- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (April 22, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250008778
- ISBN-13: 978-1250008770
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #929,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright's Universe
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Shakespeare scanned the cosmos through Galileo’s telescope? Falk argues that the bard may indeed have drawn inspiration from the Italian astronomer’s science, and he uncovers tantalizing hints of that inspiration in Shakespeare’s late plays, most notably, the perplexing Cymbeline. Even in earlier plays—Troilus and Cressida, Hamlet—Falk ferrets out evidence suggesting that Shakespeare was responsively aware of the new Copernican universe. In contemplating the bleak conclusion of King Lear, Falk considers the stunning possibility that England’s greatest playwright felt the gravitational pull of an atheism incubated by scientific skepticism. But how could a London dramatist have learned of the new science and its revolutionary implications? Falk limns possible links between the poet and England’s most advanced scientific thinkers, including Thomas Digges, John Dee, and Thomas Harriot. Through a Whitehall connection, Shakespeare might even have encountered the radical Copernicanism of Giordano Bruno. This inquiry finally says little new about Shakespeare’s literary genius. But readers will thank Falk for putting Shakespeare and Galileo on the same well-illuminated world stage. --Bryce Christensen
“Dan Falk is the finest science writer working today. This fabulous book will give equal joy to fans of the Bard and to history-of-science buffs. Note to Horatio: Read this -- it'll bring you up to speed.” ―Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Red Planet Blues
“There is science in everything, even the works of the immortal Bard. Dan Falk's rich and fascinating book brings to light the many ways in which Shakespeare and science influenced each other, from telescopes to blood-letting. A great read for anyone who enjoys words and ideas.” ―Sean Carroll, physicist and author of The Particle at the End of the Universe
“Dan Falk's book provides perhaps the best guide to the scientific worldview prevailing in the Elizabethan Age. We learn, for example, about what Giordano Bruno did while in England, about Thomas Harriot's telescopic view of the Moon's surface drawn some months before Galileo's, and of the appearance of atoms in several of Shakespeare's plays… Falk's narrative voice is smooth, reasonable, likable.” ―Phillip F. Schewe, author of Maverick Genius
“Dan Falk has written another splendid book. After Universe on a T-shirt and In Search of Time, he moves back four centuries to the science of Shakespeare's day.... Falk sheds enormous light on the Elizabethan outlook and particular puzzles in the plays, all the while entertaining us in a most engaging way.” ―James Robert Brown, author of The Laboratory of the Mind
“In this thought-provoking book, Dan Falk explores the intriguing connections between the Bard's writings and the dramatic scientific discoveries of the late Renaissance, introducing us to a fascinating cast of characters along the way. A great read.” ―Ray Jayawardhana, astrophysicist and author of Strange New Worlds and Neutrino Hunters
“A highly entertaining and informative book… Falk has done his homework. He offers something learned but at the same time keeps it personal and unpretentious.” ―Dennis Richard Danielson, Professor of English, University of British Columbia, and author of The Book of The Cosmos
“Readers will thank Falk for putting Shakespeare and Galileo on the same well-illuminated world stage.” ―Booklist
“A lively but serious look at the Bard's relationship to his age, particularly what we now call the Scientific Revolution.” ―Tampa Bay Times
“This eminently readable book should prove fascinating to both lovers of science and bardolators.” ―Library Journal
“At the heart of his argument is an ambitious effort to offer empirical assurance for what we all intuit -- that art and science need each other, inform and inspire one another, and are branches from the same tree of the human longing in a universe that is more like a mirror of meaning than a window of understanding, beaming back at us whatever imagination we imbue it with.” ―Brainpickings
“This book is accessible, with clear explanations of potentially challenging concepts in the history of early modern science. It is an enjoyable read, which will appeal to non-specialists, but nonetheless is based on a comprehensive engagement with the pertinent academic scholarship. The work is well-informed, enthusiastic, and recommended to anyone seeking a new take on the oft-studied Bard.” ―Chemistry World
“What Hawking's [A Brief History of Time] should have been.” ―Ottawa Citizen on In Search of Time
“Falk seamlessly combines science with literary and philosophical observations… and digresses to fascinating topics like root notions of past and future, the vagaries of memory, and the behavior of birds at breakfast time.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review) on In Search of Time
“Time is a big subject and Falk is up to the task.” ―The Globe and Mail on In Search of Time
“In this thoroughly readable, broad-sweeping, and thought-provoking book, Falk surveys humanity's attempts to record and understand time, and poses some fascinating questions.” ―New Scientist magazine on In Search of Time
“Falk displays a deft touch with both temporal history and experimentation.” ―Toronto Star on In Search of Time
“Accessible and Entertaining.” ―Financial Times on In Search of Time
“Falk is a great writer.” ―BBC Focus on In Search of Time
“Dan Falk is a riveting writer: his latest book is almost unputdownable.” ―Martin J. Rees, author of Just Six Numbers and Our Final Hour, on In Search of Time
“An engaging writer who fearlessly tackles potentially brain-freezing topics.” ―San Francisco Chronicle on In Search of Time
“[Falk] selects, organizes and interprets a mass of lore for our enlightenment and pleasure. We owe him.” ―Scientific American on In Search of Time
“A highly accessible introduction to some tough and important physics.” ―American Scientist on Universe on a T-Shirt
“Crisply written, well-researched.” ―Sky & Telegraph on Universe on a T-Shirt
“[Falk] has a wonderful gift for finding helpful analogies and for writing about science in a way that is accessible without sounding dumbed down.” ―Booklist on Universe on a T-Shirt
“Falk endorses the idea that the best hope for a so-called theory of everything is in string theory, a difficult area of sicence that Falk nevertheless deftly unravels for the uninitiated.” ―Science News on Universe on a T-Shirt
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Top customer reviews
It's hard to believe anyone could possibly write anything new on Shakespeare.
Considered by many to be the greatest writer who's ever lived (in the English language, at least), Shakespeare's works have been dissected by scholars and his life has been researched and studied by many who've spent a lifetime trying to learn more about this man. So what more can we get? Dan Falk takes a slightly different approach, exploring some of the sciences that Shakespeare calls upon in his canon and connects the dots to some of the leading figures in the scientific revolution that was going on around this time.
From what we know, Shakespeare was not a scientist, but he was a keen observer and picked up on ideas and was able to comment on how humans interacted within the world of changing ideas. It's not often mentioned, but Shakespeare (as author Dan Falk points out), was born the same year as Galileo. This is pointed out not to make an association between the two men, but to put into context what was happening in science when Shakespeare was writing his plays. Also working in science, a little closer to home for Shakespeare, was John Dee - whose work straddled the line between science and magic and who was, according to history, passionate about theatre. The connection that Falk draws here seems quite plausible. And the fact that Dee's science is often questionable, at best, might explain why some of Shakespeare's science isn't always spot on.
One of the problems I had with this book is that the 'science' seems a little more targeted than general science. <em>The Astronomy of Shakespeare</em> might have been a more apt title as much of this book centers around the stars and what was known (or believed) about the universe at that time.
The most interesting part of this exploration is the 'forensic astronomy' done by a professor at Southwest Texas State University - reconstructing the skies and trying to determine what stars (or other celestial bodies) might be being referenced in classic works of literature (so, for instance, when Horatio mentions in <em>Hamlet</em> - in regards to the stabbing of Julius Caesar - "As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood" it is this particular astronomer trying to track what comet that may have been).
Falk gets a little more speculative as the book goes on, and he tries drawing some parallels. He writes about the names Rosencrantz and Guildenstern which "do in fact sound stereotypically Danish" and "What led Shakespeare to choose these names?" Falk notes that Tycho Brahe once commissioned a self-portrait, which is surrounded by the crests of his extended family, which includes the names "Rosenkrans" and "Guildensteren". Falk is not the first person to point this out (as he, himself, notes), but he does try to draw the connection to Shakespeare having an interest in astronomical thinking.
Falk does go on about medical science for a bit, noting "Medical men of various kinds appear frequently in the canon--more often, in fact, than workers of any other profession." The connections here are a little stronger, as Shakespeare's daughter Susanna, was married to John Hall, a doctor.
All in all, there were moments here when I thought that an idea might be worthy or more pursuit and study, but too much that felt a bit of a stretch. A tighter focus - not something as broad as 'science'- might have served this well. I am glad I read this, and there were things I took from it, but it's not likely to become the next 'must read' book on Shakespeare.
Looking for a good book? <em>The Science of Shakespeare</em>, by Dan Falk, explores some interesting concepts about the role the science revolution of the late 1500's might have played in Shakespeare's writings, but nothing is explored deeply enough to really make a difference in the way we see Shakespeare's works.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.