Similarities Between Braveheart Movie and Bertolt Brecht's Galileo

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Wallace and Galilei; Heroes or Zeroes?

In the play Galileo by Bertolt Brecht, the main character Galileo Galilei, is forced to recant and turn on his ideals for the sake of his life. The little monk warned Galileo before he divulged his findings, that they could be disastrous to the metaphysical order of society. Peasants, working classes, the religious right, all of humanities concept of the world would be shattered.

In the movie Braveheart, a similar situation is evident. Mel Gibson plays William Wallace, a Scottish peasant under the rule of England. English soldiers kill his wife and father, and he sparks a revolt against England. After assembling a small band of soldiers, he turns to the nobles of Scotland and their armies for help. But through his rage, the metaphysical order of the ones around him is destroyed.

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“If we join, we can win. If we win, well, we’ll have what we’ve never had before; a country of our own.”

At first he gets it, but then support for Wallace by the nobles is waned by offers of land and money by the King of England. The Nobles do not want to risk their land and power in Scotland, nor do their troops want to risk their lives and their families. So, Wallace is deserted and betrayed a number of times by his fellow countrymen because they will not let their metaphysical order be destroyed. They see Wallace as having a blinding rage, with a score to settle. They do not believe that they can actually achieve freedom from England, and they are not prepared to give up everything on the evidence they have at hand.

“We will not sacrifice our families, our lands, our lives, for your notion of something we have never known. The English our too many, and if I swear to you, can you guarantee me freedom? No.”

Wallace was fighting for his concrete beliefs and ideals. Although it was sparked by the murder of his wife and father. He was prepared to be a martyr, although all he really wanted was to have a family and a farm. He was willing to give his life for the future of his country, which says something about his character. He was finally betrayed again and handed over to the throne to be tortured and killed. Wallace stuck by what he believed in, but in turn, he pushed away many of his countrymen and compromised their position in the world. He went into it with a strong heart, not knowing of the circumstances and consequences he would encounter.

In Galileo, he did much of the same thing. He thought his findings would change the world, which they did, just not how he planned. Galileo discovered that Jupiter had a fourth moon, which meant that the Earth revolved around the sun, which contradicted 2000 years of teachings. The Earth was originally believed to be the center of the universe. With this new information, Galileo would contradict the bible itself. The Religious sect was not prepared to accept this as factual information, because it made the metaphysical order of everyone crumble into a heap at their feet.

“They draw the strength they need to sweat with their loaded baskets up the stony paths, to bear children, even to eat, from the sight of the trees greening each year anew, from the reproachful face of the soil, which is never satisfied, and from the little church and bible texts they hear on Sunday. They have been told that God relies upon them and that the pageant of the world has been written around them that they may be tested in the important or unimportant parts handed out to them. How could they take it, were I to tell them that they are on a lump of stone ceaselessly spinning in empty space, circling around a second-rate star? What comfort, then, the Holy Scriptures, which have mercifully explained their crucifixion. The Holy Scriptures would then be proved full of mistakes.”

This reflects the feelings of the common folk. The little monk tried to show Galileo that his findings would disrupt the everyday life of the peasants, and that although they are the poor and weak, they are made to feel part of something bigger. They are working away, but they play their part in the world, no matter how small. Just waiting for what lies after all their hard work; Heaven. So Galileo discloses this information he has, and is then forced to recant. By doing so, the metaphysical order is still intact, but he ruins his daughter’s life, Andrea loses faith and respect in his teacher, and the little monk abandons physics for the church.

“I, Galileo Galilei, Teacher of Mathematics and Physics, do hereby publicly renounce my teaching that the earth moves. I forswear this teaching with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith and detest and curse this and all other errors and heresies repugnant to the Holy Scriptures.”

“The mountain did turn to water.” (p.114, Andrea, Galileo)

“I can’t look at him. Tell him to go away.” (p.114, Andrea, Galileo)

Galileo was just doing what he believed in, much like William Wallace, but it made it worse for everyone including himself. He never could have known it would end like this, but he did not save his reputation, he gave in to the majority. Wallace did not. He kept on fighting and came out a hero. Galileo gave in to the powers that be, lost everyone’s respect, and came out a coward. He lived the rest of his life on house arrest, not being able to continue his life work.

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