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Life of Galileo

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  11,285 ratings  ·  445 reviews
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 27th 2008 by Penguin Classics (first published 1943)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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Nov 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Unhappy the land where heroes are needed."

History and literature studies have a natural connecting point in the human need for heroic action and (self-)sacrifice. Reading novelists, historians and poets who experienced the first and second world war first-hand, I slowly came to the conclusion that heroism itself is a flaw in human culture which rarely brings any benefits, but often creates suffering on a big scale, as heroes can be made instruments for dogma and set up as "martyrs" for a caus
Riku Sayuj
Dec 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Riku by: Neerja Pandey
The play explores the pivotal moment in human history, at least in western history, when man confronts for the first time the proof that his conceptions of truth were entirely wrong.

Galileo comes alive as a larger than life genius from the pages, full of witticisms and blustering energy. Even his betrayal of his own science tends to be easily forgiven by the audience because he is such a genial revolutionary.

More than the drama of science standing up to the bully called religion, I liked the in

Recently I attended a production of this play translated into Spanish and adapted in a striking way. The vague notions I have of Brecht’s idea of the theatre, the Epic theatre, did not seem to be staged in this performance. There was no Verfremdung. On the contrary, the theatre hall had been transformed and the stage was in the middle and had a circular platform that rotated, and we the audience were siting around it. Various lights and shadows and images were projected onto its floor-screen. A
In the comment thread to the review of Dennett's Breaking the Spell which I posted a couple of days ago, much of the discussion has turned on the concept of martyrdom. Dennett argues that religion is a self-reproducing pattern of behavior (a "meme"), and that a martyr is someone who has been taken over by a meme to the point where he is willing to sacrifice his life for his beliefs. Maybe irrational for the martyr, but perfectly rational from the meme's point of view: the history of religion sho ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Young man, I do not eat my cheese absentmindedly.

Despite my perforated memory, I can still cling to triumph, most of which are the achievements of others but alas I can still appreciate. I thought about Brecht at the end of his life this morning while enjoying this masterful narrative. Did he regard himself as recanted? Did his petty tyranny of the women in his life strike him as abominable? Galileo as depicted by Brecht is too pragmatic to be disarmed by such pondering. He is at ease groveling
Mira Jundi
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As I finished reading this masterpiece of Brecht, I sat thinking about how to go through everything in this play in one review, it's impossible!
This play is absolutely one of the best literary works I've read and will ever read. I couldn't find anything more appropriate to say about it than Brecht's own words from the play itself.
"For where belief has prevailed for a thousand years, doubt now prevails."
"He who does not know the truth is merely an idiot. But he who knows it and calls it a lie, is
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are many reasons why I chose to write about this in my common application to American colleges. This book has had a phenomenal influence on me. I have loved and enjoyed every part of this play. Life of Galileo is not merely another book about the enraging conflict between science and its mindless counterpart religion, but also about society and in the end life itself.

People oft forget that Bertolt Brecht was a Marxist intellectual and his plays not only reflect that but also impersonate hi
Annie ☽
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
English title: Life of Galileo

“Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes.”

This is a play about Galileo, and at the same time it is not.

Galileo's relationship with the Church is one of the most obvious (and possibly also the most famous) examples of the age-old conflict between science and power, a conflict that at the time this play was written in was very significant; the use of scientific discoveries as means of human annihilation by the ruling class was rampant during WWII. One may be brough
Dhanaraj Rajan
May be three and half stars.

As a performance, I think this would have been a five star play. To read, I think something was lacking. There were lengthy dialogues that sounded more preachy for me than dramatic. This is where the rating suffered.

But the presentation of the life of Galileo Galilei is complete. He comes alive as a curious scientist, mathematician and most of all a frightened human being at the threat from the Church. He stands for science and human reason. He also portrays that huma
this is getting ridiculous!every book I read in 2016 is so good that I can't avoid giving 5 stars,lol. will be back with a review. ...more
Mar 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Life of Galileo, by Bertolt Brecht, is a lively and fascinating work about science and moral responsibility. Written less like a play and more in the vein of Socratic dialogue, Brecht offers a concise fictionalised account of the rise and fall of Galileo Galilei. What makes this play truly beautiful is that is does not try to affirm science as filled with wonder and potential, but instead employs a critical negativity to make readers re-evaluate scientific research and its potentially detrimenta ...more
Dec 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Saw this play in Boston, twice. Worked very well on stage, the best of Brecht, though Threepenny Opera can also be inviting. As a G Bruno scholar, I almost shouted from my seat when Brecht said Bruno thought God was "within ourselves, or nowhere." GB surely considered himself a good Christian, though a defender of Arius (no Trinity, Christ human). Still, Brecht may have Galileo's attitude right, "Giordano Bruno was an idiot: he spoke too soon. He would never have been condemned if he could have ...more
Dec 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the “Life of Galileo,” Bertolt Brecht highlights the astronomer’s struggles with the Catholic Church, which opposed his work extending the theories of Copernicus and threatened him with torture. This was not an idle threat since the Church actually burned at the stake the heliocentric astronomer Giordano Bruno in 1600. It is interesting how leading clerics refused his offer to gaze through his primitive telescope, instead insisting on a philosophical dispute, preferably in Latin, about whethe ...more
Feb 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s not often that I read plays. There’s a couple of reasons for this: living in London, I prefer to go and see them performed whenever possible, but also I’ve never really thought of drama as a medium that I’d frequently sit down and just read like I would a book. It’s a strange, stupid prejudice on my part which probably has something to do with the fact that I have no interest in writing drama either. I don't particularly enjoy dialogue, and whenever I read a script I always feel dragged dow ...more
Layla (Between the Lines)
I thoroughly enjoyed this play! I have to admit that this is a pleasant surprise because I normally dread the books I'm assigned to read for university. Since this is part of my required reading (and I have to write a lot of about it in class), I am not going to write a full review for it here. Instead, here are some of my favourite quotes from the text:
“Listen to me: someone who doesn't know the truth is just thick-headed. But someone who does know it and calls it a lie is a crook.”

“...I be
Robert Beveridge
Bertolt Brecht, Galileo (Grove Press, 1952)

Publishers who put out "literature" (perhaps I should capitalize the L) have felt it necessary for the past half-century or so to include long-winded dissections of the texts as a part of their editions. No mind is paid, seemingly, to whether these long-winded dissections contain major plot spoilers (they almost always do). Add Eric Bentley's interminable preface to the Grove Press edition of Brecht's Galileo to the list. Perhaps Grove assumes anyone re
Victor Davis
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: influences
What a powerful play. I've always heard the adage that plays are meant to be performed, not read. That's fine, but I still can't shake the belief that the most substantive plays must be written by substantive playwrights who must have just as masterful a command over the written word as the visual performance. Bertolt Brecht possesses that command. I've always loved The Crucible and Death of a Salesman, and recently added The Miracle Worker to my list of favorite plays, but even these undisputed ...more
Mar 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the very many quotes that I utterly enjoyed from this play:

"SAGREDO: Galileo, I see you embarking on a frightful road. It is a disastrous night when mankind sees the truth. And a delusive hour when it believes in human reason. What kind of person is said to go into things with his eyes open? One who is going to his doom. How could the people in power give free rein to somebody who knows the truth, even if it concerns the remotest stars? Do you imagine the Pope will hear the truth when you
Maria Nicolaou
Nov 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brecht's Galileo is one of the most realistic, fully developed characters I've experienced so far. The author does not "contaminate" his work with exaggerations, and does not hesitate to add a little humour in what might have been a tragedy. And this is why he gives heroism a new meaning; to be a hero does not mean to sacrifice one's life. It is rather the kind of heroism that sacrifices the anticipations of people likes us: people who are so eager to grant heroism a taste of feverish revolution ...more
Nicholas Seders
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
When Scholarship & Politics Come Into Conflict...
A really interesting drama results. Having a preference for historical fiction and an amateur's interest in astronomy, I picked up this title to fulfill an undergraduate-level Scriptwriting Seminar assignment. I was pleased to find that Galileo not only satisfied my coursework needs, but also the two interests I mentioned above - without reading like a textbook for Renaissance History or Intro to Astronomy.
Aside from the tension that drives th
Katie Dunn
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It wasn't a work of history, nor an accurate work of science. But what it is is a discussion on truth, and the importance of a discovery that shakes and breaks apart the very foundations of what is known as truth. It is a tale of determination and passion, but also of human fallibility. (view spoiler)
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The characters are vividly presented and hence you can easily imagine the play in your mind. it's a good critique of Galileo's life, both his fight for science and his retraction that potentially resulted in a big delay of enlightenment. I think his final chat with Andrea, one of his past pupils, closer to the end of the book gives also a nice critique of science itself. A very enjoyable read overall. ...more
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
6/5 but since that isn't possible, I'll settle for 5 stars.
Very well written, very intriguing, very thought-provoking and a must read for everyone. This play will hold relevance in every age, every hour and to every man.
Joseph Raffetto
Nov 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays, favorites
The Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht is entertaining, educational, and intelligent.
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just re-read Brecht's Galileo after 25 years. It is a masterful play on the issue of science's morality, its relationship with society and authority, and a pleasure to read. ...more
Juan Manuel Wills
This elaborate play, one of the best of its production according to many, creates a reflection on how important, science is for mankind to open the horizons for understanding how things work and enable him seek more ambitious goals without relying on religious authorities to decide what the truth is. It also contains a strong critique of the methods of religion, particularly when the Inquisition was in effect trying to decide the story that's best for its leaders to maintain control of their sub ...more
Feb 01, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Brecht
I really did not enjoy this play. The topic is really interesting and could've been fantastic. However, Brecht just barely delves into a scene before pulling us out of it and moving on to the next thing. This could've worked well if the characters were developed, but all the development happens offstage between scenes. Characters who appear in multiple scenes and have plenty of lines are never given names, being referred to instead by titles, which makes it really hard to keep track of the chara ...more
Erik Graff
Aug 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Maurice Lieberman, Ed Erickson
Shelves: drama
This book was required reading by Dr. Lieberman, the teacher of freshman humanities at Grinnell College in Iowa. It was one of the first books assigned. I recall carrying it along to Rock Creek Park, about the only wooded area anywhere near the school. Friends from Park Ridge with a car were visiting, allowing all of us, old friends and new, a road trip to picnic in the rather unremarkable locale. It was chilly, but mostly sunny that fall day.

Brecht was known to me from high school as a prominen
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Life of Galileo explores the difficulty of upturning dogmas that have in place for years - the ongoing battle between science and religion that hasn't ended even now, 400 years later (as Bill Nye would attest to with his recent novel Undeniable). Bertolt Brecht reflects on the strength - and weakness - of the human spirit in the face of these difficulties. His prose is easy to read and the science discussed is understandable to those with little to no science background. The play (according to s ...more
Carl Waluconis
Jun 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: drama
This is a classic play about the struggle to sustain the truth when writing. The main character, Galileo himself, is given room for an actor and director to interpret fully. We see his human and his intellectual sides. Reading it really made me want to see a production, or even different productions. This copy includes a great essay by Brecht, "Writing the Truth: Five Difficulties", that offers advice much needed in these Trump-ridden times. "The dependence of everything upon many factors which ...more
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Bertolt Brecht (born Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht) was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director. A seminal theatre practitioner of the twentieth century, Brecht made equally significant contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production, the latter particularly through the seismic impact of the tours undertaken by the Berliner Ensemble—the post-war theatre company operated by Brecht a ...more

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“The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error.” 233 likes
“Nowadays, anyone who wishes to combat lies and ignorance and to write the truth must overcome at least five difficulties. He must have the courage to write the truth when truth is everywhere opposed; the keenness to recognize it, although it is everywhere concealed; the skill to manipulate it as a weapon; the judgment to select those in whose hands it will be effective; and the running to spread the truth among such persons.” 106 likes
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