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The Recantation of Galileo Galilei - Scenes from History Perhaps

The Recantation of Galileo Galilei - Scenes from History Perhaps

Eric Bentley


Eric Bentley’s nine “Scenes from History Perhaps” result in a new — or new-old — interpretation of the whole Galileo story. Here Galileo is seen as the spoiled darling of an Establishment, his aim, until the crisis of 1633, nothing more nor less than to win that Establishment over to his view of the universe. Only when he definitely fails in this campaign does he rebel and, thus, become a revolutionary in a social as well as a scientific sense: he will spend his last years in conscious conflict with the hierarchy, a smuggler of spiritual contraband. Even at this point, though, he is no nineteenth-century radical, denouncing Christianity and crying, “Neither God nor master!” He is closer, rather, to some of the Catholic radicals of the twentieth century who, instead of challenging the church as such, challenge current officeholders and power-wielders. It was, however, much harder for this man to really recant his assumptions about the Establishment than to pretend to recant his assumptions about the universe.

Harper & Row, Publishers


Eric Bentley

Born in Bolton, in Lancashire, England, Eric Bentley attended University College, Oxford, where his tutors were J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. He received his degree in English in 1938, and subsequently moved to the United States, where he received his PhD at Yale University in 1941. He was granted American citizenship in 1948. Bentley was a professor at Black Mountain College (between 1942 and 1944), at Columbia University (between 1953 and 1969), and at Harvard (between 1960 and 1961), and was a theatre critic for The New Republic.


He was one of the preeminent experts on Bertolt Brecht, and his work as a critic and a translator was essential regarding the diffusion of European theatre in the United States.


In 1969, he leaves his position at University of Columbia to focus on his work as a playwright, while publicly assuming his homosexuality.


From his work as a theatre critic, the following works are particularly relevant: “The Playwright As Thinker” (1946), “In Search of Theater” (1953), and “Thinking About The Playwright” (1987). As a playwright, his most important plays are “The Red White and Black” (1970), “Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been: The Investigations of Show-Business by the Un-American Activities Committee 1947–1958” (1972), “Lord Alfred’s Lover” (1979), and “The Recantation of Galileo Galilei: Scenes from History Perhaps” (1972).


He was awarded a 2006 Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre and a 2007 Robert Chesley Award.


He passed away in his home in New York, on August 5th, 2020, at 103 years old.


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