Galileo Galilei
by Bertoldt Brecht

Bertoldt Brecht - Galileo Galilei

BBC Third Programme

Broadcast: Wednesday 9th September 1959

Galileo is short of money. A prospective student tells Galileo about a novel invention, the telescope ("a queer tube thing"), being sold in Amsterdam. Galileo replicates it, but then sells it to the Venetian Republic as his own creation.

Galileo uses the telescope to substantiate Copernicus' heliocentric model of our solar system, which is highly incompatible with both popular belief and church doctrine. His daughter's marriage to a well-off young man (with whom she is genuinely in love) fails because of Galileo's reluctance to distance himself from his unorthodox teachings.

Galileo is brought to the Vatican for questioning. Upon being threatened with torture, he recants his teachings. His students are shocked by his surrender in the face of pressure from the church authorities.

Galileo, old and broken, living under house arrest, is visited by one of his former pupils, Andrea. Galileo gives him a book containing all his scientific discoveries, asking him to smuggle it out of Italy for dissemination abroad. Andrea now believes Galileo's actions were heroic and that he just recanted to fool the ecclesiastical authorities. However, Galileo insists his actions had nothing to do with heroism but were merely the result of self-interest.

Bertolt Brecht's "The Life of Galileo Galilei" premiered in Switzerland at the Zurich Schauspielhaus in 1943. It was translated into English by Charles Laughton. The English translation was first performed at the Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles in 1947, starring Charles Laughton as Galileo Galilei.

With Edmund Chapman [Galileo Galilei], Pauline Jameson [Virginia], Michael Bryant [The Little Monk], William Eedle [Andrea Sarti], and Kathleen Helme [Mrs. Sarti, Galileo's Housekeeper].

Other parts were played by members of the BBC Drama Repertory Company

Music composed by Hans Eissler and conducted by Walter Goehr

Produced by H. B. Fortuin for BBC World Theatre

130 min.


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