Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Shakespeare and Tudor Astronomy

The works of William Shakespeare are packed with references to renaissance science and medicine and provide a unique account of how society was moving away from superstition towards scientific explanations of the Universe. Shakespeare's son in  law was a physician and gave him first hand  knowledge of the medical world but it is the astronomical references in the Shakespeare plays that I find most interesting. There are sections in Shakespeare's plays that are supportive of astrology in some places and dismissive in others which suggest Shakespeare was hedging his bets with his audiences.  The retrograde motion of Mars is mentioned in Alls Well That Ends Well and would have been familiar to his audiences but it is the mentions of Jupiter and Saturn that are intriguing. In Cymbeline Jupiter decends accompanied by four ghost dancers. Could these be the four Jovian moons?  Saturn appears in Titus Andronicus, The Merchant of Venice and Hamlet. Could Shakespeare have seen the planets and stars through a telescope?  The Digges-Bourne Perspective Glass was an early telescope that would have shown a better view of the night sky than was possible with the naked eye. Digges lived near to Shakespeare in London so it is not impossible. But what is it possible to see through a Digges-Bourne telescope? I decided to make one and find out for myself. I will use this blog to share my experiences and images.   

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