The Play

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

Galileo, a play in fourteen scenes, begins in the morning. The initial action takes place in Galileo’s sparsely furnished room in a modest house in the city of Padua in 1609. The audience sees Galileo washing himself. Before breakfast, he teaches Andrea Sarti, the son of Galileo’s housekeeper, the new cosmology—that the earth orbits the sun. Galileo, it turns out, has stolen the design of the telescope; in order to make money, he sells a telescope as his own invention to the senate of the Venetian Republic. In his research, Galileo uses the telescope to prove his thesis that the earth orbits the sun.

In order to have more time for this research, Galileo moves to Florence to become the court mathematician. At the court of the Medicis, Galileo does not find any support for his thesis, but in Rome his thesis is upheld by the Papal Observatory and its astronomer. Galileo is feted in Rome—wined and dined by the cardinals—but his thesis is declared a heresy by the Holy Office. It is feared that Galileo’s scientific mind, which questions the traditional perception of the solar system, will question also the established religious, economic, and social system. Galileo is cautioned to abandon these teachings, and his case is put into the hands of the Inquisition.

For eight years, Galileo abstains from astronomy, until he becomes interested in a debate about sunspots. When he decides to resume his research in astronomy, his...

(The entire section is 563 words.)