The Science of Shakespeare

A New Look at the Playwright's Universe

Dan Falk

Thomas Dunne Books

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William Shakespeare lived at a remarkable time—a period we now recognize as the first phase of the Scientific Revolution. New ideas were transforming Western thought, the medieval was giving way to the modern, and the work of a few key figures hinted at the brave new world to come: the methodical and rational Galileo, the skeptical Montaigne, and—as Falk convincingly argues—Shakespeare, who observed human nature just as intently as the astronomers who studied the night sky.

In The Science of Shakespeare, we meet a colorful cast of Renaissance thinkers, including Thomas Digges, who published the first English account of the "new astronomy" and lived in the same neighborhood as Shakespeare; Thomas Harriot—"England’s Galileo"—who aimed a telescope at the night sky months ahead of his Italian counterpart; and Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, whose observatory-castle stood within sight of Elsinore, chosen by Shakespeare as the setting for Hamlet—and whose family crest happened to include the names "Rosencrans" and "Guildensteren." And then there’s Galileo himself: As Falk shows, his telescopic observations may have influenced one of Shakespeare’s final works.

Dan Falk’s The Science of Shakespeare explores the connections between the famous playwright and the beginnings of the Scientific Revolution—and how, together, they changed the world forever.

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Book Excerpts

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1.     “Arise, fair sun…”
 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF COSMOLOGY
Shakespeare’s audience did not have to look far to see the stars: A wooden canopy projected out over the stage, and its underside—known as “the heavens”—was decorated with brightly painted stars and constellations. It served its purpose in Hamlet, for example, when the prince refers to “this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire” (2.2.283–5) or when Caesar declares that “the skies are

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Reviews

Praise for The Science of Shakespeare

Advance Praise for The Science of Shakespeare

"Dan Falk is the finest science writer working today. This fabulous book will give equal joy to fans of the Bard and to history-of-science buffs. Note to Horatio: Read this -- it'll bring you up to speed." —Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Red Planet Blues

"There is science in everything, even the works of the immortal Bard. Dan Falk's rich and fascinating book brings to light the many ways in which Shakespeare and science influenced each other, from telescopes to blood-letting. A great read for anyone who enjoys words and ideas." —Sean Carroll, physicist and author of The Particle at the End of the Universe

"Dan Falk’s book provides perhaps the best guide to the scientific worldview prevailing in the Elizabethan Age. We learn, for example, about what Giordano Bruno did while in England, about Thomas Harriot’s telescopic view of the Moon’s surface drawn some months before Galileo’s, and of the appearance of atoms in several of Shakespeare’s plays… Falk’s narrative voice is smooth, reasonable, likable." —Phillip F. Schewe, author of Maverick Genius

"Dan Falk has written another splendid book. After Universe on a T-shirt and In Search of Time, he moves back four centuries to the science of Shakespeare’s day.... Falk sheds enormous light on the Elizabethan outlook and particular puzzles in the plays, all the while entertaining us in a most engaging way." —James Robert Brown, author of The Laboratory of the Mind

"In this thought-provoking book, Dan Falk explores the intriguing connections between the Bard's writings and the dramatic scientific discoveries of the late Renaissance, introducing us to a fascinating cast of characters along the way. A great read." —Ray Jayawardhana, astrophysicist and author of Strange New Worlds and Neutrino Hunters

"A highly entertaining and informative book… Falk has done his homework. He offers something learned but at the same time keeps it personal and unpretentious." —Dennis Richard Danielson, Professor of English, University of British Columbia, and author of The Book of The Cosmos"Readers will thank Falk for putting Shakespeare and Galileo on the same well-illuminated world stage." —Booklist

"A lively but serious look at the Bard's relationship to his age, particularly what we now call the Scientific Revolution." —Tampa Bay Times

"This eminently readable book should prove fascinating to both lovers of science and bardolators." —Library Journal

"At the heart of his argument is an ambitious effort to offer empirical assurance for what we all intuit — that art and science need each other, inform and inspire one another, and are branches from the same tree of the human longing in a universe that is more like a mirror of meaning than a window of understanding, beaming back at us whatever imagination we imbue it with." —Brainpickings

Praise for In Search of Time:

"What Hawking's [A Brief History of Time] should have been." —Ottawa Citizen

“Falk seamlessly combines science with literary and philosophical observations… and digresses to fascinating topics like root notions of past and future, the vagaries of memory, and the behavior of birds at breakfast time.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Time is a big subject and Falk is up to the task.” —The Globe and Mail

"In this thoroughly readable, broad-sweeping, and thought-provoking book, Falk surveys humanity's attempts to record and understand time, and poses some fascinating questions." —New Scientist magazine

"Falk displays a deft touch with both temporal history and experimentation." —Toronto Star

“Accessible and Entertaining.” —Financial Times

“Falk is a great writer.” —BBC Focus

"Dan Falk is a riveting writer: his latest book is almost unputdownable." —Martin J. Rees, author of Just Six Numbers and Our Final Hour

“An engaging writer who fearlessly tackles potentially brain-freezing topics.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“[Falk] selects, organizes and interprets a mass of lore for our enlightenment and pleasure. We owe him.” —Scientific American

Praise for Universe on a T-Shirt:

"A highly accessible introduction to some tough and important physics." —American Scientist

"Crisply written, well-researched." —Sky & Telegraph

"[Falk] has a wonderful gift for finding helpful analogies and for writing about science in a way that is accessible without sounding dumbed down." —Booklist

"Falk endorses the idea that the best hope for a so-called theory of everything is in string theory, a difficult area of sicence that Falk nevertheless deftly unravels for the uninitiated." —Science News

Reviews from Goodreads

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About the Author

Dan Falk

DAN FALK has written for Smithsonian, New Scientist, Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, The Walrus and many other publications, and is the author of In Search of Time and Universe on a T-Shirt. He’s been a regular contributor to Canadian public radio, and has won several international awards for his radio documentaries. Falk was a 2011-2012 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He lives in Toronto.

Dan Falk

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Available Formats and Book Details

The Science of Shakespeare
A New Look at the Playwright's Universe
Dan Falk

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
St. Martin's Press
Thomas Dunne Books
April 2014
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781250008787
ISBN10: 1250008786
384 pages
$14.99

Hardcover

Hardcover
St. Martin's Press
Thomas Dunne Books
April 2014
Hardcover
ISBN: 9781250008770
ISBN10: 1250008778
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches, 384 pages, Includes 22 black-and-white illustrations throughout
$27.99
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Thomas Dunne Books

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