Is Galileo considered a “hero” or “anti-hero”? Paper
Galileo Galilei, the central character of Brecht’s play, is known as one of the most famous scientists of all the times. He was one of the first to study in depth the universe and is known as the Father of Modern Science. I consider a “hero” a person noted for his acts of courage or noble purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his/her life for the advantages of the human society. Galileo is shown as a “hero” on the first nine scenes of the play, for his courage to stand up the church and also for his passion and enthusiasm towards his aims. On the other hand, on the following scenes he is exposed with some characteristics of an “anti-hero” for his irreverence towards the church showing no respects whatsoever towards it’s privileged leaders and also for his coolness towards his daughter Virginia. Nevertheless, should Galileo be considered a “hero” or “anti-hero” for his actions?
One of the most important characteristics that make Galileo a “hero” is his great determination and self-confidence in proving and demonstrating his ideas. He dedicated almost his entire life proving that his discoveries about the universe were right. Although, he knew that it would cost him a lot, he did not gave up the discoveries that he made. This is shown when he says: “The sum of the angles in a triangle cannot be varied to suit the Vatican’s convenience.” P.68 This sentence shows that he refuses to ignore the changes for the sake of compromise on political and religious purposes. Even during the plague, he says: I didn’t let the plague stop me from recording my observations,” Pg.58 which shows his great determination towards his aim: scientific truth.
Galileo is presented as a brave and courageous person who, in order to fulfill his aims went against the authority of the churches. Galileo had a great courage shown by the fact that he was not afraid to put up with the opposition. While the Italian church, scientists and the whole population of that time still held their believes strongly on the Ptolemaic system (which placed the earth in the center of the universe), Galileo explored and found out that the Copernican system of heliocentricism was the real one. The church did not accept his findings because they would look very stupid and according to them it is better to be wrong than to question what they called it the “Gods creation.”
They blindly believed that the earth was in the center of the universe and changing this would mean that people would no longer be in the center of god’s eyes. This is strongly supported by Sagredo who says “Do you imagine the Pope will hear the truth when you tell them he’s wrong, and not just hear that he’s wrong? Do you imagine he will merely note in his diary: January 10th 1610-got rid of heaven? Pg.33 The courage he showed to have had grew weaker when the Inquisition forced him to recant publicly his support of Copernicus. He gets arrested and recants his theories, an act this that shows some negative qualities because he refuses to sacrifice himself for the sake of scientific truth. Andrea furious when he finds out claims: “Unhappy is the land, that has no heroes.” Andrea feels betrayed by this renounce of Galileo who in this scene has a sound change in appearance, giving the impression of having an indecisive and weak character.
Galileo is shown as a sensible and reasonable person because he understands that knowledge and particularly scientific discoveries take always time to be accepted. On one of the dialogues Galileo had with the Little Monk, he says “Your Campagna peasants are paying for the wars which the representative of gentle Jesus is waging in Germany and Spain” p.66 where he blames the church on spending money on wars and not on the well being of the peasant and therefore showing no respect and fairness for these poor and unfortunate people. He says that “otherwise they could live in plenty” and “develop the virtues of happiness and prosperity.” Pg.66 This noble character he shows towards the society, is sometimes counteracted by some weaknesses of his like the fact that he himself wasn’t very sensible when he took the idea of the telescope from a Dutch scientist. Although, this was a smart and cunning way to earn money he is shown as a dishonest person behaving very hideously for stealing credit for other’s discoveries.
In his personal relations with others, Galileo is shown affectionate and sympathetic towards both Andrea and Mrs. Sarti. However, he alienates and doesn’t give any attention to his daughter, Virginia treating her (from the start of the play) in a very careless way. When Virginia asks him if she “can have a look” at the telescope, Galileo answers in a very unkind way saying “What for? It’s not a toy,” leaving Virginia without words. Here, he behaves in a very unfair and biased way towards Virginia because while he got Andrea out of the bed to show him his discoveries, he treats his daughter in very humiliating and cold manner by making it clear to her that he things she is not a clever person.
Also, on the third scene Virginia tries to comfort her father who is worried “weather the court will have” him or not, by telling him “Of course they’ll have you, Father, with your new stars and all that.” Galileo to this affectionate and caring encouragement answers in a very revolting and unpleasantly cold manner saying to her “Run along to your mass.” These acts show how unfair and unpleasantly cold he was to his daughter showing no attention and kindness whatsoever towards her. During the plague, Galileo asks a man “to bring (me) a small book” and bread while the man laughing tells him “you’ll be lucky if u get bread.” Here, Galileo is shown very self-centered and irrational because his request is very absurd in that circumstance.
He is presented as a very passionate and dedicated person who spent almost his entire life proving that his ideas about the universe were right. He had a great desire for scientific research, a thing this that makes him even more a ‘hero’ His great enthusiasm and passion towards science, is shown on the conversation he has with his friend Sagredo where he says: “The lure of proof is too great. Nearly everyone succumbs to it, sooner or later we all do. Thinking is one of the chief pleasures of the human race.” Pg.29 His enthusiasm towards science is also shown on the conversation he has with the Little Monk who suggests to Galileo that “the truth will get through without” pg.68 their help and Galileo responds “the only truth that gets though will be what we force through” and he later concludes “And the worst thing is that what I know I have to tell people, like a lover, like a drunken, like a traitor,” even knowing that “it is an absolute vice and leads to disaster.”Pg.68 At last, Galileo says “I enjoy doing my stuff” pg.17 showing once more his great satisfaction and determination towards the scientific research.
Galileo has the ability to communicate and explain the most complex ideas with clarity and precision, things these that makes him a very comprehensive teacher. He is shown as a patient teacher and especially with Andrea to whom he teaches and explains all his discoveries in great details. He is also an enthusiastic teacher and this is shown when he praises Andrea for his comprehension saying “Very well” pg.10 and also giving Andrea good advices like “you must learn to think cautiously.” Pg.74 He was a great influence to Andrea and this is shown when Andrea quotes Galileo’s doctrine “Someone who doesn’t know the truth is just thick-headed. But someone who does knows it and calls it a lie is a crook.” Pg. 75 and 95.
He lives the discovering of these scientific researches in a very optimistic and joyful way saying: “A new time has begun, a time it’s a pleasure to live in.” pg.10 He understands however that knowledge takes always time to be accepted and this is shown when he says “I believe in Humanity, which means to say I believe in human reason. If it weren’t for that belief each morning I wouldn’t have the power to get out of bed.” Pg.29 Here, Galileo shows his faith in human reason and his optimism that only reason will be able to get the people’s support for astronomical truth. Then, he “drops a pebble on the ground” (scene 3) showing people that if they believe in the force of gravity seeing it, then they should also believe in astronomy by proofing it. Scene 6 His strong optimism is also shown when he claims that ” the old days are over, and this is a new time.”Pg.6 and also “But now the word is ‘that’s how things are, but they wont stay like that,”Pg.6 both of these showing his great optimism towards him aim but also show him as a combatant of truth and progressivism.
In conclusion, I would like to state that in my opinion Galileo Galilei has shown qualities, merits, talent and contributions that make him a real “hero.” His outstanding abilities, his great courage, his faith in universal truth, his comprehension and reasoning of some complex ideas, his great social concerns of the time and his fighting for the progress in science make Galileo with no doubts a heroic character. His feeble points and weaknesses of his personality, which all humans have, are for the most part minor taking into account his merits. With his famous mythical saying “Eppur si muove,” (english-and yet it moves) he has remained for the last four centuries as a great hero, which symbolizes that the conviction and confidence towards the truth is stronger than any obstacle.