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Galileo Revisited Through Brecht
[Review] A look at scientific exploration, the church trust in human wisdom
Daljit Singh (daljitami)     Print Article 
Published 2007-09-07 10:54 (KST)   
This article was only lightly edited.  <Editor's Note>
Still from the play "The Life of Galileo"
©2007 daljit ami
What Galileo lived, Brecht reproduced in a play called "The Life of Galileo" and same was re-enacted in open air theatre of Jawaharlal Nehru University. Shahid Anwar's adaptation in Hindustani (mix of Hindi and Urdu) was staged by a theatre group, Bahroop. Although the play is based on the life of great scientist who lived in seventeenth century Italy but its dialogues transcends the boundaries of time and space.

Galileo's exploration and vision form the core of the play. His conflict with the church and established scientific knowledge has specifics which were relevant at that time. His claims that earth revolves around the sun and the moon has no light of its own are the specifics which contradicted church's understanding of god and universe.

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His exploration has broader meaning which is equally relevant today when his scientific discoveries have been acknowledged. The play has dialogue which emphasises the importance of scientific exploration, "If you are unaware you can be fool but if you know the truth and don't want to speak then you are criminal." On the one hand you can understand his driving principle to question the established knowledge but on the other hand he is fixing the accountability and responsibility of scientists.

Similarly Galileo is very clear about the constituency he is producing the knowledge for. He chose to write in the language of masses and stressed the message while handing his manuscripts to a young scientist. He says, "The purpose of science is that everyone should know everything." This dialogue places the responsibility of disseminating as well as producing the scientific knowledge on scientists.

Galileo applies scientific temperament into social reality. For him scientific knowledge in isolation is meaningless. He is struggling to get his research going as he is dependent on Church and Universities for funds. Church wants him to work within established norms and research to glorify God. His exploration questions the understanding of Church about the Universe. The Church forces him to apologise for this. Galileo apologise but he is convinced of his findings. He shares his feelings, "People have been able to understand the movements of stars but they are yet to understand the conspiracies of masters."

©2007 daljit ami
©2007 daljit ami
This way the play became a platform for a dialogue between tradition and modernity. Benil Biswas played the role of Galileo to perfection. His make-up to depict different stages of Galileo's life and corresponding body-language deserve appreciation. Dr. HS Shivprakash direction was good enough to involve the audience. The lighting was flat but it can be attributed to the provision on the location.

Another aspect of the performance was the accommodation of a compulsion. The open air theatre is just under the air route approaching Indira Gandhi International Airport. The time of performance coincided with busiest air traffic time. The actors used to freeze during these noises of air-buses. This compulsion can be stretched as Brechtian technique of alienation but the fact of the matter is that these noises could not disturb the interaction of performance and audience.

The play touched another contemporary issue of nation-state and citizen relationship. When Galileo apologise from the Church, a young scientist, Andrea, tease him for his weakness, "Unfortunate are the nations which have not been blessed with martyrs." Galileo responds, "Unfortunate are the nations which need martyrs."

Galileo's scientific exploration, his apology from church and his trust in human wisdom seems to be coming out of his intense wish for life. He loves good food, leisure and scientific research with equal intensity. Brecht's portrayal of Galileo presents him as a normal human being which any one of us can be. The play leaves a question in audience's mind. Has science been able to meet its purpose or is it on the way to achieve the purpose?
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Daljit Singh

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