Characters

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 434

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Suor (Sister) Maria Celeste: Maria Celeste is the daughter of the book's title, Galileo's illegitimate offspring. She is a level-headed, highly intelligent woman who is consigned to a nunnery as a young girl. At age 16, she takes her vows at the convent of San Mateo in Arcetri, having probably already lived there three years. She lives there for the rest of her life. Her approximately 120 letters to Galileo show her to be a loving daughter to her famous father: loyal to him, engaged in his scientific ideas, and in no way believing he is heretical. She often has to ask him for money or supplies, given the vows of poverty she was forced to take, and has to manage her relationship with him carefully. She often makes him pieces of clothing, such as knitted socks, and shows herself as wise in dealing with him and the convent.

Suor (Sister) Arcangela: One year younger than her sister Maria Celeste, Arcangela took her vows at the same convent a year after Maria Celeste. Like Maria Celeste, she is Galileo's illegitimate child. Unlike her sister, she is prone to melancholy, poor judgment, and mental instability, and becomes a problem Maria Celeste has to deal with.

Galileo Galilei: Galileo's life and work dominate this book. He is the scientific giant of his time, renowned throughout Europe. His theory that Earth revolves around the sun causes him controversy and heartache. He writes kind letters to his eldest daughter but is at the same time a thoroughgoing patriarch, willing to consign his daughters to a convent rather than arrange for the dowries they would have needed to marry. Ironically, he himself ends up under house arrest, confined like his daughters, at the end of his life. He is depicted as a man of integrity, trying to be true to both his science and his Catholic faith.

Pope Urban VIII: Once a friend, Urban becomes Galileo's nemesis in the Inquisition drama that unfolds, forcing Galileo to retract his radical theory that Earth revolves around the sun. Through him, we see the Church as more than a theological body: Urban persecutes his former friend in part as a public relations move, showing that the Church is diligent in rooting out heresy even among high-profile men. Urban is also seen as a man personally piqued by the way Galileo oversteps his bounds.

Marina Gamba: As Galileo's mistress, Marina bore three of his children: Maria Celeste, Arcangela, and a son, Vincenzio. Though they did not live together, Galileo and Marina were a couple for twelve years. Marina later married Giovanni Bartoluzzi with Galileo's blessing.

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