Peter D. Usher dedicates this page to research in science and literature.
LITERARY INTERPRETATION AND HISTORY OF SCIENCE.
Shakespeare and the Dawn of Modern Science
(Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2010) 420 pp.
(San Diego: Aventine Press, 2006), 240 pp.An enduring puzzle of the Renaissance is why William Shakespeare ignores the astronomical revolutions of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. He deals superficially with celestial phenomena and appears oblivious to the effects that new perceptions in cosmology were having on worldview. This book discusses the rise of evidence-based inquiry into natural phenomena and argues that Shakespeare's famous play, Hamlet, is an allegory describing the chief cosmological models that vied for acceptance at the turn of the seventeenth century.
This book explains: WHY Hamlet is 30 and knows a hawk from a handsaw, WHAT Ophelia's name means, WHO Claudius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern represent, WHEN telescopic astronomy began, WHERE 16th-century astronomy and theology intersect, HOW Shakespeare welcomes the New Philosophy and WHETHER he foresees its consequences. Read a review.
"Shakespeare and Elizabethan Telescopy"
Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Vol. 103:1 (2009) 16-8
"Hawk and Handsaw" Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society Vol. 40:2 (2008), 273
Prince Hamlet knows a hawk from a handsaw (Hamlet 2.2.347-8) because he recognizes two modes of astronomical data collection in the sixteenth century -- with telescopes and with the naked eye. The former has the advantage of hawk-like resolution, which far exceeds that of human vision. The latter is needed to explain the portrait of the world's leading naked-eye astronomer, a portion of which is depicted at the right.
"Hamlet's Love Letter and the New Philosophy" The Oxfordian 8 (2005) 93-109
Hamlet's love letter is another part of Hamlet that has both literal and figurative meaning, first that Polonius is justified in believing that Hamlet is madly in love with his daughter, and second that Hamlet's letter is a parody of Aristotelianism, and as such is further support for the cosmic allegorical interpretation of the play. Through the agency of Hamlet's letter, Shakespeare continues his disparagement of Aristotelianism that Thomas Digges engages in A Perfit Description, as does Digges' favorite poet Palingenius in Zodiacus Vitae. The love letter is ironical, as Hamlet dupes Polonius into announcing the essential elements of the New Philosophy in the presence of the King who epitomizes its very antithesis, viz. the bounded geocentricism of his namesake, Claudius Ptolemy."An answer to 'A poetic challenge?'" Astronomy & Geophysics 45:3 (2004) 3.6
Galileo's Telescopy and Jupiter's Tablet Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 35:5 (2003) 1258
Jupiter and Cymbeline.The Shakespeare Newsletter 53:1 (2003) 7...12
In 1610 in Sidereus Nuncius, Galileo reported that the planet Jupiter had four moons. Shakespeare and/or his collaborators celebrate this discovery in Cymbeline. Independent dating of Cymbeline suggests that the play appeared in late 1610.
Shakespeare's Support for the New Astronomy
The Oxfordian 5 (2002) 132-146
Shakespeare's Hamlet of c.1601, contains descriptions of craters on the Moon, the phases of Venus, Mars and Jupiter, the Great Red Spot, sunspots, the stellar makeup of the Milky Way and the distribution of stars.
The Shakespeare Newsletter. 51:4 (2001/2) 82
Advances in the Hamlet Cosmic Allegory The Oxfordian 4 (2001) 25-49
Sixteenth-Century Astronomical Telescopy Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 33:5 (2001) 1363
Copernicus's Neglected Successor Mercury Magazine. 30:5 (2001) 38-41 (with J. Best, S. Maene)
Hamlet's Transformation A Groat's Worth of Wit, 11:3 (2000) 39-51
Hamlet's Transformation Elizabethan Review 7:1 (1999) 48-64
Hamlet and the Infinite Universe Research Penn State 18:3 (1997) 6-7
Shakespeare's Cosmic World View Mercury Magazine 26:1, (1997) 20-23
Press release on "A New Reading of Shakespeare's Hamlet" 13 January 1997
A New Reading of Shakespeare's Hamlet
Bull. Amer. Astro. Soc 28:4 (1996) 1305
Astronomy and the Canons of Hermeneutics The Astronomy Quarterly 3 (1979) 115-124, 171-184
Peter D. Usher is Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics at The Pennsylvania State University