Sunday, September 5, 2010

“Brecht’s Galileo Galilei is not only a hymn to reason but one that centers specifically on the need to be skeptical, to doubt”. Discuss. (P.U. 2005)

Brecht intended Galileo to be a consummate villain, and he would, in all probability have agreed with Harold Hobson’s critical assertion: “As in one view humanity is saved by the grace and death of Christ, so in Brecht’s, by the life and disgrace of Galileo, humanity is damned.” Brecht himself considered his Galileo to be a hero-villain in the tradition of Shakespeare’s evil protagonists:
“He (Galileo; should be presented as a phenomenon, rather like Richard III, whereby the audience’s emotional accept­ance is gained through the vitality of this alien manifestation.” Brecht’s phrase, “the vitality of this alien manifestation,” is a concise and perceptive definition of the spectator’s emotional reaction to Shakespeare’s villain, but while Shakespeare’s characterization is complex, Rich­ard III is more purely evil and less ambiguous than Brecht’s Galileo. Despite the magnitude of Galileo’s sin, the literal condemnation of his evil in Brecht’s polemic is complicated by the fact that his insatiable appetite for life is both the source of his genius and his essential human weakness. Brecht’s image of Galileo’s appetite is ambigu­ous. In the metaphoric structure of the play, Galileo’s appetite is the motive for his acquisition of scientific knowledge; in a sense, he consumes truth for the pleasure of its consumption. But his appetite for the pleasures of life, both intellectual and sensual, makes him unable to sacrifice himself to demonstrate the integrity of the truth he see s e tension between Galileo’s hunger for life and his hunger for truth results in a tragic paradox, and Brecht’s firm declaration that The Life of Galileo does not contain a tragic action does not alter the implicit tragedy of his conception of the recantation.
The work of the New Criticism has defined ambiguity as a primary value in poetry; and the encounter with the verbal puzzle or the ethical contradiction is now seen as a most profound and meaningful experience between poem and reader. Discussing a “clear case of the Freudian use of opposites” in HopkinsThe Windhover, to Christ Our Lord, William Empson states:
two things thought of as incompatible, but desired intensely by different systems of judgments, are spoken of simulta­neously by words applying to both; both desires are thus given a transient and exhausting satisfaction, and the two systems of judgment are forced into open conflict before the reader. Such a process, one might imagine, could pierce to regions that underlie the whole structure of our thought; could tap the energies of the very depths of the mind.
Empson’s own teacher, I. A. Richards, has defined trag­edy, “perhaps the most general, all-accepting, all-ordering experience known,” as the accommodation of opposites: hence the supreme ambiguity. Richards writes: “What clearer instance of the ‘balance or reconciliation of oppo­site and discordant qualities’ can be found than Tragedy. Pity, the impulse to approach, and Terror, the impulse to retreat, are brought in Tragedy to a reconciliation which they find nowhere else. . . . Their union in an ordered single response is the catharsis by which Tragedy is recognized, whether Aristotle meant anything of this kind or not.” In the “Preface to the Second Edition” of Seven Types of Ambiguity, Empson quotes extensively from James Smith’s strongly negative review of the first edition of his study of ambiguity. Smith does not find Empson’s application of ambiguity relevant to the criticism of drama, and he claims that “the first business of the stu­dent of drama, so far as he is concerned with ambiguity, is historical; he records that situations are treacherous, that men are consciously or unconsciously hypocritical, to such S or such a degree.” Bertolt Brecht’s critical theories concerning the function of the theatre make it seem likely that Brecht, the critic, would agree with the critical re­sponse of James Smith. In fact, the primary function of the epic theatre seems to be to serve as an arena for demonstrations which will invoke not only an ethical judgment but an ethical action. The “Short Organum for the Theatre” insists that dramatic action exists to demonstrate the weakness and injustice of human society which, by rational processes, can be clarified and relieved: “The historical conditions must o course not be imagined .. . as mysterious Powers (in the background); on the con­trary, they are created and maintained by men (and will in due course be altered by them). It is the actions taking place before us that allow us to see what they are.”
Brecht’s attitude toward dramatic action and his strong reaction against the interpretations of his own poetry in terms of depth psychology put Brecht the critic in direct opposition to the kind of criticism practiced by people like Empson and Richards, in which the suspension of the ambiguities is considered to be more valuable than the production of a clear ethical judgment. The exploration of ambiguity in a work of art assumes the presence of both conscious and subconscious processes working in the crea­tive experience. But Brecht’s own aesthetic is suspicious of the influence of images from the subconscious. He desired a supremely conscious art, one directed by ethical judg­ment which also generated an ethical judgment in the conscious attention of the spectator. He wrote: “The sub­conscious is not at all responsive to guidance; it has as it were a bad memory.” Martin Esslin discusses this suspi­cious attitude toward the influence of the subconscious: “But if a poet like T. S. Eliot wisely acknowledges the mystery behind his own poetic activity, and therefore declines to explain what he intended his poetry to mean, Brecht obstinately refused to acknowledge that there was more in what he ‘wrote than the rationally calculated effects he had wanted to achieve. This attitude, which sprang from Brecht’s highly complex personality, had very curious results. As he refused even to consider the presence of subconscious emotional factors in his poetry, he could not and did not control it, so that the subconscious elements are, if anything, more clearly visible in Brecht’s work than in that of poets who understand, and are there­fore able to conceal, their subconscious impulses.”
As Esslin discusses the matter, Brecht the poet could not create without ambiguity; and while Brecht the critic and theoretician may have demanded explicit clarity, Brecht the functioning poet and play-wright produced am­biguous poems. Even The Measures Taken, the most didactic of the Lehrstuecke, maintains a double perspective in spite of the clear intention of the poet. In the ethical structure of this explicit play, the sacrifice of The Young Comrade is seen as an action which is necessary, and logically determined, for the achievement of an ulti­mate good.
And yet, in the dialectic conflict between the immedi­ately compassionate act and the maintenance of a distant ideal, the vital humanity of The Young Comrade who cannot reconcile the present act and the ultimate end questions the ethic which demands their separation. Significantly, it is not The Young Comrade himself who questions that ethic; it is the tension between the de­mands of a specific sense of compassion and an absolute ideal within the play itself which qualifies the acceptance of the comrades’ execution of their fellow worker. Plait. Esslin writes: The Measures Taken is “a devastating reve­lation of the tragic dilemma facing the adherents of a creed that demands the subordination of all human feel­ing to a dry and abstract ideal.” In his discussion of the tension in Brecht’s work as the result of a conflict between reason and instinct in the poet himself, Martin Esslin sees Brecht’s motive of the split personality as an expression of this conflict. In an interesting and perceptive critical essay, Walter H. Sokel develops Esslin’s point in his consideration of the theme of split personality as a means of clarifying “his deep-seated though oft-denied sense of the tragic.” Sokel finds this motive working directly in A Man’s a Man, the ballet Seven Deadly Sins, The Good Woman of Setzuan, and Puntila. He notes: “Indirectly schizoid behavior forms an essential aspect of Mother Courage and an important one in Galileo.” In Galileo, as in Mother Courage, the split is not actually dramatized but instead it exists in the tension between Galileo the altruistic scientist who holds the vision of a world freed from limitation by science and Galileo the human being whose sensual appetites demand satisfaction.
While Brecht the polemicist considered Galileo in terms of a clear literal meaning, Brecht the poet re­sponded to the human action in the building of a complex verbal structure. It is the potential meaning in the complexity of the verbal structure, as an extension of the literal meaning, to which people like Empson and Rich­ards refer in their use of “ambiguity.” Allen Tate says “we may begin with the literal statement and by stages develop the complications of metaphor: at every stage we may pause to state the meaning so far apprehended, and, at every stage the meaning will be coherent.” In Galileo, that “coherent meaning” includes a realization that Gali­leo’s human appetite includes an insatiable desire for knowledge and, as well, that his recantation, which denies the validity of that very knowledge, is motivated by his desire to avoid pain and continue to satisfy his appetites, both intellectual and sensuous. Galileo the scientist is subject to the demands of Galileo the human being. Gali­leo’s guilt, consequently, is not the clear matter of Brecht’s polemic. His character is ambiguous, and this essay intends to explore that ambiguity.
As I noted above, Brecht claimed that the audience’s acceptance of Galileo is gained “through the vitality of this alien manifestation”; and the much discussed process of alienation is related to Brecht’s desire that his audience be free enough from emotional involvement to make the ethical judgment that Galileo is a villain. However, the image of Galileo as a human being is so strong that such detachment seems impossible. The very complexity of the character and the play denies that detachment. Consider the following passage from Ernst Kris’ essay on “Aesthetic Ambiguity” in relation to Brecht’s Galileo.
The response is not aesthetic at all unless it comprises a shift in psychic distance, that is fluctuation in the degree of involvement in action... The aesthetic illusion requires, as was emphasized by Kant, a detachment from the work­ings of the practical reason. In the drama and novel failure to attain such detachment is manifested in that extreme of identification with the characters which focuses interest and attention solely on ‘how it all conies out.’ In poetry, the Kantian emphasis on detachment can be expressed by Coleridge’s formula of ‘willing suspension of disbelief.’ More generally, when distance is minimal, the reaction to works of art is pragmatic rather than aesthetic. Art is transformed to pinup and propaganda, magic and ritual, and becomes an important determinant of belief and ac­tion. The ambiguities with which interpretation must deal are disjunctive and additive: meanings are selected and abstracted in the service of practical ends.
It is the argument of this essay that the nature of Brecht’s play, in Kris’ terms, is aesthetic rather than pragmatic­–that the spectator responds to the figure of Galileo not only as a “phenomenon” of human evil but also as a human being who shares, with him, the weakness of being human.
In the original version of this play, which was written in 1938 and 1939, while Brecht was in exile in Denmark, Galileo is condemned as a coward in his act of recanta­tion. However, as Gunter Rohrmoser notes, in the first version there is greater emphasis upon Galileo’s cleverness as he outsmarts the Inquisition and, udder the guise of blindness, completes his work and smuggles it out of the country by a pupil. “Thus the cunning of reason triumphs also in the ethic of the scientist’s political action, it is as far ahead of its century as his knowledge is, and causes light to dawn in the darkness of his age.” However, there is evidence which would suggest that Brecht com­posed Galileo with the knowledge that the Nazis were exploiting the science of physics to produce the terrible atom bomb; and while Brecht and Charles Laughton were working on the English translation and revision of the play, the version this essay studies, America exploded the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. Certainly this event related to Brecht’s conception of the action and its meaning, and the sin of Galileo’s recantation assumes gigantic propor­tions in the poet’s mind.
The ‘atomic’ age made its debut at Hiroshima in the middle of our work. Overnight the biography of the founder of the new system of physics read differently . . . Galileo’s crime can be regarded as the ‘original sin’ of modem natural sciences. From the new astronomy, which deeply interested a new class- the bourgeoisie-since it gave an impetus to the revolutionary social current of the time, he made a sharply defined special science which––admittedly through its very ‘purity,’ i.e., its indifference to modes of production-was able to develop comparatively undisturbed. The atom bomb is, both as a technical and as a social phenomenon, the classical end product of his contribution to science and his failure to society.
Certainly Brecht’s clearly defined purpose in the second version of Galileo is to demonstrate the scientist’s sin as an historic explanation for the subjugation of science toy authority. And this play existed in the playwright’s mind, obviously, as a demonstration made in the terrifying con­text of the ultimate result of that subjugation: the already realized mass-killing of the atomic explosions in Japan and the potential annihilation ahead. This definition of Gali­leo’s action is accomplished through the celebration of both the scientist and his discovery as the potential source of the birth of a new age, an age free from the dogmatic veneration of Rome as the focal point of the Ptolemaic universe-from the dogmatic veneration of any absolute-and through the acutely critical presentation of his failure to realize that birth.
The actual presence of the astronomical model, a con­struction of the Ptolemaic conception of the earth-cen­tered universe, functions symbolically and realistically in the first scene of Galileo. This archaic conception is de­scribed in metaphors which oppose freedom.
Those metal bands represent crystal globes, eight of them. . . . Like huge soap bubbles one inside the other and the stars are supposed to be tacked on them. Spin the band with the sun on it. . . . You see the fixed ball in the middle? . . . That’s the earth. For two thousand years man has chosen to believe that the sun and all the host of stars revolve about him. Well. The Pope, the cardinals, the princes, the scholars, captains, merchants, housewives, have pictured themselves squatting in the middle of an affair like that.”
Andrea completes the image in his question: “Locked up inside? . . . It’s like a cage.” The suggestion that the Ptolemaic schematic is maintained to nourish and sustain the ego of authority is answered in the weak and senile Old Cardinal’s use of the same image in a desperate attempt to affirm his own value.
I won’t have it! I won’t have it! I won’t be a nobody on an inconsequential star briefly twirling hither and thither. I tread the earth, and the earth is firm beneath my feet, and there is no motion to the earth, and the earth is the center of all things, and I am the center of the earth, and the eye of the creator is upon me. About me revolve, affixed to their crystal shells, the lesser lights of the stars and the great light of the sun, created to give light upon me that God might see me-Man, God’s greatest effort, the center of creation.
In the ethical structure of Galileo, the scientist’s relative truth is opposed to the absolute dogma of the church, a dogma which, significantly, is not maintained by Christian conviction but rather by the power of the capitalistic aristocracy which would collapse if dogma lost its author­ity. The conflict of the Copernican concept of the universe and the Christian concept of a creating God provides, in essence, only a minor aspect of the conflict of Galileo. However, it does exist at certain points; for example: after being shown the stars of Jupiter, Sagredo asks Galileo insistently, “Where is God then. ... God? Where is God?” Galileo angrily answers: “Not there! Any more than he’d be here-if creatures of the moon came down to look for Him!” Sagredo cries: “Where is God in your system of the universe?” and Galileo’s answer is signifi­cant: “Within ourselves. Or-nowhere.” Even the Little Monk, in an attempt to convince Galileo and himself, does not argue from theology but from psychology, be­lieving that the Christian conception gives meaning to his parents’ otherwise pointless existence. The intellectual assumptions of Brecht’s Galileo deny the existence of God; consequently, since the conflict which produced the play exists apart from a theological motive, Brecht as­sumes that Galileo is opposed, not from a theological motive, but from a political one. This opposition is defined in Brecht’s use of Ludovico to represent Galileo’s real enemy-the moneyed aristocracy. Galileo’s real con­frontation with the opposition comes when Ludovico forces him to decide between a commitment to scientific freedom and the compromise of silence which he has maintained for. eight years. Galileo’s conflict with the authorities of the church is one level removed from the essential conflict. Barberini’s rationality could accommo­date Galileo’s truth within the church, but-as Pope Urban VIII-he is subject to the pressures of the aristoc­racy. Aid Ludovico’s family will sanction the marriage between him and Galileo’s daughter only if Galileo con­tinues to be silent. Under the promise of freedom, which the scientist anticipates in the papal reign of Barberini, Galileo commits himself to the integrity of science. Lu­dovico is well aware of the concentration of real power and his assessment is valid in the dialectic of the play, “the new Pope, whoever he turns out to be, will respect the convictions held by the solid families of the country. ... If we Marsilis were to countenance teaching frowned on by the church, it would unsettle the peas­ants.” When Ludovico leaves, Galileo, Andrea, and Federzoni continue the definition of the real adversary: “To hell with all Marsilis, Villanis, Orsinis, Canes, Nuccolis, Soldanieris . . . who ordered the earth to stand still be­cause their castles might be shaken loose if it revolves … and who only kiss the Pope’s feet as long as he uses them to trample on the people.” There is sufficient internal evidence within the text of the play to demonstrate that the conflict is not a theological one. And Brecht’s own foreword states that he considered Galileo’s opposition to be the aristocracy, neither Christian doctrine nor the Church. In order to clarify this conflict in contemporary terms, Brecht’s foreword instructs that “the casting of the church dignitaries must be done particularly realistically. No kind of caricature of the Church is intended. . . . In this play the Church represents chiefly Authority; as types the dignitaries of the Church should resemble our pres­ent-day bankers and senators.” In Galileo the theologi­cal conflict is always secondary to the political; and Rome opposes Galileo, not because he has banished God from the heavens, but because his banishment of man from the center of the universe threatens the hierarchy of the church and the aristocracy which supports it. The social and economic disintegration which the church and aristoc­racy fear is demonstrated in the ballad and anarchic revel of Scene IX. After describing the obedient scheme of the sun revolving around the earth and the cardinals around the Pope in a hierarchic organization extending to the revolution of the lowly domestic animals around the serv­ants, in the Great Chain of Being, the ballad singer con­tinues:
Up stood the learned Galileo
Glanced briefly at the sun
And said: “Almighty God was wrong.
In Genesis, Chapter One!”
Now that was rash, my friends, it is no matter small
For heresy will spread today like foul diseases.
Change Holy Writ, forsooth? What will be left at all?
Why: each o f us would say and do just what he pleases!
Good people, what will come to pass
If Galileo’s teachings spread?
No altar boy will serve the mass
No servant girl will make the bed.
Now that is grave, my friends, it is no matter small:
For independent spirit spreads like foul diseases!
(Yet life is sweet and man is weak and after all­–
Flow nice it is, for a little change, to do just as one pleases!)
The licentious freedom of the pantomime celebrates that promised anarchy.
Perhaps the strongest judgment of Galileo’s recantation within the play rests in the brilliant contrapuntal structure of Scene xii, in which his assistants and his daughter await the results of the trial in the garden of the Florentine Ambassador in Rome. Andrea, Federzoni, and the Little Monk reveal their anxiety in their increasingly strong affir­mation of their faith in the master’s integrity as the mo­ment of trial approaches. Against the counterpoint of Virginia’s Latin prayers, prayers made in her acute fear that her father will not recant, they vehemently deny the statement of the informer who claims that at five o’clock the big bell of San Marcus will be rung to announce the recantation. Andrea affirms the truth of Galileo’s discov­ery in a shouted declaration which, ironically, has the sound of a new liturgy: “The moon is an earth because the light of the moon is not her own. Jupiter is a fixed star, and four moons turn around Jupiter, therefore we are not shut in by crystal shells. The sun is the pivot of our world, therefore the earth is not the center. ‘I lie earth moves, spinning about the sun. And lie showed us. You can’t make a man unsee what he has seen.” Federzoni an­nounces, “Five o’clock is one minute,” and Virginia’s frenzied prayers intensify. The assistants stand, hands cov­ering their ears, as the moment comes and goes in silence: their tension breaks into joy. Against Virginia’s grief and the irony of reality, the assistants express their response to the acute significance of Galileo’s gesture. The magnifi­cent integrity, with its potentially infinite meaning to a new age, counteracts their grief at the master’s pain or death; and they celebrate his gesture. Federzoni cries: “June 22, 1633: dawn of the age of reason. I wouldn’t have wanted to go on living if he had recanted.” The Little Monk confesses the agony of suspense and con­demns his “little faith” in an association of Galileo with Christ. In the meaningful images of darkness and light, Federzoni sees the recantation, which he no longer fears, as a return to irrationality and ignorance from the promise of reason and truth: “It would have turned our morning to night.” And Galileo’s potential strength is defined as Andrea declares in painful irony: “It would have been as if the mountain had turned to water.” This celebration is played against Virginia’s despair; and at its peak, the bell begins to toll. The counterpoint reverses its rhythm, and the assistants stand in despair against the rejoicing of Virginia. The mountain had turned to water. Galileo enters, and he confronts his assistants, transformed, “al­most unrecognizable.” In hysterical despair, the center of his idealism dissolved, Andrea cries: “He saved his big gut.” To Galileo he says, “Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero”; and Galileo says simply, “Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.”
Brecht’s attempt to define Galileo’s sin explicitly is seen in the obvious structural relationship of Scenes i and xiii. In the first scene, the middle-aged Galileo enchants An­drea, the son of his housekeeper and Galileo’s student, with his description of the birth of a new age in -which man will break out of the Ptolemaic cage: “There was a group of masons arguing. They had to raise a block of granite. It was hot. To help matters, one of them wanted to try a new arrangement of ropes. After five minutes discussion, out went a method which had been employed for a thousand years. The millennium of faith is ended, said I, this is the millennium of doubt. And we are pulling out of that contraption.” Galileo’s enthusiasm for the birth of a new age predicts that science will be the posses­sion of the common people, and the arbitrary hierarchy will disintegrate, “in our tine astronomy will become the gossip of the market place and the sons of fishwives will pack the schools. . . . By that time . . . they will be learning that the earth rolls around the sun, and that their mothers, the captains, the scholars, the princes and the Pope are rolling with it.”
In Scene xiii the birth of the new age is also discussed by Andrea acid Galileo; but now it is a discussion between an old Galileo and an adult Andrea, a confrontation of the disillusioned student and the master who betrayed his ideal by selling his science to the authorities. The implicit tension in this confrontation belies Brechtian objectivity. In his dedication to the search for knowledge, Galileo kindled a scientific idealism in his young pupil and fellow scientist. Against the standard of this idealism, a faith in the freedom of knowledge which he had inculcated, Gali­leo’s realistic action, the compromise of his recantation, was unacceptable-a betrayal of the very freedom from dogma which his discoveries promised. In the apparent simplicity of this confrontation, a sophisticated complexity is working. “‘hen Galileo presents Andrea with the completed Discorsi and suggests how the mask of the faithful Christian has allowed him to complete his work, the younger man sees the value of Galileo’s realism: “With the crowd at the street corners we said: ‘He will die, he will never surrender.’ You came back: ‘I surren­dered but I am alive.’ We cried: ‘Your hands are stained!’ You say: ‘Better stained than empty.’ . . . You gained time to write a book that only you could write. Had you burned at the stake in a blaze of glory they would have won.” Then Galileo, again assuming the role of teacher, attempts to counter Andrea’s realism with a rekindling of the idealism he has maintained:
The practice of science would seem to call for valor. She trades in knowledge, which is the product of doubt. And this new art of doubt has enchanted the public. The plight of the multitude is old as the rocks, and is believed to be as basic as the rocks. . . . But now they have learned to doubt.. . As a scientist I had almost an unique opportu­nity. In my day astronomy emerged into the marketplace. At that particular time, had one man put up a fight, it could have had wide repercussions.
Instead, the new age, which began in the ships ventur­ing freely from the coasts and which could have been confirmed as the “dawn of the age of reason” at the moment when Galileo refused to recant, has been trans­formed into the image of a “whore, spattered with blood.” Rohrmoser notes a significant revision from the original text to the reworked version by Brecht and Laughton. He quotes the earlier text: “ ‘I insist that this is a new age. If it looks like a blood-stained old hag, then that’s what a new age looks like. The burst of light takes place in the deepest darkness.’” The later text, in the context of the explosion at Hiroshima, reads more ambiguously: “This age of ours turned out to be a whore, spattered with blood. Maybe, new ages look like blood-spattered whores.” Brecht’s later plays contain a controlled language which is in strong contrast to the richly textured imagery of the early plays and poems. The conscious deliberation of this image is, consequently, very significant. As Rohrmoser’s essay on Galileo suggests, and Brecht’s introductory re­marks confirm, the concept of the new age is a primary concern of the play. And it is vital that Galileo, who sees his own sin with such intense clarity, conceives of the new age in the image of the “blood-spattered whore”-sold and exploited. Implicit in Galileo’s image is the idea that Galileo himself has sold the age, which was in his hands, which, purchased and consumed, has become the bloody whore.
The Life of Galileo is not the clear and simple defama­tion of Galileo’s act which the isolation of these images and actions would suggest-and which, according to his own descriptions of the play, Brecht intended it to be. However, what the play loses in the explication of thesis it gains in an increasing profundity in its ambiguity-an ambiguity which sees the action in a complex of perspec­tives.
This ambiguity is focused in the implicit schizoid struc­ture of its hero. Brecht uses the structural device of the split personality more obviously in a minor character than in the character of Galileo, but he uses it to define the action of compromise which anticipates Galileo’s recanta­tion. One of the most dynamic scenes of the play is that in which Barberini, being clothed in the robes of the church, moves from the identity of the Cardinal, sympathetic to science, to the identity of the Pope, opposed to the threat which science presents to dogma and papal security. This transformation is clarified in the stage directions:
During the scene the Pope is being robed for the conclave he is about to attend: at the beginning of the scene he is plainly Barberini, but as the scene proceeds he is more and more obscured by the grandiose vestments.
The little scene begins with Barberini’s insistent negation of the Cardinal Inquisitor’s demands that Galileo be forced to recant, but the Inquisitor’s pervasive arguments and the restlessness of the Papal Court, expressed in the noise of shuffling feet, break down Barberini’s scientific considerations as he assumes the identity of Pope Urban VIII. As Cardinal Barberini, he can insure that Galileo will neither be executed nor tortured; as Pope Urban VIII, he cannot insure that Galileo will not be threat­ened.
This transformation relates to another meaningful use of the symbol of the dual personality, integrity and com­promise. At the ball at the residence of Bellarmin in Rome, the two Cardinals, Bellarmin and Barberini, charge Galileo, in the guise of friendship, to abandon his teach­ings. Barberini is sympathetic-already torn between his belief in science and his obligation to the Holy Church. Ironically, the Cardinals approach in masks: Barberini as a dove, Bellarmin as a lamb. The masks are lowered as they discuss and debate with Galileo; but, resuming the guise of social amenity, Barberini comments: “Let us replace our masks, Bellarmin. Poor Galileo hasn’t got one.” How­ever, in the development of the play, Galileo assumes his mask; and he uses it in much the same manner of Barberi­ni’s mask of the dove and the mask of identity as Pope Urban VIII.
While Gunter Rohrmoser responds to the complexities of Brecht’s Galileo, he insists upon rejecting the idea that the play is concerned “with the interpretative dramatiza­tion of a complex character.” He continues: “In turning to history Brecht is concerned in substance with the basic historical and human problem of his own age.... Galileo does not interest him as a character, but as a case, al­though the individual vital substance of the hero is not sacrificed to an abstract scheme to the same extent as in the plays of a Marxist cast, the didactic plays.” From his Marxist perspective, surely Brecht saw Galileo’s betrayal of science as an historical action which issues in the real and potential horrors of the atomic age. However, in Brecht’s poetic imitation of this action, Galileo’s failure becomes not exceptional but, on the contrary, essentially human; and, as the focal point of a complex of opposing motives, Galileo embodies human failure. To consume life, with all the pleasures that consumption entails, be­comes a stronger motive than to maintain an abstract ideal-if forced to make a choice. And, in the central ambiguity, that ideal is generated in the very appetite for life which demands its sacrifice. The ambiguity extends to another level: while we respond to Andrea’s argument that Galileo’s cunning has allowed hint to complete his work and make an historic gesture even more significant than his sacrifice would have been, we know that the Schweikian acquiescence which assured the continuation of his work did not derive from an abstract dedication to continue performing the birth of a new age. The sugges­tion of the recantation as a Schweikian trick is present in both of Brecht’s major versions of The Life of Galileo, but it is not as strong an image in the second. And, it is important to realize that Galileo’s continued work is ac­complished itself in a compulsive joy of discovery and affirmation of hypothesis, not purely in the altruism of scientific contribution. Galileo does not plot to smuggle the Discorsi out of Italy; it is mere chance that Andrea comes. Surely Brecht enjoyed this final irony. While Gali­leo again assumes the role of idealist to convince Andrea that his master was wrong and is guilty of the separation of science and humanity, he himself-divorced from hu­manity in his false identify-continues his work, because of his appetite, whether or not it will be realized in application. Brecht creates his Galileo as a man with an incessant hunger for life; Cardinal Barberini, become Pope Urban VIII, declares: “He has more enjoyment in him than any man I ever saw. He loves eating and drink­ing and thinking. To excess. He indulges in thinking-bouts! He cannot say no to an old wine or a new thought.” Brecht’s Galileo has an insatiable appetite for knowledge which is only one aspect of a total appetite for life itself, an indulgence in pleasure as well as an attempt to free mankind from the prison of misconceptions in which they are bound. His work is both altruistic and essentially selfish at the same time. He is committed both to the salvation of mankind and his own indulgence in life; and when put to a decision between mankind and life, the division cannot be made-hence the tragic course.
Brecht continually associates Galileo’s hunger for food with his hunger for knowledge. Considering the possibility of attaching himself to the Florentine Court of the Medici in order to give himself time for research, Galileo tells the Curator that he is dissatisfied with his position in Venice, but that his primary source of discontent is his lack of scientific achievement: “My discontent, Priuli, is for the most part with myself. I am forty-six years of age and have achieved nothing which satisfies me.” His justi­fication to Sagredo and Virginia for the move to Florence, and the compromises a court appointment will bring, is made in other terms: “Your father, my clear, is going to take his share of the pleasures in life in exchange for all his hard work, and about time too. I have no patience, Sa­gredo, with a man who doesn’t use his brains to fill his belly.”
The contrast of relationships between Galileo and An­drea in Scenes i and xiii has already been discussed, prima­rily however, to clarify Brecht’s explicit structuring of the conflict. The scenes also relate to the play’s ambiguity. Essentially Galileo’s schizoid personality is divided into Galileo the scientist and visionary of a new age and Gali­leo the glutton who satisfies his appetite for food, wine, and ideas in the same indulgence. In order to satisfy his appetite for knowledge, to gain time both for research and physical pleasure, he trades his intellectual freedom. And, at the crucial moment, to avoid pain-again an indulgence in pleasure-he submits to authority, trading the freedom of scientific truth. The specific relationship of these indul­gences Brecht saw clearly and identified, not only in the play, but in his commentary on epic acting in “A Short Organum.” Discussing the first scene of Galileo, he says:
To play this, surely you have got to know that we shall be ending with the man of seventy-eight having his supper, just after he said good-bye forever to the same pupil. He is then more terribly altered than this passage of time could possibly have brought about. He wolfs his food with unre­strained greed, no other idea in his head; he has rid himself of his educational mission in shameful circumstances, as though it were a burden: he, who once drank his morning milk without a care, greedy to teach the boy. But does he really drink it without a care? Isn’t the pleasure of drinking and washing one with the pleasure he takes in new ideas? Don’t forget: he thinks out of self -indulgence.
The primary ambiguity of The Life of Galileo finds its source in the fact that Galileo’s indulgence in life’s pleas­ures generates the appetite for knowledge and hence the knowledge itself, and simultaneously, generates the human weakness which makes him unable to say no to the threat of pain. His submission to appetite is both his strength and his weakness.
I. A. Richards considers tragedy to be “the balance or reconciliation of opposite and discordant qualities,” and in Galileo we have that balance in this specific ambiguity. Galileo cannot separate the appetite for knowledge, and, consequently, the ideal of scientific freedom, from the appetite for life itself; both are the same. In Brecht’s polemic, Galileo should have subordinated one appetite to the other: Galileo the scientist should have triumphed over Galileo the human being, and the ideal of scientific freedom should have been maintained. However, in the schizoid structure of The Good Woman of Setzuan, Shen Te cannot maintain the division of herself into the com­passionate Shen Te and the efficient realist Shui Ta; nei­ther can she accommodate the unification of the schizoid personality at the conclusion of the action. Galileo him­self cannot subordinate one aspect of himself to the other; and Galileo ends, as The Good Woman o f Setzuan ends, with the human personality in conflict with itself.
Brecht himself writes that the appetite for physical pleasure motivated Galileo’s capitulation to deceit in the telescope fraud and he claims that this deception leads to Galileo’s excitement of discovery, an excitement that brings a satisfaction which is the same as that of physical indulgence. The satisfaction of appetite trains Galileo in the process of compromise. “His charlatanry . . . shows how determined this man is to take the easy course, and to apply his reason in a base as well as a noble manner. A more significant test awaits him; and does not every capit­ulation bring the next one nearer?”
Galileo is forced to choose between his indulgence in life’s pleasures and the retreat from pain and the mainte­nance of an abstract ideal. The tragic ambiguity remains in the fact that this ideal is meaningful to Galileo only when it relates to his own personal satisfaction; his tragic course is inevitable in the terms in which Brecht has drawn his character.
The sense of tragedy in The Life of Galileo grows out of this paradox. Reconsider I. A. Richards’ definition of trag­edy in its application to Galileo: “Pity, the impulse to approach, and Terror, the impulse to retreat, are brought in Tragedy to a reconciliation which they find nowhere else, . . . Their union in an ordered response is the cathar­sis by which Tragedy is recognized.” Galileo suffers acutely from the knowledge that his act of cowardice is the antecedent of terrifying destructive force. The inten­sity of Galileo’s sensuousness, the equation of his indul­gence in scientific experimentation and his indulgence in the gratification of physical pleasures, relate him to Brecht’s celebration of sensuality, the grotesque Baal. However, Baal cannot comprehend an ethical concept, and Galileo is acutely aware of his ethical responsibility. Galileo experiences “the comprehension of the single man and the whole.” However, unlike The Young Comrade in The Measures Taken, he is unable to perform the act of “cold acquiescence.” The Young Comrade agrees to his own sacrifice with the knowledge that his death is a necessary process in the revolutionizing of the world. Galileo is unable to sacrifice his humanity, but with The Young Comrade he shares an understanding that the birth of a new age is dependent upon his acquiescence and this knowledge engenders in Galileo his painful guilt.
In Scene XIII, Brechtian alienation occurs when the spectators are made aware that Galileo refers to the terrors of the atom bomb when he discusses the gap between science and humanity which his act of cowardice has rendered: “Should you then, in time, discover all there is to be discovered, your progress must then become a progress away from the bulk of humanity. The gulf might even grow so wide that the sound of your cheering at some new achievement would be echoed by a universal howl of horror.” This juxtaposition of the historic Galileo and our contemporary knowledge functions to alienate; however, this awareness magnifies Galileo’s grief and guilt, especially guilt, to an incomprehensible extreme. Consequently, as spectators, we retreat, in Richards’ terms, in terror for a criminal who could really bear no greater guilt. He placed science in the hands of those who used it, in secret, to produce the most extensive destructive force the world has ever seen. However, at the same time as we retreat from the horror of Galileo’s action, we pity him as an acute sufferer, the bearer of an immense and destructive guilt. And we recognize that his failure is an essential human failure: a weakness which produced his knowledge and sacrificed it to its source. In this ambiguity, these “oppo­site and discordant qualities” are suspended in a single response.
The tragic nature of The Life of Galileo defeats, to a considerable degree, the explication of its didactic motive. The spectator cannot withdraw from Galileo’s action and state: “He should have been willing to sacrifice himself to pain, certainly, even death because he fully recognized the ultimate consequence of his acquiescence to the demands of authority. He should have realized that the strength of his position would have insured his safety.” However, the perceptive spectator cannot make this judgment, because for Galileo to deny life would be for him to deny the source of scientific truth; and the Galileo trained in the denial of life could not have been the Galileo whose affirmation of life brought forth his discoveries.
Certainly Brecht’s despair which informs, even directs, the early plays was not thoroughly alleviated in the Marxist solutions of the didactic plays. The unredeemed and enduring logic of exploitation, the rational manueverings to survive, which represent Brecht’s conception of human behavior are manifestations of a despair rather than affirmations of an idealistic faith in human progress. In Gali­leo, Brecht decries the fact that Galileo did not change the world and yet, in his fallible humanity, Galileo does not have the will to change the world. That world needs to be changed, and that need is clarified in The Good Woman of Setzuan, where the unresolvable tension between goodness and survival projects no answer, only a pathetic cry for help. Certainly, The Caucasian Chalk Circle is not an apocalyptic translation of Brecht’s despair into a rationalization of human goodness, or into a dram­atization of a human will which can assert itself in freedom and survive. The corrupt princes, exploiting their people in the war-mongering search for profit, are reminis­cent of the greedy capitalists of St. Joan of the Stockyards, and the brutal sexuality of the soldiers make them Baal­like in their destructive energy. In other versions of Brecht’s central drama, these bestial elements of human nature succeed. That these evils are riot triumphant in The Caucasian Chalk Circle is not, necessarily, a proof of Brecht’s changing vision, but rather an indication of his own instinctive movement toward compassion and his enjoyment of the romance of goodness successful. In re­sponding to the surprisingly happy ending of this play, it is important to realize that the work is contained within the framework of a deliberate romance–that dramatic form in which the poet and spectator enjoy the illusion of a dream realized. In this play, the complex narrative tech­nique maintains the fictitious nature of the action throughout the play. The Caucasian Chalk Circle rejoices in the moment of love held suspended within the larger, realistic context of hate and ugliness and mutability. It is significant to realize that the presence of rewarded good­ness and the promise of happiness in The Caucasian Chalk Circle exist only in the form of a deliberate fiction. The obvious illusion of Brecht’s parable seems to suggest that in a world in which compassion and justice exist only momentarily in the larger context of hatred and exploita­tion, only the poet can celebrate pure goodness and give it an extended reality.

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