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By Shapley H.

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Similarly, in stories the particular words generate the moving, cohering action. Suppose we understand action and motion, whether in nature or in human society; our critical question will then be to ask about the gap between words and numbers, since our archetypal example, action on the stage, is mediated almost entirely by the use of words in natural languages. Mime and gesture do without words, but one’s recognition of a performance by Marcel Marceau or Jean-Louis Barrault would at once translate in our minds into a verbal construction.

Ultimately the science of falling objects, since it entails gravity, requires an imagistic rethinking of the human relation to space and time in the Christian fallen world. The Critical Shift from Impetus to Inertia Literary scholars are unlikely to note that between the birth of Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Galileo in 1564 and the death of Milton in 1674 a scien- 24 The Theme of Motion tific revolution occurred that rivals the Copernican revolution in scope of physical and metaphysical meaning. ”4 This pragmatic direction of thought—not without precedent in medieval science, it must be said—was to leap forward with Galileo’s discovery of the inertial explanation of movement, an account immediately necessary to the true explanation of gravity, as developed by Isaac Newton.

A. Burtt’s Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science (1924; revised 1932) and Dudley Shapere’s Galileo: A Philosophical Study (1974), I inquire into a field rather too wide for comfort—partly scientific, partly literary, and partly psychological. The poetry creates a drama from the psychological values attached to new conceptions of the natural world, while the principles of movement are critical to these conceptions with regard to the more spirited aspects of literature. For that reason, a rough attempt must be made to bring literature and science together at this fundamental level, if we are to grasp the deeper metaphysical promises and troubles besetting Renaissance authors of the highest rank.

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