Galileo Church v. Hero Essay

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Galileo Church v. Hero

It is a volatile point in history: the intersection of science and religion at the height of the Inquisition; it is a time when the Church reigns and a man, a physicist, must choose life or death, himself or science. Galileo Galilei's legendary dilemma and the circumstances surrounding it are presented in Bertolt Brecht's Galileo from a perspective that is clearly criticizing institutions with such controlóin this case, the Catholic churchówhile reminding us that men are simply men, no matter how heroic their actions appear. These issues are expounded throughout the play; however, Scene 11 has the most significant role in Galileo's development, as it simultaneously reveals the extent of the Church's control
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The scene subtly reveals the evil at the heart of the Inquisition: the Church, which should be Godly in practice, partakes in torturing individuals capable of testing the power of the institution, forcing them to conform to the Church's will and thereby eliminating any danger of upheaval. The Inquisitor states, "He is a man of the flesh. He would soften at once" (Brecht 109). This describes the basic human instinct to shrink from pain. Every man has his breaking point, the point at which the pain and the fear and the shame are so great that he cannot withstand one moment more. Galileo is no different. Also, Galileo is a man of scienceóhe knows more of how pain can be inflicted than most men. As the Inquisitor later adds, "Mr. Galilei understands machinery" (Brecht 110). With this knowledge added to the fear of physical discomfort, Galileo later does what most men would do under the circumstances: he recants. Because this scene reveals the negative side of the Church and the human-ness of Galileo, the audience is not distracted from the criticism of the institution. If Galileo had been portrayed as a hero, that aspect of the story would have taken precedence over the theme of institutional control; the heroics would linger and the criticism would be forgotten. Brecht is also reminding us that heroes are unnecessaryóman is capable of

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