THE POET, THE ASTRONOMER & THE LIGHT OF THE MOON by Rod Dungate
English Poet, John Milton said that, as a young man visiting Italy, he met Galileo Galilei while the scientist was under house-arrest in Florence.
The play imagines their conversations as John Milton struggles with personal and political problems and Galileo struggles with his major confrontation with the Church. The play is built around their concerns, but the debates have major resonances with us today—the nature of truth, lies, hypocrisy, who should have the right to interpret holy texts, the nature of love. This is a play of debates; but the debates are not the action of the play. John Milton’s personal journey, his emotional arc, is the central action.
The first person John Milton meets in the play is a professional woman, Virginia; it is clear to her that the young Englishman is avoiding something. She persuades him to stay in Florence for a little, she cajoles him into meeting Galileo.
Galileo opens up John’s mind to the beauty of science and the universe, and in doing so, enables John to open up his soul. But John is also moved by Galileo’s plight, he enables Galileo to find a way though the dangerous waters he is navigating. But is this at the expense of truth or is truth not always as it seems?
The play brings resolution. But in the final scene, a further twist takes John on another stage, one on which he is totally in control. But at this stage we see him as a victim of his new knowledge, and worse, that the real victim is the catalyst, Virginia.
Not surprisingly in a play with Milton and Galileo at its centre, this is also a play about the power of words. The debates are passionate as each of the three characters help each other along the way. These are dangerous times.