When Galileo discovers the four moons of Jupiter, however, he knows he has found Copernicus’ long-sought proof. Galileo’s claims are pitted against the Catholic Church and all of the Pope’s authority, who see these findings, and the man who claims them, as a threat to their religion and status. Through Galileo’s struggles against the Church, Brecht is able to show the audience a humanizing and compelling portrait of the great scientist, torn between his scientific principles and his desire for the comfortable life that compliance with authority affords.
Life of Galileo guide sections