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

St. Martin’s Press (USA) / Goose Lane (Canada) — April 2014

From the book jacket:

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 explores the connections between the famous playwright and the beginnings of the Scientific Revolution—and how, together, they changed the world forever. Readers of Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World, Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter, and Peter Galison's Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps will be drawn to this remarkable synthesis of history, science, art, and literature.

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Reviews Excerpts

A “lucid history of early Renaissance science”
– The National Post

“...a fascinating and wide-ranging exploration of the astronomical knowledge of the era”
– The Chronicle-Herald

“...readers will thank Falk for putting Shakespeare and Galileo on the same well-illuminated world stage.”
– Booklist

“This eminently readable book should prove fascinating to both lovers of science and bardolators.”
– Library Journal

“Falk takes the reader on an eventful tour through science in the early modern era...[He] challenges Shakespeare scholars who refute the idea that Shakespeare was influenced by the science of his time... Some of the conclusions are tentative, but Falk does successfully demonstrate that the playwright was aware of at least some of the myriad scientific developments of the early modern era, and that these were written into his plays. This book is accessible, with clear explanations of potentially challenging concepts in the history of early modern science. It’s an enjoyable read, and will appeal to non-specialists, but nonetheless is based on a comprehensive engagement with the pertinent academic scholarship. The work is well-informed, enthusiastic, and recommended to anyone seeking a new take on the oft-studied Bard.”
– Chemistry World

Advance Praise

"Author! Author! 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… A great read for anyone who enjoys words and ideas."
– Sean Carroll, author of The Particle at the End of the Universe

"An engaging tour guide, Dan Falk takes us on a merry romp through Shakespeare's folio, revealing how the Bard might have been influenced by the Renaissance in science going on all about him.  An absorbing, new perspective on the scientific revelations of the Elizabethan world.”
– Marcia Bartusiak, author of The Day We Found the Universe

"Dan Falk’s book provides perhaps the best guide to the scientific worldview prevailing in the Elizabethan Age… Falk’s narrative voice is smooth, reasonable, likable.”
– Phillip F. Schewe, author of Maverick Genius The Pioneering Odyssey of Freeman Dyson

"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, and a terrific way to mark the 450th birthdays of both Shakespeare and Galileo.
– Ray Jayawardhana, author of Neutrino Hunters