The Discovery Of The Moons In Shakespeare's Cymbeline By William Shakespeare

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Throughout his plays, Shakespeare often hides clever references to astronomical bodies, like in the quote above, in order to signify the scientific revolution taking place around him during Renaissance-era Europe. At that time, scientists and astronomers like Kepler, Copernicus and Galileo had made astounding discoveries regarding the position and movement of celestial bodies such as planets and stars. Prior to this time, the Catholic Church held a large sway over the science of the time, and served as a “committee” that would decide what scientific theories would be published and what theories would be declared a heretic, or unbeliever. However, the first major affront to their power came in 1514, when a man named Nicholas Copernicus published …show more content…
One such example of this is found in Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline, in a scene where the main character is imagining his deceased family members revolving around the Greek god Jupiter. This scene brings to mind the discovery of four of the planet Jupiter’s moons by Galileo in 1610, as the four dead family members symbolize the moons and the god Jupiter stands in for the planet Jupiter. Galileo’s discovery of the the moons is considered to be important in the field of astronomy as it was one of the “first major discoveries made with a telescope”(Galileo). This leads to another example of symbolism within the same play, in a scene where Jachimo, the main character speaks about his wife Imogen in an aside to the audience. As written in the play “Thanks, fairest lady./What, are men mad? Hath Nature given them eyes/To see this vaulted arch and the rich crop/Of sea and land, which can distinguish ’twixt/The fiery orbs above and the twinned stones/Upon th’unnumbered beach, and can we not/Partition make with spectacles so precious/’Twixt fair and foul?”(Cymbeline, Act V Scene IV, page 12). Regarding this quote, author Dan Falk writes that “The “vaulted arch” is surely the sky; the “fiery orbs above” must be the stars, and the “spectacles” symbolizes a telescope”(Falk 138). In these two scenes, Shakespeare is using dialogue and imagery in order to allude to major …show more content…
This is because, as prior evidence has shown, Shakespeare was a man who was really interested in the scientific happenings during his time, as evidenced by his inclusion of the discovery of the four moons of Jupiter in Cymbeline, and given the fact that the play released only a few months after Galileo 's discovery was announced. One important quote that highlights Shakespeare’s discontentment is from Hamlet, in one of Prince Hamlet’s monologues. Hamlet states “this brave o 'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty!”(Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 2 Scene 2 pg 13). In this quote, the “majestical roof fretted with golden fire” can be considered to symbolize the night sky with its shining stars. The second part of the quote can be described as what Shakespeare thinks the Catholic Church’s feelings are toward astronomy and science as they seem to look upon the sky not in wonderment but in a fixed view; they effectively saw the Greek’s discoveries as well as what was mentioned in the Bible as correct and were unwilling to change their stance on anything, as evidenced by their decision to censor Copernicus’s book in which he described the

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