From Howard Marchitello’s fascinating new book, The Machine in the Text: Science and Literature in the Age of Shakespeare and Galileo:
The title page of Astronomiae Instauratae Mechanica (Instruments for the Restoration of Astronomy) features Tycho [Brahe]’s likeness (at age 40, in 1586), set within an arch decorated with the names and coats-of-arms of his ancestors. Among the sixteen names that appear, two have caught the attention of a number of readers of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: GVLDENTEREN and ROSENKRANS. One of the earliest critical attempts to connect Shakespeare to this engraving of Tycho, and thereby to the two family names in question, was offered in 1938 by Leslie Hotson who suggested that Shakespeare may have been familiar with this image by virtue of an encounter with it in the house of Thomas Digges, the noted early modern English mathematician and astronomer and one of the earliest of the English advocates of Copernicus. More recently, the astronomer and historian of science Owen Gingerich argued for a possible connection between Shakespeare and Tycho (and between Shakespeare and early modern astronomy more generally) based not solely upon the engraving, but also upon his reading of certain astrological references in the plays—and in Hamlet in particular—that serve to suggest that Shakespeare had actually read Tycho’s 1596 Epistolae (in which the same engraved portrait of Tycho had appeared).
ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN AREN’T DEAD AT ALL, THEY’RE TRAPPED IN THESE COATS OF ARMS!
(Click through for a larger image, if you can’t see their names up there.)
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