Shakespeare’s Knowledge of Astronomy and the Birth of Modern Cosmology
Shakespeare is alleged to ignore theories of cosmology extant during his lifetime, but this book argues that Hamlet and other Shakespearean plays are cosmic allegories. Shakespeare writes of the competition between Earth-centered (geocentric) and Sun-centered (heliocentric) cosmologies, and between planetary systems in bound and unbounded space. Prior to 1609-1610 when telescopic observations of celestial objects supposedly first began, Shakespeare describes properties of celestial objects that can be seen only with telescopic aid. In 1576, Thomas Digges presented a now-famous diagram depicting the essence of a solar system and an infinite Universe of stars, and we conclude that it is a representation of contemporary empirical knowledge which together with an infinite universe model that Giordano Bruno proposed in 1584, may be regarded as the beginning of modern cosmological science. Allegorical interpretation of plays in the canon features the astronomical work of Claudius Ptolemy, Nicholas Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler, and textual evidence in Hamlet in the First Folio of 1623 suggests that the play was censored.
Thomas Digges’ father Leonard studied the optics of Roger Bacon and developed a telescopic theodolite, and he is likely the source of the astronomical data. Leonard is reported to have died over a span of twenty-three years, but his desire for anonymity can be understood from contemporary culture and events, and from his regard for Pythagoras who was the first philosopher to favor an orbiting Earth. The book makes the case that, as in many other fields, Shakespeare’s celestial knowledge is far beyond what was commonly known at the time. I posit that Leonard was the brains behind a new mathematical method of reducing data on diurnal parallax that circumvented the need for accurate measurements of intervals of time, and behind the invention of a telescope capable of securing those data. In this way he provided the empirical evidence to disprove geocentrism and thereby to lend support to the Sun-centered cosmology of Copernicus. Allegory was a common way of protecting authors of dangerous innovations and discoveries such as the overthrow of age-old paradigms, and Leonard resorted at a time of religious persecution and threats to Queen Elizabeth and her realm. Leonard appears to have used his son Thomas’s name as the author or co-author of his scientific work, and later in life under a nom de plume he published his data allegorically through the medium of stage plays.
|Work Title||Shakespeare’s Knowledge of Astronomy and the Birth of Modern Cosmology|
|License||CC BY-NC 4.0 (Attribution-NonCommercial)|
|Publisher Identifier (DOI)||
|Deposited||August 17, 2022|
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