Kepler’s stated appreciation of Albrecht Durer’s engraving titled “Knight, Death and Devil” may be an acknowledgment of his own possession of the qualities that he perceives in that work, “stoic grandeur and fortitude,” but it is an incomplete guide to his overall personality. There is no denying the astronomer’s tenacity and his commitment to his vision of the heavens: His seven-year obsession with the mathematical implications of his revolutionary insights dramatically attest these qualities. In addition, on the private front, his moral courage in the face of repeated frustration and loss is affectingly affirmative. As Kepler makes clear, however, what is most impressive about its protagonist is the range of his personality. There seems to be no one Kepler, but rather a not particularly harmonious aggregation of traits which are at once allied and conflicting. Given this makeup, Kepler provides an interesting contrast with the other main characters in the novel.
What characterizes his wife Barbara, mentor Tycho Brahe, and employer the Emperor Rudolph is a certain narrowness. It is as though all these personages have found a structure in the known world within which to shelter their personalities. In Barbara’s case, which is at once the most vulgar, the least original, and the most difficult with which to deal, the structure is money. For Brahe, rather more heroically, the structure is the epic of mathematical calculations...
(The entire section is 465 words.)