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Shakespeare and the Dawn of Modern Science By Peter Usher

Chapter 1:  The New Astronomy
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Shakespeare and the Dawn of Modern Science

Chapter 1

The New Astronomy

Yet sometimes it chanceth, that the opinion most generally received, is not most true.

—Robert Recorde

The rise of science after the Middle Ages began with the rise of astronomy in the first half of the sixteenth century, when Nicholas Copernicus (1473–1543) proposed a Sun-centered model of the planetary system. This challenged the Earth-centered cosmology that had held sway since the dawn of history.

Some argue that William Shakespeare completely ignored the scientific revolutions that were taking place during his lifetime, and others suggest that he did not—but argument has had to rely on passages from his works lifted out of context. Recently I suggested “that Hamlet is an allegory for the competition between the cosmological models of the contemporaries Thomas Digges (c.1546–1595) of England and Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) of Denmark” (Usher, “New Reading” 1305).