Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei Essay

The early modern era is a time period characterized by the emergence of new ideologies of state, natural laws, authority, and the use of reason and secular thought. The religious wars that swept Europe devastated economies, but also established new diplomatic methodologies to decrease the amount of tensions between nations. Scholars and scientist began to formulate new ways to observe and understand the world and government. Questions on the legitimacy of political authority began to emerge in the seventeenth century that demonstrates the rise in ways of thinking about a government’s role. Moreover, the period of the seventeenth century was also characterized by the formation of new nations in power including France, England, and the provinces of the Dutch Republic. In the wake of this era, individuals found ways to subvert societal norms and craft agency by finding new ways to interpret the world around them. Individuals began to subvert societal norms with the scientific revolution that advocated for more concrete explanations for the natural world, new forms of literature and artistic expression, and ideas about natural law while women and families began to craft their own forms of agency. These new methods of subversion allowed individuals to craft a sense of agency by challenging traditional ideals that dominated societies, express their interpretations of the world, create new ways of thinking about legitimacy and power, and respond to challenges.

During the seventeenth century, the scientific revolution catalyzed in Europe that showcases how individuals subverted societal norms and crafted a sense of agency through new observations and ideas about the natural world. New interpretations of the world began with the idea of heliocentrism which is defined as “The view articulated by Polish clergyman Nicolaus Copernicus that the earth and planets revolve around the sun.” This scientific observation spurred by Copernicus demonstrates the rise of individuals that sought to understand the natural world for themselves, subverting societal and religious norms. For example, individuals that came after the death of Copernicus like Giordano Bruno, showcase the effects of changing societal norms. In 1600, Bruno was punished by the Catholic church for teaching heliocentrism. Bruno’s efforts to understand the universe and teach it to others marked his death, but also displays the sense of agency through his works and teachings. As the idea of heliocentrism spread throughout Europe, the individuals that supported the belief display efforts of subversion and agency, however, it also sparked challenges with religion.

The work of Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei formulated new innovations not only for the scientific revolution, but also challenged religious ideology that dominated society. Galileo’s observations of the earth’s rotation are emphasized as the text explains, “Galileo portrayed the earth as a moving part of a larger system, only one of many planets revolving around the sun, not as the fixed center of a single, closed universe.” This scientific breakthrough sparked great controversy to the Catholic church because it did not support the idea of earth being the center of the universe. As a result, Galileo was called into a trial by the Inquisition under the Catholic church to be given an ultimatum to either withdraw teaching his heliocentrism observations or face torture and death. In his letter, Galileo explains the validity of his research while also emphasizing the separation between science and religion. Galileo’s work subverted societal norms of religion being the basis for teachings and the bible being viewed as unquestioning by challenging its relevance. For example, he emphasizes the validity of biblical claims as he points out, “Hence in expounding the Bible if one were always to confine oneself to the unadorned grammatical meaning, one might fall into error.” Galileo is claiming that the meaning of the bible is not always correct, instead one must prove meanings through observations. Furthermore, in doing so, Galileo asserts that observations of the real world challenged traditional interpretations of scriptures. Galileo’s letter also emphasizes the ideas of observations being the center for advancement of knowledge and understanding of the world. Rather than look to scriptures for reassurance, people must solidify claims through experimentation and observations. Galileo shows his support for observational studies as he emphasizes, “This being granted, I think that in discussions of physical problems we ought to begin not from the authority of scriptural passages, but from sense-experiences and necessary demonstrations…” Galileo claims that understanding physical problems comes from observations, not from the bible. He is subverting societal norms through new methods of study of the natural world while also laying a foundation of agency because he chooses to protect the validity of his research from the church. As the scientific revolution swept across Europe, new forms of literature and art platforms demonstrate individuals attempting to challenge societal norms and form agency through expressions.

In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, new forms of literatures and art emerged that demonstrate individuals forming a sense of agency by constructing new ways to express their worldviews. Individuals like Michel de Montaigne found a way to express a new form of agency on his own personal perspective in the form of writing. Montaigne expressed his views of France during the period of the Thirty Years’ War while he also emphasized the problem of cultural superiority that plagued the New World. Montaigne was a founder of a new type of method that allows views to be expressed that is shown as demonstrated, “Montaigne was a prolific writer who invented a new genre in European literature, the essay, as a concise form of expression.” As he pioneered a new form of writing, Montaigne was able to use agency to express his worldviews of the events happening in the New World. For example, in his essay, Montaigne explains, “There is no manner of traffic, no knowledge of letters, no science of numbers, no name of magistrate or of political superiority...” Montaigne emphasizes the practices of indigenous peoples in the New World, claiming the differences between the two cultures is a result of advancement. Natives living in the Americas live a more primitive lifestyle as opposed to Europeans, but according to Montaigne, savagery does not define them, instead, he emphasizes, “The laws of Nature govern them still, very little vitiated by ours…” He uses his essay to question European cultural superiority by claiming that the differences between the two groups results from distinctions between primitive and modern. Moreover, Montaigne uses this form of literature to express, argue, and rationalize the treatment and perspectives of natives in the New World. In doing so, he crafts a sense of agency by choosing to formulate his own argument and expressions towards European cultural superiority. Montaigne uses the essay as a way to subvert societal norms by voicing his concerns over the power of European influences in the Americas and also finds the root cause for the reasonings behind European perceptions of savagery. As the creation of essays provided ways to demonstrate world views and expressions, new platforms of art gave individuals the opportunity to craft a sense of agency.

During the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, theatre emerged during the age of religious conflicts that gave people an outlet for expressions, providing a way to subvert societal norms and craft agency. Playwright William Shakespeare represents an individual using an artistic platform to demonstrate his personal perspective in a creative way that helps create a sense of agency. Shakespeare’s work emphasizes the use of agency by using art as a way to express current problems and conflicts of the time period. For example, the significance of his work is emphasized as the text demonstrates, “Although none of Shakespeare’s plays were set in contemporary England, they reflected the concerns of his age: the nature of power and the crisis of authority.” Shakespeare utilized plays as an artistic platform to showcase his views of the world. In doing so, he is able to subvert societal norms and craft agency by allowing his own voice to be echoed to the audience. His work allows him to create a pathway to subvert societal norms because his work questions the legitimacy of power and the conflicts of his age. Using plays as a method of expression allows Shakespeare to use agency to pave a unique and creative method to demonstrate his own perspectives of the world. In his work like Hamlet (1601), he expresses his concerns as the text emphasizes, “His tragedies in particular show the uncertainty and even chaos that result when power is misappropriated or misused.” Shakespeare’s works also express the concerns for power in the hands of those who obstruct and misuse it. Although Shakespeare did not control the world he lived in, his works demonstrate his ability to subvert societal norms and use agency to express his views of power, politics, and the conflicts plaguing society. As theatre emerged as a source for creative expressions, the formation of the mannerism and baroque gave individuals a method for agency.

New forms of art known as mannerism and baroque gave individuals a method to express and interpret the world around them. A new form of art known as mannerism emerged in the sixteenth century which is defined as a “theatrical style that allowed painters to distort perspective to convey a message or emphasize a theme.” Using this form of artistic style allows painters to express the world in their own way. Formulating a sense of agency through a new pathway to display a certain message in their work. Furthermore, another type of art emerged known as baroque. Baroque differed from the artistic styles that emerged during the Renaissance as the text demonstrates, “In place of the Renaissance emphasis on harmonious design, unity, and clarity, the baroque featured curves, exaggerated lighting, intense emotions, release from restraint, and even a kind of artistic sensationalism.” The baroque allowed individuals to explore news forms of expressions by combining new styles and techniques to display a certain a message or theme. Moreover, this new form of expression allowed ordinary individuals to construct their own form of agency in a creative style because they chose their own message in their work. The early modern period allowed individuals to form their own sense of agency through new forms of artistic expressions that differed from those of the Renaissance period. As art became a way to craft agency, a new understanding and questioning of political power emerged. During this time period, questions on the legitimacy and nature of politics showcases individuals subverting societal norms by using secular thought to rationalize their understanding of political authorities. The idea of natural law became heavily influenced by Hugo Grotius during the seventeenth century. Scholars like Grotius used secularization, the idea of separating religion from science and politics. Grotius applied his secular views to the idea of natural law which emphasizes, “laws of nature that give legitimacy to government and stand above the actions of any particular ruler or religious group.” The notion of natural law reshaped the way individuals thought about politics and religion. Grotius claimed that politics needed to be separated from religion in order to be legitimate. Furthermore, Grotius’s work represents how individuals began to question religion and politics that reveals the ways people began to subvert societal norms in an era dominated by religious conflicts. His work was so controversial that he was imprisoned by the Catholic church for challenging religion and the use of torture. Moreover, Grotius introduced ideas about natural rights which he viewed as “life, body, freedom, and honor.” In Grotius’ eyes, these rights needed to be protected by the government with religion being a separate entity from the political sphere. The work of Grotius represents how individuals began to subvert societal norms because he crafted a new way of thinking about religion and politics. Instead of abiding by the long-held view of religion intermixing with politics, Grotius constructed his own ideas about natural laws and rights. He placed an emphasis on the separation between religion and rights by reaffirming that rights were not be affected by religion. The mixing of religion and politics is seen in The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis emphasizing this phenomenon in her work as the trial of Martin was underway. Davis explores the intermixing of religion within the political sphere as she points out, “She had lost weight and had been ill, but at least some of the women in prison with her were accused of heresy, which meant the possibility of discussing the Gospel with them.” Davis demonstrates how being classified as a heretic in the sixteenth century resulted in imprisonment because heresy is defined as “False doctrine; specifically, the beliefs banned for Christians by councils of bishops.” Heretics being imprisoned shows how religion acted as law in the sixteenth century. On the other hand, individuals like Grotius advocated for a separation between religion and politics. As a result, his work challenged traditional ideologies and the Catholic faith that resulted in his imprisonment, however, they represent a new way of thinking about religion and government. As individuals like Grotius crafted new ways of thinking that subverted societal norms, families and women began to utilize agency in their own ways.

Economic crisis after the Thirty Years’ War caused changes in family lifestyles where individuals began to subvert societal norms in response to the aftermath of war and implore agency. After the war caused economic downfalls, the social life of women and families began to change. For example, this is seen as the text points out, “European families reacted to economic downturn by postponing marriage and having fewer children. In response to the economic crisis, families chose to marry later in life and reduce the number of children they have. This reaction shows how individuals were subverting societal norms and creating their own agency during difficult times. Agency is also seen in the lives of women, particularly with the wife of Martin Guerre, Bertrande. During the sixteenth century, the case of Martin Guerre emerged that involved a man, Arnaud du Tilh who claimed to be the long-lost Martin. Bertrande’s story demonstrates how she was able to construct agency in a world she did control. Although everyone in the village was unaware of the imposter’s identity, the same cannot be said for Bertrande. Even though Bertrande knew this man was not her husband, she utilized a form of agency by choosing to keep the secret in order to live out her ideal lifestyle. For example, Davis demonstrates this form of agency by pointing out, “What Bertrande had with new Martin was her dream come true, a man she could live with in peace and friendship (to cite sixteenth-century values) and in passion.” She kept the secret of Arnaud’s identity because she was able to live a life she always wanted since it was never achievable with the original Martin. The marriage between Bertrande and the original Martin Guerre was characterized by a lack of intercourse and the immense rumors that spread around the village about their marriage. Despite the fact that Bertrande’s family wanted her to divorce Martin, she refused for the following reasons as David emphasizes, “a concern for her reputation as a woman, a stubborn independence, and a shrewd realism about how she could maneuver within the constraints placed upon one of her sex.” Bertrande was concerned about her social status and the lack of options because she is a woman. After the arrival of the new Martin, Bertrande displays a form of agency by choosing to keep his identity a secret because she found her dream life with him. Although Bertrande did not control the world she lived in, she able to craft her own form of agency by not revealing Arnaud, instead she found peace within their relationship and herself. Women and families were able to construct agency within their lives in a world characterized by economic downturns and conflicts.

Individuals in the early modern era were able to find new ways to subvert societal norms and craft agency by formulating new ways to think and express their beliefs. This period demonstrates how the use secular thought results in conflicts with the Catholic church, leading to trials and imprisonment. Moreover, individuals began to construct their own forms of agency by responding to certain events in unique ways. This time period represents how the challenges between traditional and secular thought that changed the way individuals interpreted the world. New forms of art gave people a voice to display certain themes while also representing certain challenges of the time period. In addition, women like Bertrande crafted their own agency by making choices to benefit themselves. As secularization became a dominant force in during this period, it allowed individuals to craft their own agency and use their voices to represent their beliefs and interpretations of the world. It teaches one that the early modern period involved the catalyzation of secular thought, challenges to both political and religious authorities, and offered people a chance to create agency in a world they did not control.
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