AAS 203rd Meeting, January 2004
Session 35 HAD III
Division Oral, Monday, January 5, 2004, 2:00-3:30pm, Regency V

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[35.03] Galileo's Telescopy and Jupiter's Tablet

P.D. Usher (Penn State)

A previous paper (BAAS 33:4, 1363, 2001) reported on the dramatic scene in Shakespeare's Cymbeline that features the descent of the deity Jupiter. The paper suggested that the four ghosts circling the sleeping Posthumus denote the four Galilean moons of Jupiter. The god Jupiter commands the ghosts to lay a tablet upon the prone Posthumus, but says that its value should not be overestimated. When Posthumus wakens he notices the tablet, which he calls a "book." Not only has the deity's "tablet" become the earthling's "book," but it appears that the book has covers which Posthumus evidently recognizes because without even opening the book he ascribes two further properties to it: rarity, and the very property that Jupiter had earlier attributed, viz. that one must not read too much into it. The mystery deepens when the Jovian gift undergoes a second metamorphosis, to "label." With the help of the OED, the potentially disparate terms "tablet," "book," and "label," may be explained by terms appropriate either to supernatural or worldly beings. "Tablet" may recognize the Mosaic artifact, whereas "book" and "label" are probably mundane references to Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius which appeared shortly before Cymbeline. The message of the Olympian god indicates therefore that the book is unique even as its contents have limited value. The first property celebrates the fact that Galileo's book is the first of its kind, and the second advises that all results except the discovery of Jupiter's moons have been reported earlier, in Hamlet.

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The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: peter.usher@mindspring.com

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #5
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